Hello World

Accessible and inclusive computing education: Where to start?

October 11, 2021 Hello World Season 2 Episode 6
Hello World
Accessible and inclusive computing education: Where to start?
Show Notes Transcript

This week, we begin to explore the topic of inclusion, ensuring that **all** learners are able to access and participate in meaningful learning opportunities in computing. How do we as educators ensure that learners are able to thrive and learn within computing regardless of any special educational needs they have?

Full show notes:
https://helloworld.raspberrypi.org/articles/how-can-you-make-your-computing-classroom-more-accessible-and-inclusive-for

James Robinson:

That feels like a really good bit of advice And I think having that piece of advice at the beginning of my teaching career would have been really helpful rather than trying to fix everything in one go.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

I think we have a responsibility to make sure to interact with that technology. Welcome to hello world a podcast by Educators interested in Computing and digital making. I'm Carrie Anne Philbin a Computing content creator for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, leading the development of the Teach Computing Curriculum.

James Robinson:

And I'm James Robinson, a Computing educator. I'm working on projects, promoting effective pedagogy within the subject such as our recently published big book of computing pedagogy, which is available digitally for free at helloworld.cc/bigbook. If you want to support our show, then subscribe wherever you get your podcast and leave us a five star review.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Today we're asking how do we make Computing Earlier this season, we discussed the importance of diversity within Computing and access to Computing education. You may have thought, what about inclusion? What are the strategies and resources that teachers can use to ensure their students with special educational needs and disabilities are accessing Computing in a meaningful way. James. What do you understand we mean, when we talk about inclusion?

James Robinson:

Well, it's interesting. You ask Carrie Anne couple of different words there in your introduction, you know diversity, accessibility and inclusion and I think they all kind of stem from a overarching goal to make it so it's all learners can access and participate meaningfully within challenging learning opportunities, is kind of my sort of broad understanding of this entire space. And when we talk about access, we're often talking about the removal of barriers and that's what we focused on a lot, in one of our earlier episodes. So diversity is about, you know, that goal of including the broadest range of learners as possible and making sure it is for everybody. And then for me, inclusion is making sure that all of our learners are not only engaged but they are able to thrive and to learn within the subject, whatever their their needs, specific challenges or backgrounds might be. You know, your inclusion. And I know you're very passionate about it. Does that kind of align with your perspective?

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Yeah, I think for me diversity and inclusion, There's a beautiful Venn diagram and I think there's a point in the middle where they meet, but often, I think they have some perhaps different strategies around them and some different ways that we as educators, should ensure that we're implementing to reach all of our young people. So I'll tell you a story.... When I was teaching, I taught student who had autism and he was in, I used to teach sets even at kind of younger High School age group. So ages between sort of 11 and 13. All of our young people were put in academic sets based on their maths and English outcomes and their assessments. So I had a really high level group, you know, a group that were going places academically the really what we would call the top set and even this language is not the most inclusive, right? But this is generally how we talk about this in education. I had a student in there with autism. And I'll call this student Dave, that's not his name. But that's the name. I'm going to use and Dave was really interesting, he was clearly high functioning and a smart boy non-verbal as you would expect from young person with autism and he was in my Computing class and he was one of my best students. He would engage, I remember when we first introduced programming, we use Sonic Pi, which is a platform that was developed for for programming music using Ruby. We brought this into my classroom, it was actually a test group. We were testing it with and he took to it immediately. I remember we had this crazy lesson around variables we weren't quite this was the early days. We weren't really quite sure how to teach variables well. Rest of the kids didn't get it, but he got it straight away and sort of the understood abstraction kind of understood what was going on. And I remember bumping into his head of year later on that day and saying. "Oh my God, Dave amazing", he's doing great things in our subject. I definitely think we should put him forward for the prize this year and that head of year said to me. "Oh, that's so great. You know, it's so great that finally, there's something that he can do". And I was So like taken aback by that response because my experience with that young person was amazing. He was clearly engaged, he got it. He was supporting other students, you know, he was amazing, but clearly for this head of year, their experience of that young person was perhaps not the same in other subjects, but also had put limitations on that young person about what they could achieve. That made me really start to think about the importance of computing education. And I think with our subject, we have a responsibility because young people whatever their background are using technology everyday. They're consuming it. They using it. We're now getting them to a point where they're creating, building with it. I think we have a responsibility, just like we've all their peers to make sure that all young people have been taught, how to interact with that, interact with that technology safely, they know how to be responsible with that technology and they can use it effectively. Whether that's just using social media as their peers might do or whether it's using technology to help them in their everyday life, like being to speak or help them with their typing or whatever the extra support that technology brings them. We have a duty of care to make sure that they really fully understand that technology. That's sort of my perspective on inclusion and it's all very personal story. Thankfully, we don't have to have all the answers. We've been joined by two experts to help us dig into this topic. Our first guest Catherine Elliot, the special educational needs and disabilities lead for the Sheffield e-learning service, co-chair of the Computing at School include working group, leader of the virtual. SEND CAS Community.

James Robinson:

She's also a host of several of our Raspberry So Catherine, what do we mean by inclusion? And Is this different to differentiation, for example?

Catherine Elliot:

Well, thank you for having me, first of all, this subject and I think inclusion is it is really difficult in some ways because it means different things to different people. As Carrie Anne said, it's very personal thing, and it means something different perhaps in education is it doesn't business. And I think, you know, James, you touched on this about having equal access and opportunities to an education, to computer science, computing, and removal of barriers and actually, one of the, the best quotes I ever came across I'd like to to illustrate this is from Susan Goltsman. She was quoted in a wonderful book called mismatch by Kat Holmes, and she was really talking about inclusive design, but I think it really, it speaks for all of inclusion. She talked about designing "a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging" and I love that because that sense of belonging is a really important thing because you mention differentiation and it's very easy to give a child, a different worksheet to do or send them to a corner of the room or out of the room completely because they can't access it. And actually, you know, good inclusion is about everybody having a seat at that table and being part of the classroom community and taking part in whatever they can as part of that. And and it's really difficult to do well. I'm not saying, you know, it's easy at all. But that sense of belonging that we should have, the our children go. "Yeah. I'm part of this this class and this lesson and I'm doing it on my terms, but somebody is helping me to overcome any barriers that I have and putting things into place so that I can you know, make the most of this opportunity." So I think that's where I come from inclusion from. And I talked about this Venn diagram of, where we talk about diversity, kind of meets with inclusion. And I think that idea of belonging really sits in that kind of crossover space. And I think, if I was going to give any tip to any educator, it would be always start from that perspective. Like, think about, what does it mean to belong in the classroom? Absolutely. And I think, what's really interesting about this is that research shows that actually, you know, if you do inclusion well these children with special needs and disabilities, achieve better, and they have developed better skills and confidence, but actually the benefits don't stop there. They benefit every child in that classroom. And I think it's, you know, the best thing we can do is be inclusive because it's really, really great for all of these things and all of those things young people.

James Robinson:

And what do you think are the barriers that classroom, more inclusive? To adopting this kind of approach what challenges do we face as Educators?

Catherine Elliot:

I think it's probably one of the same biggest one is time, you know as Educators as teachers particularly, we don't have time so we don't have time to find out what the strategies are that work. We don't have time to get to know every single one of our children well enough to possibly put things into place. You know, that's something we should be doing but if you're a teacher in high school in secondary, teaching two or three hundred pupils in a week, then. It's very hard to get to know them all and their individual needs and the barriers are facing. And I think if the culture of a school doesn't support inclusion then, as an individual teacher, it's really hard to to kind of put things into place that are meaningful. It's very similar to, to the barriers of teaching, a good Computing, curriculum, you know, I don't have the time to find out what works. I don't have the confidence in it. So perhaps, you know, I'm not entirely sure so I won't do this.

James Robinson:

Yeah, I think your kinda touching there, and story, you know, there are structural challenges in place in school, you know, lots of schools will set in different subjects, based on academic achievement or your kind of tied to those kind of systems and practices and the timetable and which make it all very challenging.

Catherine Elliot:

And yes, the timetable is another constraint, You know, we know that there's not enough time to teach our subject whether or not, you know, whatever the age of our children are. And if you don't have time, then you think, well, it's a luxury if I start, you know, doing something a bit different because I might need to spend a bit more time on this or that or the other, and I just don't have that.

James Robinson:

So Catherine, I mean there are lots of strategies that our educators given all of those constraints? What can they do to mitigate some of these challenges?

Catherine Elliot:

So I think teaching, excellent lessons is it's proven that that that really works for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and just taking a bit of time to think about classroom practice about giving more time to answer questions. Having routine and structure in the classroom and high expectations and clear expectations of every child who's in there really, really important. And I think probably one of the best things that we can do is just provide some variety in how the young people can interact with lessons with content how we present it. And that, you know, is really, really well illustrated by the Universal Design for Learning and I know we have somebody another expert that talk beautifully about this.

James Robinson:

Yes. Also, joining us today is Meg Ray an teacher, special educator and curriculum developer. Meg teachs, computer science, education courses at New York University (Steinhardt) and special education courses at Hunter College in your view Meg. What does an inclusive Computing classroom look like.

Meg Ray:

Yes. Thank you for having me. I'm going to echo some of what Catherine was saying. When I walk into a computer science classroom. I'll know it's inclusive if I can see every student that's a member of that classroom participating in a meaningful way. So that doesn't mean that they're all doing the same thing. It doesn't even necessarily mean that they're all using the same materials, but they're all interacting. There's not a student sitting off in the corner, you know, doing a CS tutorial by themselves while the rest of the class, you know, participates in a project like building robots. If a student has specific educational needs, they're still part of a group doing group work and the teacher has found different ways for that student to be included and to bring their strengths into that work.

James Robinson:

And I think that kind of nicely kind of Catherine mentioned, the Universal Design for Learning. And I know that this is something that you're particularly interested in and have some experience of having been involved in a paper called "Teaching elementary computer science through Universal Design for Learning." So do you want to just give us like the 30 second What is udl? What's that framework? What does it do for us as Educators?

Meg Ray:

Sure. Um, so UDL is a framework. That's based on neuroscience and it addresses three different areas of learning and it looks at how do we broaden access in our planning from the get-go in these three different areas. How can we plan ahead? So that what students learn, why they're engaged with it and and how they're learning is more accessible to more students in the class. So this doesn't take away the need for accommodations or modifications, for some students. Those things are provided on top of a Universal Design framework.

James Robinson:

And so, in the, the article that we've got, the big book of pedagogy where we were one of our writers sort of summarises, your paper there's three different areas it's referred to as the multiple means of engagement of representation and action and expression. So what do those kind of relate to in the framework?

Meg Ray:

Sure. So in the framework, there's a That is you can see it at cast.org, and it has so we have three different principles and then within those principles, there's more detailed checkpoints that I won't get into, but there is research behind each checkpoint itself. So the three principles, the first one that I think about is representation. So that's what are we learning? How are you representing new information to students? Then we also think about action and expression. How are students learning in the classroom? How are they? Expressing their learning and this includes physical action, but also how they're thinking about it, how they're expressing it in other ways. Not just how they're moving in the classroom. And then the last one is about engagement. So that's the why of learning and for each student that's different. So, so these are the ways, how are we hooking students in and engaging them? And how are they relating to that, why and their motivation throughout the lesson?

Carrie Anne Philbin:

So what does UDL look like when we apply it science?

Meg Ray:

Sure. So, UDL isn't something that you can Oh, I'm doing UDL, do this thing, you're doing UDL, right? Because it's very much about responding to the students in your course, in your classroom. So so really when we are training teachers on UDL, it's really a about a way of moving in the classroom, a way of being and a way of planning. So thinking about external what are the barriers to learning and not thinking about that as internal to the child. But what are the barriers in my classroom in the curriculum and thinking about that. And then using the principles, those three principles we talked about as sort of a reference or a guide for how do I overcome those barriers then? So it's a stance. It's a way of moving in the classroom. Okay, I want to point to Maya Israel's work in the Creative Technology, Resource Lab at the University of Florida. So she is a colleague and mentor of mine who also worked on that paper and several others on UDL. And she, and I, and several other people involved in that project have created a UDL/CS kind of crosswalk sheet. So we can we are gathering different examples, so what does it look like to give different to give multiple means of representation in a CS classroom? And so we have a reference sheet that just has a bunch of CS specific examples and we're also continuing to collect those examples from teachers. As we meet more teachers, as we provide professional development, with more teachers we're expanding that.

James Robinson:

Thank you. And I think I think we touch upon So where can, and this is to both Catherine and Meg, where can Educators go to find out more about inclusion sort of principles in general, but also specifically the UDL framework and how to apply it to their classroom.

Catherine Elliot:

I think some of the best places to go at the information in terms of this. I'm always Keen to push out more and Hello World is doing a great job of this. So, you know, starting with Issue 11, which was a focus on inclusion and diversity. There are tons of really, really good articles in there that people can go and read and find out a little bit more about some of the strategies you can use. I've been writing a regular column since then around the inclusive classroom in Hello World each time with a different sort of focus. I also I'm doing some work with the Computing at School working party include, which is all about, you know, raising the profile of inclusion and diversity and supporting teachers with that.And our website, which I'm sure will be in the show notes at some point has a few more and our webpage on CAS has a few more places and pointers of where to go. And we're in the middle of a bit of a, an exercise of the movement of signposting sort of 10 things you can do to support inclusion or 10 things you can do to support diversity in the classroom, and that's a really good starting point. But the other thing I'd say to teachers, really is actually talk to your students, find out what helps them. You know, what works for them. What kind of things, activities do they want to do? You know, they might want to write something down, they might want to create comic strip or making an animation or, you know, think about the things that they want to do. And also talked to the special needs department in your school. So your Sencos in this country, I don't know what they're called over in the US. But you know, there will be professionals in school who are supporting young people with special needs and disabilities and they have a lot of strategies that you can learn from. And just, you know, think about what does this look like in computing and computer science? So I think that's, that's my sort of three areas to go and go have a little look at more information.

Meg Ray:

Yes, well first, I'd like to say that I world. So, thank you Catherine that's a great resource. A couple of others so just for general UDL, the cast.org website and also understood.org has a really nice teacher guide. That's really aimed at practitioners and teachers and then as far as CS specific yeah the Creative Computing Research Lab at the University of Florida. We have several, there's a project called tactical briefs. And so there's a brief on UDL specifically. And then also on other things related to inclusion within that. And then also there's a new project so you can find it on Twitter at @UDL4CS. So we were just funded by the NSF to have a national network in the US for Gathering, UDL resources for K - 8, computer science education. So there's not a website yet, but you can follow it on Twitter. And that will be coming out with a lot of very practical materials.

James Robinson:

Great! My question and I think we've touched Catherine you mentioned your. The 10 tips that the include group are working on. If we were an educator listening to this podcast was to do one thing differently in their classroom tomorrow to support inclusion. What would that one thing be? Who wants to take on my question first?

Meg Ray:

So, my one thing is not really, it's not a It's not a magic strategy you can just go do to make inclusion because that doesn't exist unfortunately. But it's this idea this stance of being curious and widening your aperture. And that's that's a concept I actually got from Zaretta Hammond's book about culturally responsive teaching in the brain, but I really like to apply it to UDL and think about how do you get really curious about why are students behaving in different ways and how can I widen my aperture for why that might be? And think about with the curiosity think about what could be a barrier in the classroom or the curriculum. How could I get creative to change how the environment or curriculum is set up to see if I can address this rather than seeing everything as a behaviour or motivation problem, which is something that in education were really taught to default to.

Catherine Elliot:

I think building on that I'd say, you know, people and you know, your expectations might be different depending what they are but they can all achieve in your classroom. And if you have those high expectations, you can find ways of engaging and including and supporting all your young people to do this really well. But yeah, as Meg said it's just no one really simple thing to do, but go and find out about UDL, going to be the 10 things for inclusion and and they will kind of start pointing you on the way.

Meg Ray:

Yeah, so building off of that, that Because little bit complex to use this framework and think about, it can be very intimidating. Especially given our time constraints as teachers, how overburdened we are. So to not let that deter you, to pick one thing. What is one thing you could handle today and do that thing just start somewhere instead of feeling like this is too big to ever do and putting it aside. That's very tempting but to find one thing that's doable for you and start there. And then build on that.

James Robinson:

That feels like a really good bit of advice And I think having that piece of advice in the beginning of my teaching career would have been really helpful rather than trying to fix everything in one go. But I also think our Computing community and there's a lot of Educators around the world who have taken on Computing, which is this really big different sort of, you know, challenge for everybody. And so I think if there's one group of teachers that have got experience of taking on something big and challenging and breaking it down, and I think it's this group of teachers. I think we've got, we're in, we're in, good hands. I think.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

We asked you our audience for your thoughts What do you do in your Computing setting to reduce barriers, and support all learners?

James Robinson:

So, the first response that I saw is and one episode of the podcast who talked about getting to know your students and both Catherine and Meg touched upon this as well. Find out their interest, try and discover what the barriers are for them in their learning and use strategies from your tool kit of pedagogical approaches to get the best out of them.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

There's lots of answers here, that involve So Rachel Vidler says, try to ensure that the use modify create pedagogy is embedded in lessons. Be that scaffolded projects on scratch or templates within media creation breaking down the process for learners and offering different strategies for them to access the lesson.

James Robinson:

So, Claire Rawlinson who's a regular that do not necessarily need to be finished giving learners the time and space to embed their knowledge rather than feeling under pressure to get that task completed. Learners can be and feel successful even with unfinished activities. She also talks about paired programming another pedagogical strategy with clearly defined driver and navigator roles where learners can support each other, in a sort of very, very natural, kind of way.

Carrie Anne Philbin:

And Katie Vanderpere-Brown says, know your differentiate based on that knowledge. Some will need support to move from concrete to the abstract. Model and expose your thinking as the expert to help them and use tracing to develop a mental model. My thanks to Catherine Elliott and Meg Ray for sharing their expertise with us today. I found it. So interesting and I'm so grateful that you gave up your time to talk with us. You can read their articles on this topic in Issue 11 and 15 of Hello World magazine as well as in our big book of computing pedagogy. If you have a question for us or a comment about our discussion today, then you can email via [email protected] or you can tweet us @helloworld_edu. So James, what did we learn?

James Robinson:

Well for me, I think the the knowing your their needs was, you know, really came across in our conversation today as well as having high expectations for every single one of the learners that you're presented with. How about you Carrie Anne?

Carrie Anne Philbin:

Well, I think what I've learned is this is good introduction to inclusion and applying kind of first steps and strategies towards having a really inclusive classroom. But I think this is definitely a topic we're going to have to come back to. So this is me booking time with you guys are going forward.

James Robinson:

We're going to need a sequel then.