UNESCO Invites inABLE Executive Director to Speak at Mobile Learning Week Symposium in Paris
UNESCO—United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—invited InABLE Founder and Executive Director Irene Mbari Kirika (pictured third from left) to take part in an important panel discussion titled "Making High Quality Education A Reality for ALL Learners" during Mobile Learning Week 2016 in Paris, France.
Mobile Learning Week is UNESCO's flagship ICT in education conference. Held in March 2016 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the event convenes experts from around the world to share how affordable and powerful mobile technology – from basic handsets to the newest tablet computers – can accelerate learning for all, particularly people living in disadvantaged communities. Each year the event has a specific theme to focus discussions.
The conference is composed of numerous tracks, typically including workshops, a symposium, a high-level policy forum and a research seminar. These tracks engage a wide range of participants, including policy-makers, project managers, educators, researchers, and representatives of NGOs, international organizations and private companies.
St. Lucy’s School for the Visually Impaired celebrated the New Year with an opening service on January 15th that included a remarkable honor student who was among the class eight students who took the Kenya certificate of primary education (K.C.P.E) examination last Fall, was able to produce the best pupil result nationwide, amongst all candidates with special needs. He attained 392 marks out of 500 marks. Additionally, he was also one of the best students in our inABLE computer lab.
He aptly earned the privileged to pursue his secondary school course work at the M-Pesa Foundation Academy, a state of the art, mixed boarding high school providing world class Kenyan education. Driven by leadership, entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, the Academy serves talented but economically disadvantaged students with demonstrable leadership potential.
He feels good about the computer skills the helped him do online research and is very thankful that inABLE established a computer program at his school. In addition to his school work, he has been attending the inABLE Innovation Lab computer boot camps at Thika Primary School, where he gained hands-one experience using new technology devices, such as the iPad.
Presently, the St. Lucy’s school has only has desktop computers. For this reason, he has asked inABLE for assistance in providing iPads at his school so that all of the other students can learn to use the iPad technology too.
Note: On behalf of all the inABLE computer instructors, we give special thanks for the accomplishments of the St. Lucy community and for their support with our work to instruct visually impaired students. We also extend our appreciation to inABLE for developing the computer program, which has greatly changed the academic lives of the students and teachers at St. Lucy’s School for the Visually Impaired and at the four other partner blind schools.
All too often computer programmers overlooked people with sight impairment when writing various desktop and mobile applications. Accessibility is either not anticipated or prioritized. At inABLE’s computer-labs-for-the-blind students are becoming agents of change by learning to become computer application developers in a JAVA programming class taking place at the December inABLE school-break computer camp.
This third inABLE vacation boot camp, with a focus on programming purely with JAVA, has been a remarkable opportunity for the class of 11 students from three inABLE partner schools (Thika, St Lucy and St Oda Schools for Blind). The students who enrolled comprised of four girls and seven boys, four totally blind and seven low vision pupils.
Students who had just finished developing their first calculator and testing its usability, had a well-time visit from a representative from Oracle Corporation. The Oracle guest engaged the promising computer programmers with JAVA-world questions and explanations.
The two-week JAVA class objective was to create a very basic text-based calculator that can run both on Android and desktop devices. Computer programs that have been used by the students include: JAVA language and Eclipse editor. Eclipse is a fully featured Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that is accessible by the screen readers.
There are a number of environment/platforms or programs/editor we could opt to use with JAVA. These include Netbeans and Sodbeans. As per accessibility is concerned, all versions of Netbeans are NOT accessible and can’t be used by the totally blind for programming. While Sodbeans is 80% accessible—it comes with its inbuilt screen reader when turned on— its configuration is not ideal. This leaves Eclipse, the best editor and platform for all JAVA programming that is accessible by both Non Visually Desktop Access (NVDA) and Job Access With Speech (NVDA) screen readers.
Recognizing that computer programming is a difficut subject for most every beginner student to grasp, the young upcoming visually impaired JAVA developers were faced with a number of challenges. For example, the JAVA language is totally different from the normally used English language. Also, the use of JAVA syntax and slangs is hard to understand at first.
The next JAVA class at a future vacation boot camp is to develop a simple accessible game and also the same calculator, but this time it will need to run on the iPad, iPhone or universal device. To accomplish this, we plan to use simple Object C programming and XCode editor. This exercise will give students computer-developing experience on both Android devices and Apple.