We aim to develop technological solutions to enable an inclusive education for children with mixed abilities. We have mainly developed enhanced tangible objects for the acquisition of abstract concepts, such as mathematics or computational thinking. Besides the benefit of decreasing cognitive load and reinforcing understanding, manipulatives also support collaboration, making children more prone to divide, explore and share supporting cooperative actions.
Computational Thinking learning for young visually impaired children
Promoting CT has been increasingly performed with programming activities. The advent of visual programming environments, like Scratch or Blockly, democratized programming in schools. The use of tangible blocks has also been extensively used as a way to facilitate understanding of abstract concepts, reduce cognitive load, and promote CT, while simultaneously developing motor, perceptual and cognitive abilities. Programming a robot, with these environments (virtual or tangible), is another trend that increases the physicality of the programming output, and provides a greater sense of control. However, these approaches and artifacts they are not accessible to children with visual impairments. We extended prior work on accessible programming environments by taking a principled approach that builds on established knowledge and explores opportunities for inclusion, in a classroom environment. Our studies highlighted that it is achievable and affordable to create inclusive tangible robot-based programming environments and activities. The augmented physicality of robots, blocks, and maps showed to be promising to provide a layer of inclusion to children with visual impairments. Similarly, increased and consistently designed (audio) feedback and feedforward mechanisms are pivotal to potentiate concept acquisition and enable a faster learning curve. The layers added to include children with visual impairments, most with multiple comorbidities, seem to be amenable to most of the available tangible programming environments.
Math learning for young visually impaired children
We developed iCETA, an inclusive interactive system for math learning, that enables children to autonomously engage and solve additive composition tasks. It was designed through a set of participatory sessions with visually impaired children and their educators, and supports math learning through the combination of tangible interaction with haptic and auditory feedback. Tangible blocks representing numbers 1 to 5 were used to add or subtract and correctly solve the task embedded in a computerized game. Our approach aims to provide better scaffolding for understanding the abstract concept of a number by working with different representations of that number, such as the size of a block, Braille, color and audio feedback.
A Tangible Math Game for Visually Impaired Children
Ana Cristina Pires, Sebastian Marichal, Fernando Gonzalez-Perilli, Ewelina Bakala, Bruno Fleischer, Gustavo Sansone, Tiago Guerreiro
21th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility. Pittsburgh, PA, USA. October, 2019
Building blocks of mathematical learning: digital and tangible manipulatives lead to different strategies in number composition
Ana Cristina Pires, Fernando González Perilli, Ewelina Bakała, Bruno Fleisher, Gustavo Sansone and Sebastián Marichal
Educational Psychology, 2019