Student Intern Uses Technology and Creativity to Show How Blind and Sighted Students Can Study Clouds Together

One of the best things about GLOBE is that students learn about science by doing science! Not only do students engage in real data collection, but there are also opportunities for them to conduct research projects that are interesting to them and that focus on answering questions that are meaningful and relevant to them. This semester we were very fortunate to collaborate with a high school intern who feels very passionate about advocating for accessibility, and who has also been learning a lot about clouds! Naudia’s research question was “How can blind and sighted students learn about clouds alongside each other?”

To answer her question, Naudia followed three different approaches. First, Naudia used tutorials from NASA GLOBE CLOUD GAZE—an online NASA-Zooniverse collaborative citizen science project—to learn about the main features of different types of clouds. Then, she used the Be My Eyes app to get assistance from sighted volunteers to describe NASA CLOUD GAZE sky photographs. For example, a sighted volunteer would describe a photograph as “containing puffy clouds”. Naudia would go further to ask about the size of the puffs, if they looked like one big puff or as a cluster of smaller puffs, and so on. Based on the volunteers’ responses, Naudia would identify the type of cloud and enter it on NASA GLOBE CLOUD GAZE, which in turn helped sighted volunteers by learning the names of different types of clouds.

Next, Naudia visited a place with many different types of materials so that she could choose the textures that could best represent different types of clouds. She then created her own cloud identification charts with these materials, that went from bubble wrap, to pieces of fabric-flower necklaces. She even used a mini mist fan and lights!

Finally, Naudia worked on an audio recording describing a scientific video about clouds. Naudia and other students revised the script until it was easy to understand both by students who are blind and by students who are sighted. Then, they used a free text-to-speech solution demo to make a voice recording of the script, which was later added to the scientific video using a free tool called YouDescribe.

With the help of different groups of volunteers, technology, and creativity, Naudia showed that it was possible for blind and sighted students to study clouds together. Moreover, the classification of sky images, the creation of tactile cloud identification charts, and the development of an audio description track for a scientific video about clouds, showed that accessing scientific content through multiple routes can benefit both blind and sighted students who can learn and reinforce knowledge by processing ideas through different senses. As Naudia put it: “given the important role clouds play in the local weather and in the climate system that affects everyone on Earth, we must all find alternative ways to make the science of clouds accessible to all students”.

If you would like to learn more about Naudia’s work, please access Naudia’s student report.

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