The use of tactile 3D printed learning aids in an educational and inclusive setting
TERJE DALENG: Welcome to this presentation of Statped's approach to 3D printing. I am Terje Daleng.
SILJE BENONISEN: And I am Silje Benonisen.
ANETTE HOLDHUS: And I am Anette Holdhus. We will introduce you to our philosophy for unleashing the new powers of 3D printing, creating new aids in education, emphasizing inclusion. You will see three examples of aids we have worked on: letter beads, Braille puzzle, and code tiles. As the Norwegian school and kindergarten develops, we keep seeing new and visually attractive learning materials, which are often not universally designed.
TERJE: Statped is a supplier of knowledge, and as such, we see our role as a resource for developing new 3D printable material, as well as evaluating existing designs with several as a publisher on knowledge that schools can use to make 3D printing beneficial to them. The products shown are produced on a standard 3D printer, that we expect an increasing number of schools will have access to. SILJE: Many children are motivated when it comes to exploring and learning Braille, and they love the Mountbatten, Perkins, or Braille Display. But most of them also appreciate alternatives. Learning how to read and write is all about getting stimulation and varied impressions. To be motivated, it is important for children that they have the possibility to explore the written language together with their friends. To enrich the playing environment for early literacy, Statped has developed a puzzle that can be used to create letters in Braille. This puzzle also gives us the opportunity to talk about the Braille cell and where the different dots are placed. Have you seen children walking around with letter bead bracelets? We have. As part of making more attractive learning materials for children using Braille, we started looking at these beads. We have also developed beads with Braille on one side and visual letters on the other side. These beads have many purposes. It gives children who will be learning Braille, the opportunity to play with letters and words before they attend school. It can be a multicolor challenge activity which can train their coordination skills. It's an inclusive activity which gives all the children the opportunity to learn at least some Braille letters. It provides alternative ways to interact with and learn Braille letters.
TERJE: The letter beards started as an inclusion idea by Margrethe Sylthe. As they usually do, we started with a quick crude design to enable discussions. Presented to a team of teachers for visually impaired, the idea quickly got traction and more effort was invested in interactive development. A key success factor has been the close cooperation between educators with varied experience and designers. Add to this the rapid prototyping afforded by computer aided design and 3D printing. The primary source of feedback comes from the actual testing in the field. The beads are flat with a visual letter on one side and Braille on the other. They are rounded for comfort. A horizontal hole allows threading. A dent helps the tactile user orient the bead.
SILJE: This little boy got his beads in kindergarten, and when we came to visit, he was so proud of his bracelet and he could not wait for us to read on it. His mother told us that they had to have the bracelet on his bedside table and he was sleeping, and that it was the first thing that he put on when he woke up. I think this tells us something about how important literacy is when you are developing your own identity. When children are in kindergarten, they often sit together painting and drawing, they are talking about things that are important to them and they are telling each other stories. A little girl who is visually impaired did not find any joy in painting and drawing, but she wanted so badly to have an activity that she could do together with the friends in the kindergarten. When she got the beads, it became an activity that they could do together and all the children in the group got their bracelets with their own name. What we saw was that the little girl also became more active and included in the conversation, and all the children were working with the same materials. As an inclusive introduction to reading, some schools have made necklaces and bracelets with the whole class. The connection between Braille and visual letters have been the main learning objective in this activity.
TERJE: The last example we are going to show you is the code tiles.
ANETTE: Coding is the process of creating instructions for computers, coding is an abstract exercise, and it is now a part of the national curriculum in Norway. And can also be a part of the framework plan for the kindergartens. As more children learn programing computers, we felt the need to ease the introduction and to make a tool that could follow the children and students from the early beginning of coding to text programing. We would like to give the children a hands-on experience.
TERJE: The purpose of the code tiles is to facilitate the transition to text programing for students using Braille. These groups of students will not be able to use visual log-based tools. The code tiles themselves are designed in slots on the underside that fit into the ridges of the border, the tiles have text in Braille and vary in length depending on the length of the text on the individual tile. The ridges or the board are used to keep the tiles in place and are also helpful. And some tiles are to be indented from the left edge. The tiles can be produced with both six and eight dot braille. Six-dot is often sufficient, but eight dots has a great advantage if you are going to use tiles with program code such as Python.
ANETTE: A great advantage of the code tiles are their inherent flexibility. They were originally designed to facilitate the transition to text programing, but through testing, we have learned that introducing them at an earlier stage benefits students. Many of them already have experience in analog programing and with various robots such as Bluebot and Kebettle. Then the tiles can be used in conjunction with, for example, robots and have instructions corresponding to the instructions for the robot. The student will then get used to using the tiles at an early stage. Several of these robots are programed using bricks or tiles where each brick represents an instruction. Statped's code tiles are building on this framework. In this video, you see a boy together with his class programing Bluebot facilitated by Statped's code tiles. The program is already built on the board using the tiles, he reads the tile line by line while entering the code into the Bluebot. By the end of the day, the whole class prefers to use the tiles for working on the code.
SILJE: When transitioning to text programing, the tiles offer a better overview of the program than the Braille display.
TERJE: The models we have discussed today are our own designs and will be made available for download. Usable designs will be published in the ubiquitous a still format that can be used in your favorite 3D printer slicer program. For those that would like to improve upon or adapt our design, we will also publish them in an Open Ascott format. We prepare our designs for easy customization of key properties. This can be done without any 3-D design experience. Those that would like to develop the design further can do so based on the source code. The skills for this can be fun to acquire. We would very much like to learn what improvements other people can contribute. Many things are rather easy to produce with a 3D printer. A few things are harder and some tech skills and experience would do well. It turns out that making good Braille on 3D models are not at all easy. The following is our advice based on our experience. Print the model so that the Braille is on the side. Use thin layers. We have standardized on 0.06 millimeters. A thinner nozzle is better. We tried to use 0.25-millimeter nozzle when we can but has also seen good results with 0.4 millimeter. Know your material, experiment with the settings, especially temperature. Be prepared to readjust when you change material. Keep your p-lay dry. The visual letter of the beads could be as a relief or engraved in the bead. In either case, the visual letter becomes tactile noise on the opposite side of the Braille. The child may need more time to figure out which side has the Braille. For that reason, we have made the design with the letter as a different color so that the visual side is smooth and the Braille stands out on the other side. Printing in two colors has its own challenges. For a start, you need a printer that can do it. Second, it takes considerably more time. Third, with small detail like these letters we have found that some manual work may be needed, trim off excess material. 3D printing opens new opportunities for unique and targeted learning aids you will not find in any store. Teaching schools, parents and others, how to benefit is our goal. There are many useful models out there. The three we have shown today are our own designs. These are: The Braille cell puzzle, the Braille letter bead, and the programming code tiles. We hope you got some new ideas.