It’s hard to believe that the first quarter of 2020 is already behind us, and yet here we are. While the year has gotten off to a rocky start, to say the least, there are still some bright spots to be found. The DIAGRAM team has embraced all the changes 2020 has thrown at us in our passionate DIAGRAM way, and we’re excited to share some highlights of what we spent Q1 working on. As always thank you all for being a part of our community and we hope you all are staying safe in these turbulent times.
Mathshare, the first-of-its-kind, inclusive, digital math editor that gives all students (with and without disabilities) provides the unprecedented ability to interact with math problems online and to easily demonstrate their math skills in a digital environment. As more classrooms utilize online learning environments, millions of students increasingly face challenges in solving math problems online and showing their work. This quarter we responded to the need for more distance learning tools and added in features that can help parents, teachers and students continue to support math learning from home.
Students are still able to show their work to an educator in a digital, accessible, and user-friendly environment and we added in the ability to collaborate with other learning management systems by completing our integration with Canvas. To help parents support their students at home, we added in the “other” option so that parents and guardians can also support learning through Mathshare. In addition to access to the tool, “other” users will receive automated, targeted emails with instructions on how to get started with Mathshare, how to use it with students, and so on.
Looking forward, our work this quarter focused on building in enhanced personalization features specifically for students with dyscalculia and dysgraphia. Soon, students who struggle with reading will be able to use a text-to-speech option so they can better understand what is being asked in the math problem. Lastly, we started work on allowing students to create their own problem sets which will help them to independently practice math work or copy over examples from other textbooks or worksheets, helping them to prepare for the school year ahead.
Imageshare is an open source platform that enables educators and consumers to find and share multimodal resources related to key STEM concepts. It has been lauded as “desperately needed” and is met with enthusiasm and excitement during user tests and feedback sessions.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this quarter was spent figuring out how to scope Imageshare so that it will be most useful to as many people as possible. The planning undertaken lays the groundwork for a redesign of the Imageshare website that will better support students of all abilities and teachers and emphasize a focus on middle and high school science and math. The redesign will allow us to further support teachers through the expansion of the collection and an increased ability to find the educational supports best suited for their students. If you have files or resources you would like to contribute, please reach out to AmayaW[at]Benetech[dot]org.
The 2020 DIAGRAM report is shaping up to be a strong community effort with experts again volunteering their time and knowledge to write the chapters so you can learn about the featured technology straight from the source!
We would like to extend a huge thank you do this year’s volunteer writers:
Clayton Lewis (DIAGRAM community member, professor of computer science, and fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado) and his colleague, Sidney D’Mello (Associate Professor of the Institute of Cognitive Science) for their chapter on the Internet of Things. Devin Boyle (Senior Consultant at Wheelhouse Group, Emerging Technology Lead at the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), and Advisor at XR Access) and her colleague Kai Frazier (CEO of Kai XR and a former history teacher) for their chapter on Mixed Realities. Mario Konecki (Assistant Professor and Advisor to the Rector, University of Zagreb) for his chapter on Accessible Gaming and Volker Sorge (Progressive Accessibility Solutions, Ltd. and Professor at University of Birmingham, UK) for his chapter summarizing how technology for inclusive education has changed over the span of the DIAGRAM + award.
The report has an expected publication date of August 31, 2020 so make sure to stay tuned for additional announcements!
Standards Working Group
The Standards Working Group met several times this quarter, focusing on the development of two new test books: an advanced image description test book and an advanced mathematics test book. The goal is that these books will offer publisher recommendations on how to add math and extended image descriptions accessibility into their content. The group developed content for the image test book and planned for completion and testing in the coming months as well as testing on the advanced math book.
Tactile Working Group
The group continued work on developing an expanded, interactive decision tree that helps users determine the best method for making tactile images accessible. The platform will allow users to answer questions about their objectives with the image in question, and they ultimately receive feedback on whether they should use image descriptions, a 2D model, or a 3D model. A prototype of the interactive interface has been created, and content for the updated tree has been drafted.
Research Working Group
The DIAGRAM Research Working Group is being restarted once again under the talented guidance of Dave Edyburn. This time around the working group will be exploring the areas most related to the work of DIAGRAM, specifically around the need and uses for Mathshare and Imageshare. There will also be space for forward looking research. Look for an announcement of the group’s reformation next month and stay tuned for more information on group specifics and of course, how you can get involved!
2019 was a year of many changes in the DIAGRAM Center. While many of these changes were exciting, some brought mixed emotions. In January 2019, we said goodbye to the Director of Content Acquisition and Core DIAGRAM team member, Robin Seaman, who passed suddenly leaving a hole in many of our hearts. She continues to be missed. In February we also said goodbye to the VP of Labs, Anh Bui, who left Benetech to pursue a passion project with her husband working on satellites. Lastly, we said goodbye to Sue-Ann Ma, who moved to Germany and left Benetech to pursue a different type of passion project with her husband. They welcomed their daughter Maddie in May.
While 2019 brought many losses to the DIAGRAM Center, it also welcomed some new additions. In January, Alex Cabral joined the team as our UX researcher to help make sure we are developing our products for and with input from our targeted audiences. Next we welcomed Matt Nupen to our staff as the senior product manager for DIAGRAM Products, including Mathshare and Imageshare. Additionally, we added a new position to oversee all of the education research and development projects including DIAGRAM. While not new to the team, I assumed the role late in 2019 as the Director of Education R & D. With change brings new opportunities and we are excited to embark on this new year and decade with you.
-Lisa and the rest of the DIAGRAM team
In 2019 we continued to add to and improve the Imageshare tool. We updated the filtering capability and added tag & search resources based on grade level. We also expanded the content collection by partnering with RNIB so Imageshare users have access to their full tactile graphics library. In addition, we added a lot more content giving us a total of 6,000 images in the collection!
For 2020 we will be updating the search feature and how resources are organized so they will be more user friendly. And speaking of user friendly, we will be adding training materials on creating resources. Feature-wise we will be improving the bulk import mechanism and adding user accounts. Stay tuned for status updates as we start working on these new developments.
2019 was a very exciting year for Mathshare. For starters, we launched the beta! Feel free to check it out and see what Mathshare can do for you and your students. If launching the beta wasn’t enough, we also had the opportunity to pilot it with EdReady and a class in Montana for a semester. From there we added updates to make it more screen reader accessible. We also added integrations for Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams so that teachers can use it in conjunction with learning systems they are already using. Lastly, we added personalization features for students with disabilities to modify for their individual needs.
In 2020 we are exploring advanced sketching features and ways to make the sketchpad more usable and accessible for students. We will also be adding grading for assignments and ways for teachers to determine student progress. Make sure to check back for updates on our 2020 progress.
If you are a parent, educator or student, the 2019 DIAGRAM report is written for you. Meant to explore new innovations in technology that have the potential to impact learning, the report focuses on Personalized Learning, Accessible K-12 Computer Science, Multimodal User Interfaces, Accessible Data Visualizations, and Sonification. Each chapter was written by experts in the field, so you are getting the information straight from the source. We here at the DIAGRAM Center would like to extend a huge thank you to Alan Harnum, Richard Ladner, Emily Moore, Jenna Gorlewicz, Doug Schepers and Bruce Walker who authored this year’s chapters.
Work on the 2020 DIAGRAM report is underway. Please keep an eye out for communications about potential topics and other calls to action. The more our community gets involved the richer the report is. We can’t do it without you!
We hope you find the 2019 report interesting, educational, and a valuable resource. Feel free to share it broadly and as always, we welcome all feedback.
2019 saw the passing of two superstars in the accessibility field. At the beginning of the year, we lost Benetech’s Robin Seaman, who passed suddenly on January 7th, 2019, leaving the DIAGRAM community reeling. Jim Thatcher, a disability rights lawyer and pioneer of digital accessibility passed away on December 7th, 2019. His death leaves a huge hole in the hearts of his friends and community. While both Robin and Jim will be missed their legacies will live on. You can read more about Robin in Benetech’s tribute and more about Jim on the tribute published by the law office of Lainey Feingold.
We are thrilled to announce that the 2019 DIAGRAM Report has been published and is live on our website. An accompanying blog post is live on the Benetech website. A truly communal effort, this year’s report features chapters written by DIAGRAM community members who are experts in their respective fields. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Alan Harnum for authoring the chapter on Personalized Learning, Richard Ladner for writing the chapter on Accessible K-12 Computer Science, Emily Moore and Jenna Gorlewicz for their co-authored chapter on MultiModal User Interfaces, Doug Schepers for providing the chapter on Accessible Data Visualizations, and Bruce Walker for his chapter on Sonification. Their participation has made the 2019 edition of the DIAGRAM Report truly special.
We are particularly excited about the accessibility and UX responsiveness of this year’s report. Using accessible coding best practices, we have built a report that works for people using screen readers as well as those viewing the report on a mobile phone. We’ve also included enhancements to a few of the chapters, including audio sonification of graphs, an accessible SVG graph, a heat map accessible table, and a fully accessible embedded PhET simulation!
We hope you find this year’s report interesting, educational, and a valuable resource. Please feel free to share it broadly and as always, we welcome any and all feedback.
The 2019 DIAGRAM Report is well underway! For those unfamiliar with our annual report, it is a compilation of input gathered from renowned experts in the community to highlight some of the most promising technologies and trends changing the educational landscape for students with disabilities in the United States. This year’s report will focus on multimodal interactions, personalization, accessible computer science, data visualization and sonification – the use of sound to convey information found in previously inaccessible content (e.g. a bell curve).
Although we have previously written chapters on multimodal interactions and personalization, the technology is moving so fast that it is necessary to continually provide updates on the latest advancements. Additionally, we also have discussed coding in previous reports, but the DIAGRAM community felt it necessary to include an updated section on accessible computer science since it is a growing field, for which we need to ensure that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to participate.
Since charts and graphs are generally a challenge for people with disabilities to access, especially those with vision impairments, we will explore ways that data visualization and sonification can be used to access the information provided in these images.
The 2019 DIAGRAM report has an expected release date of August 31, so make sure to check back for the announcement of when it has been published.
In the final quarter of 2018, the collaborative multimodal study between DIAGRAM, Mad*Pow, and NCAM concluded. Through the study, we learned that the 25 students representing varying disabilities exhibited a preference for modalities that aligned with their individual learning preferences and personal desire for varying levels of information. These preliminary findings and additional details from the study were shared with the Tactile and Research Working Groups in the first quarter of 2019 and received with much interest. Members from the Research Working Group have expressed particular interest in further examining and analyzing the associated data and have submitted a conference proposal to the Council for Exceptional Children based on the preliminary findings. We continue to look for additional opportunities to share the information and look forward to working more closely with the Working Group members around this study.
The Mathshare project boasted several new developments this quarter. The addition of Alex Cabral, a UX Researcher to the DIAGRAM Team, enabled us to conduct more user studies, distill feedback, and better plan priorities in the coming months. We also began integration pilots with edtech platform providers, including EdReady, and are continuing to discuss collaboration possibilities with additional edtech partners to reach more students. Finally, we presented Mathshare to a virtual audience of mostly special educators in a webinar entitled, “Getting Started with Accessible Math.” Hosted by CAST, the webinar was co-presented with other leading math tool providers, including EquatIO and Desmos and took place January 21, 2019.
The Accessible Interactives Library is an online GitHub repository of best practice accessible code snippets for common online interactions, such as drag-and-drop, sliders, and photo carousels, with an online demonstration of their real-world implementations. Since the initial launch in August 2018, we’ve worked with dozens of publishers and edtech developers to update, disseminate, and track implementation stories regarding this resource. To date, our collection of code samples and examples includes 24 accessible interactives and adoptions from key partners such as W.W. Norton and PhET Interactives. These implementations were shared and met with much excitement during the “Speed Geeking” rounds, held at the Strategic Planning Meeting. We plan to continue growing the collection throughout the remainder of the DIAGRAM + award period.