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Early learning of digital skills for access to STEM

This 3 part series provided advice and strategies to support early digital skills for students who are blind or have low vision.
blind student accessing digital materials

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Key Details

Masterclass Series
Course Code

Course Information


This online 3 part series provided a range of strategies and suggestions to support early learning of digital skills to help students who are blind or have low vision to access STEM.

Session 1: Early Learning of Digital skills on iPad

Participants will take away the fundamentals of teaching finger gestures and concepts of VoiceOver screen reader accessibility for interaction with iOS mobile touch devices.

Phia will share tips, resources and examples to support teachers and parents who are starting out on the exciting journey to first introduce a child to the use of an iPad with the built-in screen reader on iOS, called VoiceOver.

No previous experience with an iPad is required (either by course participants or students).

  • Importance and educational value of being able to use an iPad. Mainstream device, which encompasses a range of applications for searching, learning, communicating, leisure, and navigation.
  • About the mobile device (iPad), touch screen interaction, accessibility.
  • Concepts of VoiceOver screen reader accessibility on iPad. Navigation, listening skills, earcons, sound alerts.
  • Finger gestures of VoiceOver screen reader accessibility for basic navigation on an iPad. Fine motor skills, shape and direction of finger gestures.
  • Prerequisite skills, opportunities, and limitations. One size doesn’t fit all. Considerations and recommendations based on many years of experience with training workshops for allied health staff, educators, parents, and children.
  • Playful digital learning: ‘Ballyland’ educational game apps and other suitable accessible apps to support learning of VoiceOver gestures and basic interaction on iPad.
  • Tips around ‘un-plugged’ learning support: tactile tools, toys, musical instruments.

Session 2: Diving into grids

Participants will get an in-depth insight into the relevance of early introduction of students to grids, gain understanding of prerequisite skills, and be inspired to use supporting digital and tactile materials.

A good understanding of grids is important in a wide range of contexts: in mathematical graphs with coordinates, tables with rows and columns, coding games, word diagrams and board games for leisure. Navigation in a grid and the mental mapping and spatial orientation skills built through this process also benefit Orientation and Mobility skills.

  • Importance and educational value of grids.
  • Navigating a grid: physical, tactile and digital support.
  • Spatial orientation
  • Students’ learning outcomes: skills for tactile reading, maths, coding, board games. Developing memory skills, mental mapping, spatial awareness and orientation (O&M), directional concepts, rows, columns.
  • Existing and self-produced tactile resources, examples and strategy for use in combination with digital learning.
  • Digital learning support from a number of Ballyland apps that implement (navigating) grids, sharing examples of students exploring grids with the apps.
  • Good introduction to part 3 in this series: Computational Thinking and Early Learning of Coding Concepts – in a grid.

Session 3: Computational Thinking and Early Learning of Coding Concepts

Participants will be introduced to Computational Thinking and basic coding concepts, learn how Computational Thinking benefits students’ development in a variety of ways, and explore ways to introduce the required skills to students. Phia will share real use cases and participants will be actively engaged. We will take an in-depth look at the Ballyland Code apps as they are used by students, and refer to other accessible coding pathways.

  • Introduction to Computational Thinking and Coding
  • Importance and application – at home, at school, at work
  • Considerations, opportunities, limitations
  • Student learning outcomes, such as navigating a grid with rows & columns, Computational Thinking, problem solving, skills for tactile reading and maths, memory skills, mental mapping, planning a route, spatial awareness and orientation (O&M), directional concepts.
  • How to introduce students to Computational Thinking and basic coding
  • Gamified learning with Ballyland Code apps, other accessible coding programs and apps.