Alex Hadwen-Bennett is investigating the use of physical programming languages to teach visually impaired children to program. Physical programming languages use physical blocks or pods to represent commands. These blocks or pods can be connected together to form programs. For example, the Torino physical programming language, currently under development by Microsoft Research, enables learners to create programs that produce sound, music or poetry. You can read more about Torino by following this link: Project Torino Blog Article.
The project has completed its first phase and Alex will begin the second phase in September 2018.
Why is this important?
From the age of 5, children in England are expected to start to learn the basic concepts of programming. In primary schools the most popular type of programming language is block-based, these are intrinsically visual and therefore inaccessible to visually impaired learners. Physical programming languages such as Torino are a potential alternative to block-based languages, however they are a relatively new development and therefore research relating to their use in the classroom is sparse.
This project aims to begin building a picture of how visually impaired children develop an understanding of control flow when working with physical programming languages, and to use this knowledge to develop research informed pedagogy for teaching with physical programming languages.