Code Jumper, a new offering developed by Microsoft by Microsoft enables children to learn coding skills through Project Torino, a physical programming language. It will soon be available from the American Printing House for the Blind.
The project began approximately 4 years ago, when Cecily Morrison, a researcher at Microsoft, realized that many of the tools intended for her blind son, were years out of date when compared to those of his sighted peers. Their tools for learning the fundamentals of coding, such as block coding, were entirely inaccessible. She also realized the need for a physical solution, something tactile learners could physically manipulate and enjoy.
Many blind and visually impaired individuals are drawn to careers and hobbies involving computers. Blind and visually impaired children have to develop problem solving and related skills relatively early, and the use of screen readers makes this one of the career paths that is closer to equal for blind and sighted developers.
However, many blind/vi children are also taught that computers are expensive, fragile, and complicated, meaning some fear doing accidental damage. The use of this physical language helps to navigate that fear and build confidence around computer skills.
The language introduces children to skills such as creating sequences and debugging their creations, which will later serve them in other programming environments. One of the early testers is now creating a game in Python, using the skills that originated for him here.
Microsoft has stated that they intend to transfer the research and technology behind Code Jumper to the American Printing House for the Blind, a nonprophet in Louisville, Kentucky. APH plans to release the materials, as well as training curricula and recommended exercises, to students worldwide, beginning with the US and Canada and slowly rolling it out to other countries.
This is an opportunity for thousands of people to have meaningful and well-paying jobs, said Larry Skutchan, director of technology and product research
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Tangela Mahaffey is a barely reformed English Major currently residing in Colorado. She reads entirely too many fantasy books and takes almost nothing seriously, including herself. She loves technology, music, writing, puns, and cats. She can be reached on twitter @tmmahaff