Project Profile

Engaging Blind, Visually Impaired, and Sighted Students in STEM with Storytelling through Podcasts


This project will broaden participation in STEM for blind and visually impaired (BVI) and sighted upper elementary students through engagement with podcast technology. BVI individuals are significantly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Research has shown that BVI students face many obstacles in pursuing education pathways to STEM fields, beginning in early education. These obstacles include negative attitudes of both students and teachers regarding the ability for BVI persons to engage in STEM careers, and the lack of BVI-accessible STEM resources in classrooms. This project builds on the success of the children’s science podcast, Tumble, to engage BVI students in the use and development of podcasts to promote STEM learning and career awareness. In addition, this project explores how podcasts can be used to engage BVI students in the classroom, with broader implications for digital media use for all students. It lays the foundation for educators to integrate podcasts and podcast technology into the classroom, in a way that is accessible for BVI students. Tumble will produce a variety of podcasts featuring BVI and disabled scientists. Teachers will guide students in using these episodes as the basis for producing their own science podcasts - developing ideas, interviewing scientists, writing scripts, and editing audio. Twelve BVI and integrated classrooms will be involved in design-testing this curriculum. The final materials will be made freely available in a web portal, where students and teachers around the world can access it. Tumble’s BVI episodes will also be freely available and will reach its estimated 200,000 listeners worldwide. Additionally, the episodes will be adapted into Spanish, and released on Tumble’s Spanish-language podcast feed.

While many teachers have begun using podcasts in the classroom, there is little research around podcasts as a technology to disseminate information to K-12 students or how podcasts can be used as a teaching/learning tool in classrooms, especially to meet the needs of BVI students. This project is innovative in its approach to exploring outcomes of engaging upper elementary students (grades 3-5) with podcast technology for science learning, with a particular focus on supporting access for BVI students. Project goals address the following questions: 1) How can listening to and producing podcast technology increase awareness and interest in STEM careers for BVI and sighted students? 2) How does featuring BVI scientists and their work normalize participation of persons with disabilities in science and scientific research? 3) To what degree does this lead to empathy in all students, and to a sense of “possible selves” in science for BVI students? The project is an iterative process of data collection and design testing. It begins with a front-end research study in Years 1 and 2, to evaluate the literature, gain insight from podcast professionals, BVI scientists and advocates, engage a teacher design group, and conduct a national survey of teachers. Interviews and focus groups with podcast professionals, BVI scientists and teachers will be analyzed using inductive open coding. The national survey of teachers (n=500) will be analyzed for frequencies and central tendencies, and inferential statistics (e.g., comparisons between groups, comparisons by variables of interest) will be used for exploring explanatory variables. In year-2, design testing of the resources in upper elementary classrooms with BVI and sighted students will take place. It will rely on a 12-person design tester group and will involve questionnaires and focus groups, website analytic data, and at least six classroom observations. An efficacy study will be conducted in Years 2 & 3, combining a naturalistic study of the use of the resources by teachers with a quasi-experimental study to understand outcomes for BVI and sighted students. The naturalistic study will focus on 12 classrooms and combine a system of regular written feedback with interviews, web analytics and classroom observations. The quasi-experimental study in 12 classrooms with 240 students (in a nested design) involves teacher interviews, observations and a student retrospective post-survey. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.



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Principal Investigator(s)
Project Staff


Award Number
2148711, 2148712
Project Duration
2022 - 2025
Associated Universities, Inc. & Oregon State University, Washinton DC & Corvallis, District of Columbia
Project Work State
District of Columbia
Project Status