It’s official! The 2018 DIAGRAM Code Sprint is taking place June 9-10 at the Microsoft Conference Center in Sunnyvale, California. There will be food, drinks, coding, and lots of great people dedicating their weekend to making STEM education more inclusive and accessible for students with various disabilities and learning differences. If you want to participate, be sure to register by May 18. Contact info[at]diagramcenter[dot]org to learn more about this invite-only event.
Thanks to the tremendous efforts of DIAGRAM’s Outreach Working group, a new section on the DIAGRAM website is under construction. This section will provide information on the resources available to DIAGRAM’s specific target audiences: educators, parents, students, publishers, developers, and researchers. Simply select the group of interest, then use the links to access the resources that are most relevant to the selected audience. We have just completed our first round of reviews and are currently undergoing user and accessibility testing. Stay tuned for an announcement on when it goes live. If you have any suggestions, send them to info[at]diagramcenter[dot]org.
The DIAGRAM team was out in force at the 2018 Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference. The DIAGRAM Center held its annual office hours on March 22, gathering dozens of community members for lively conversations and impromptu technology demos over food and drinks. And per usual, the DIAGRAM team was involved in several overflowing sessions sharing the collective work of the accessibility community. Highlights included a session about the annual DIAGRAM Report, a panel session about accessible math editors (representing Pearson Education, TextHelp, Wiris Math and Benetech), and a group session about exploring ways to automate image description production for STEM. For those interested in learning about additional presentations involving Benetech’s DIAGRAM team and the DIAGRAM community, all sessions are available through the updated blog, DIAGRAM Out and About: CSUN 2018 Edition. All in all, it was an excellent CSUN experience and we look forward to CSUN 2019 in Anaheim, California!
Imageshare, a shared, open source platform for educators and consumers to explore and find alternative image resources related to key STEM concepts, is a registry-repository that allows for contributions from multiple sources and pulls from existing libraries. Types of modalities include extended text descriptions, simplified text descriptions, 2D tactile graphics, 3D objects, and captioned videos.
Imageshare currently has 250 concepts with alternative accommodations. In recent weeks, we focused on incorporating prior user testing feedback to design and roadmap development that will expand usage and the size of the collection. This includes usability improvements in the search and discovery process, as well as adding in new features such as the ability to rate resources and add user comments. Development recently began on the aforementioned features and we expect to have our updated site available later this summer. The longer-term goal for Imageshare is to grow the collection and increase quality by allowing users to share comments and feedback on the files they used from the collection.
The Benetech Math Editor prototype was presented to the DIAGRAM advisory board earlier this year, and then debuted more publicly, alongside other major math tools, to a standing-room only crowd at this year’s CSUN conference in March. Since then we have conducted dozens of demos and user test sessions with special education teachers and assistive technology specialists, representing students with various learning disabilities and challenges such as dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADD/ADHD, working memory limitations, and restricted eye movement. In one particular case, a math learning specialist who works with students with various learning disabilities was so excited about our tool that she immediately responded with, “I think this tool would be so great for our students. The step-by-step history feature alone would be enough reason to use this tool – but there’s so much more!”
We are already using the feedback gathered from educators and students to further enhance and build out the Math Editor. Our future test plans aim to receive feedback from an even broader set of students and educators representing various disabilities and learning differences. Upcoming developments kicking off this summer include front-end improvements and building out a back-end infrastructure (with user registration, database, etc.). We are also reviewing fellow open source platforms and talking with potential edtech partners about integration. Please reach out to Sue-Ann (sueannm[at]benetech.org) if you have platform contacts you would like to put us in touch with or want to get more involved in the user testing this summer.
Every quarter the chairs of all of our working groups get together to make sure we are all on the same page and that our cross-group communication is strong. In the past few months, the working group chairs actually connected twice. The first was an in-person meeting at CSUN, where we discussed ways to keep each other abreast of key activities, upcoming plans, and barriers inhibiting continual progress. In our most recent quarterly meeting, progress from the tactile, standards, and outreach working groups were highlighted (see details in the sections that follow) and a draft of the new Community section on the DIAGRAM webpage was shared.
The Tactiles working group is currently focused on 3D printing and conducting a survey with printed objects/models. We hope to gather data on utility and whether 3D is the best tactile medium for each object. The group has expanded to include VI educators from the Netherlands and Germany as well as university and other VI professional in the US. We have also helped provide feedback on early designs for the revamped Imageshare and are helping to review the DIAGRAM Report.
The Standards group is working on perfecting the section in the Advanced Reading test suite for including extended descriptions in EPUB and on the web. This new advanced book for extended image descriptions will be tested on multiple reading systems using different combinations of assistive technologies. The results of these tests will be recorded at epubtest.org, and based on these results we will update our best practices on how to include extended image descriptions. The group already has an improved recommendation for doing extended descriptions and updated the Accessible Image Sample Book to reflect these changes. These updates will continue to evolve as the results of our testing best reflect what the reading systems can support.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Standards Working Group has also been working closely with their Math in EPUB subgroup to create a math-based EPUB file that will be added to the Advanced Reading Systems test suite. The group will also help evaluate how various reading systems display math given the guidelines developed by the Math in EPUB subgroup mentioned above. Results from these tests will not only be distributed to publishers via the epubtest.org site, but also added to DIAGRAM’s Math Support Finder tool. This is a huge breakthrough because this is the first time we are close to a universal solution for reliably displaying math online and in EPUB files. A huge congrats and thank you goes out to the Math in EPUB subgroup and Standards Working Group for making this all a reality!
The Outreach Working Group, chaired by NCAM’s Bryan Gould, really hit the ground running this quarter. The group broke into eight mini task forces to examine the needs of DIAGRAM’s stakeholder groups including publishers, developers, and educators. The goal was to gather the DIAGRAM resources most relevant to each group in order to better communicate how DIAGRAM supports them. The result has led to the creation of a new section of the DIAGRAM website (detailed here), which is slated to go live this summer. This new resource will be helpful for those of us in the DIAGRAM community who wish to present relevant DIAGRAM activities to our various audiences without overwhelming them with the full depth and breadth of DIAGRAM’s work.
- 2018 STEM FOR ALL VIDEO SHOWCASE
Transforming the Educational Landscape, May 14-21 http://stemforall2018.videohall.com/
- Accessibility at Google I/O: Making Events More Inclusive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAGs7Vc1rm8
- Microsoft commits $25M to its AI for Accessibility program
- New England Machine Learning Accessibility Hackathon
Microsoft New England Research and Development
- ETS Accessibility Week in Princeton, NJ May 17-18
- American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) Workshop in San Jose, CA May 21-25
- W3C Publishing Face-to-Face in Toronto, May 30-31
- I Annotate in San Francisco, CA June 6-7
- 2018 DIAGRAM Code Sprint in Sunnyvale, CA June 9-10
DIAGRAM is thrilled to announce that we will be hosting our third annual code sprint. While we typically hold the sprint in conjunction with the CSUN conference in San Diego, we will be bringing this event to our very own San Francisco Bay Area in June 2018. As part of the planning process we are asking our community members to provide suggestions for new product developments, enhancements to existing tools, technology gaps, or day-to-day challenges relating to STEM education for students with disabilities. Please share your ideas via this brief survey prior to March 9th and stay tuned for more details.
- Will you be at CSUN this year?
- Do you work with students who struggle with mathematics?
- Do any of your students have a disability, especially a disability that is not considered a visual impairment (e.g., cognitive disability, autism, dysgraphia, physical disability)?
If you answered yes to all three questions, we would love to get your thoughts about our new Benetech Math Editor (still in development)! Please share your background and availability at the conference using this form.
PEEP is the main character of an animated television program teaching science and math to early learners (3-5 years old). Set in and around a pond, a bush, and a tin can, the show follows a newly hatched chicken named PEEP, and his friends Chirp and Quack (a robin and a duck), on their daily adventures. Surrounding them is a large urban park — a place of great wonder and mystery they are eager to explore — a place they call “the big wide world.”
Each half-hour episode contains two stories that highlight specific science concepts, plus two live-action shorts presenting real kids playing and experimenting with these concepts in their own big wide worlds.
DIAGRAM has partnered with WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) to bring that “big wide world” to even more learners by creating Accessible PEEP and the Big Wide World, a new section of the DIAGRAM website. On the Accessible PEEP website you will find episodes of PEEP and the Big Wide World that have closed captioning and audio descriptions as well as being available in Spanish. You will also encounter games that help students practice specific skills like memory. These games are keyboard friendly and can be played without a mouse in addition to having audio descriptions, closed captions and Spanish language options. How-to guides for adding accommodations such as captioning to digital resources are available as well, along with tips for inclusive teaching and an in-depth research methodology for testing the effect of accommodations on student engagement. The research methodology was developed to test long held assumptions that certain accommodations can be beneficial to a much wider set of students than originally intended. For example, do the presence of captions increase engagement and learning in students who are English language learners or who have attention deficit disorder? The Accessible Peep site details the methodology as well as the user testing that was done with students with learning disabilities as well as typically-developing students. It provides a detailed examination of the types of testing done, and how engagement with the curriculum was measured. The methodology will also serve as the foundation for ongoing work the DIAGRAM Center will be doing around user testing.
Accessible Peep is an ongoing project that we are very excited about. We encourage you to provide feedback and ask questions as you explore the accessible PEEP website and accompanying activities and resources.