Students are back in school and coding activities are in full swing. Why are kids so excited about coding? Part of the appeal is the challenge and reward of seeing their code come to life. Students can study an obstacle course, plot a course using code blocks and run the robot through the course. Crash! The robot turns the wrong way! Students problem-solve and correct the code. Success! The robot completes the course! Along the way, students are developing logical thinking, problem-solving, team work, resilience, creativity and digital literacy.
All students should have opportunities to be involving in coding activities. One organization, CSForAll (Computer Science For All Students) is a resource to provide quality computer science education to every child in the United States. The CSForAll mission is, "To make high-quality computer science an integral part of the national experience of all K-12 students and teachers and to support student pathways to college and career success."
Sphero and SAS have partnered to support accessible coding activities for educators working with students who are blind or low vision. With SAS CodeSnaps, students use printable code blocks to write their code and "snap" a picture using the CodeSnaps app. The app digitizes the code which the robot then runs - bringing the code to life! SAS has updated their printable code blocks for students who are visually impaired and provides two options for braille users:
Tactile Braille Blocks: These blocks are printed, cut out, and adhered to foam blocks cut to size. Braille labels are added. The foam blocks make it easier for students who are visually impaired to manipulate and align the blocks. The foam blocks also stay in place as students slide their fingers across the braille.
- Note: The braille labels should not cover the QR codes located on the left side of the block. The braille labels can be adhered along the bottom edge of the block enabling the student to orient the block correctly.
Tactile Graphics Machine Blocks: These blocks are designed to be run through a tactile graphics machine, such as a PIAF or Swell machine. The QR code, print text, and borders are printed in green ink. Simulated braille and arrows are in black ink. The tactile graphic machine will raise the black ink while the green ink is not raised. To create braille blocks with a tactile graphics machine: Print the blocks on capsule paper and run through the tactile graphic machine.
- Note: the capsule paper is thicker than regular paper and is easy to align. It is recommended to use E-Z Dots or some kind of removable adhesive to keep the blocks in place. (E-Z Dots is double sided tiny tape dots used in scrap booking. Roll the E-Z Dots on the back of the braille block to adhere the block on the tabletop or desired surface. E-Z Dots are reusable – simply lift the block and move it to another location.
Note: One block is used for each step of the coding directions.
SAS is hosting a free, virtual webinar called "Collaborative Coding for ALL Students".
- When: November 3, 2021, 2-4pm EDT
- Where: Online! (See recorded webinar)
A recording of the webinar will be available here one week after the webinar.
Four participants will be selected to receive a SAS CodeSnaps Kit for their schools. The kit includes two Sphero BOLT robots, three sets of SAS CodeSnaps braille Blocks, and a meter stick (total value is $320). Contest details here. Contest ends Nov. 5, 2021 at 5pm EDT.
- Everyone who registers for the Collaborative Coding for ALL Students webinar is automatically entered into the contest.
Want to learn more about creating accessible code blocks and CodeSnap activities for students who are blind or visually impaired? Here are related blog posts:
- Coding Club Activity: SAS CodeSnaps and Sphero Robot (Note: The Braille Blocks have been updated since this post was published, but the method to create the blocks remains the same.)
- CodeSnaps Activity Part 2
- Sphero City Activity (This post provides accessible modifications of the popular mainstream Sphero City activity.)
- Psyched for STEAM: Coding Activities
Challenge your students to use the Engineering Design Process to create their bot courses! Here are two blog posts about creating bot obstacle courses:
- Coding and STEM: Robot Obstacle Challenges 1
- Coding and STEM: Robot Obstacle Challenges 2 (Hurricane Dorian)
Note: Any type of robot can be used in these challenges.
Please share your experiences using CodeSnaps and Sphero and your challenge scenarios!
- SAS Accessibility Webinar: Collaborative Coding for ALL Students (Recorded webinar demonstrating CodeSnaps app, new Braille Blocks, and Sphero; also includes activities and tips for educators working with students who are blind or low vision.)
- Coding Posts Summary (Links to all the coding-related posts on Paths to Technology.)