Vision Australia has launched a hands-on educational STEM tool designed to teach skills in computer coding and programming to young students who are blind.
Originally designed by Microsoft and developed by American Printing House, Code Jumper assists children aged 7-11 years – regardless of their vision – to further develop their skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Featuring oversized buttons, knobs and cords, students can learn by touching and listening, using their hands as well as their imaginations.
CEO of Vision Australia, Ron Hooton, said Code Jumper is a game changer for young students wanting to develop valuable STEM skills.
“Educators around the world agree that knowing how to code is an important technical skill that will help kids who are blind or have low vision with their future careers and lives. Vision Australia is delighted to present Code Jumper so every student can have the potential for a successful career in the STEM sector,” he said.
The tactile Code Jumper system connects via Bluetooth to an app that is accessible to students who are blind or have low vision. Using the physical system and app, students can complete coding tasks such as creating a sentence or song.
It is also suitable for sighted children, which enables all students to work together, building confidence through socialisation, cooperation, critical thinking and hands-on learning.
Code Jumper includes a curriculum to support teachers and parents, regardless of their coding ability.
Research shows just 24 per cent of Australians who are blind or have low vision are in full-time employment, and Mr Hooton said tools like Code Jumper have an important role to play in increasing that figure.
“Interestingly, many roles in the computing industry such as coding are accessible to people who are blind or have low vision, but many of the tools currently available to teach these skills are not accessible.
“Although these students are equally interested in and capable of learning about programming, lack of accessible support puts them at a disadvantage,” he added. “Code Jumper will help to change all of that. It is a powerful introduction for children to computer science and is a great example of an emerging assistive technology that will help prepare them for a successful future.”