Make your classroom accessible by design

By Carrie Anne Philbin. Posted

Originally published in Hello World Issue 11: Diversity and inclusion, December 2019. All information true at the time of original publishing.

10 top tips on how to make your classroom accessible by design from CAS Include: the Computing At School inclusion and diversity working group

Teaching computing comes with its own set of challenges when working with students with special educational needs and disabilities.

At CAS Include, the working group for Computing At School educators, we encourage computing teachers to think about making their classroom accessible by design in the first instance, rather than adapting the settings as an afterthought. A well-designed and thoughtful space, along with good SEND practice makes the subject great for everyone, regardless of background or needs. Here are our top ten ways to help make your computing classroom accessible by design:

  • Think about cognitive load and try to reduce it.

  • Teach the terminology. Create a language-rich classroom and expect learners to use the language of computing by using physical actions, songs, or signs.

  • Check for understanding of key prerequisite knowledge before moving on through diagnostic questioning. By investing time in checking for misconceptions, you can really help students have a deeper knowledge of concepts and skills.

  • Scaffold learning, for example by using PRIMM or Parson’s problems. You can design algorithms away from screens in different ways, like using flow diagrams or by acting it out. Before moving on to modelling some code for learners to build on. That, or provide completed programs for learners to trace or tinker.

  • Use unplugged activities with familiar contact and sensory approaches to introduce and reinforce key concepts.

  • Teach computational thinking explicitly as a framework for problem-solving. Teach strategies to encourage resilience like debugging or decomposition.

  • Use physical computing as a method of engagement and expression. Use technology that has different outputs like Sonic Pi (music) or Bee-Bot (movement) to engage and include learners.

  • Provide opportunities to submit homework in different formats like audio, video, or through animation, as well as access to technology to do the work on.

  • Ensure teaching and learning materials are accessible and include image or audio support. Ensure background and text colours are high contrast, and find out if any colours are more readable for your students. Use sans serif fonts.

  • Use assistive technology. Your Computing classroom should be at the forefront of using technology! Allow all students to access the tools to spark questions about usefulness, purpose. Can they work to build something better or more appropriate?

Although this list was designed with SEND learners in mind, it is our belief at CAS Include that you can apply this to any class and transform it into an engaging and inclusive space of learning. As our research around computing education pedagogy grows in the coming years, we hope to develop more support for educators to apply, so why not start a discussion with your community of practice, wherever you are in the world, about accessible computing classrooms and let us know what works for you?

Join the team

Rebecca Franks and Carrie Anne Philbin

CAS Include is a group of educators and academics who are passionate about giving all students the opportunity to study computing without regard to background, race, gender, or ability. We concentrate on producing outputs to support teachers, based on current research. Join us at computingatschool.org.uk.


Print

Free - UK only

If you’re a UK-based teacher, volunteer, librarian or something in between, we'll send each issue free to your door.

Digital

Free

Just want to read the free PDF? Get each new issue delivered straight to your inbox. No fuss and no spam.

Buy

From £6

If you are UK-based but not involved in education, you can get hard copies by buying back issues.