skip to main content

Title: Teaching A Computer To Sing (TACTS): Integrating Computing and Music in a Middle School, After‐School Program
This paper reports on an after‐school program that introduced middle school students to computing through music. The program ran for two years, from October 2015 through April 2017. It involved singing, encoding music with ABC notation, and programming music with Pencil Code. We describe the program’s goals and the activities students pursued, as well as suggestions for improvement. While rigorous evaluation of such a program is difficult, we present survey and focus group results that show that students’ attitudes toward the program were positive and that they did learn some programming.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of computing sciences in colleges
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. “Teaching a Computer to Sing” investigates how middle school students—aged ten to fourteen—build critical thinking and problem-solving skills through informal, yet cogent learning activities in a voluntary after-school choral program. This presentation explores how deploying age-appropriate, music-centered, and technology-mediated pursuits gives middle school students a chance to explore the connections between academic fields that are normally offered as isolated, grade-specific courses in formal classrooms. 
    more » « less
  2. In this work, we examine whether repeated participation in an after-school computing program influenced student learning of computational thinking concepts, practices, and perspectives. We also examine gender differences in learning outcomes. The program was developed through a school–university partnership. Data were collected from 138 students over a 2.5-year period. Data sources included pre–post content assessments of computational concepts related to programming in addition to computational artifacts and interviews with a purposeful sample of 12 participants. Quantitative data were analyzed using statistical methods to identify gains in pre- and post-learning of computational thinking concepts and examine potential gender differences. Interview data were analyzed qualitatively. Results indicated that students made significant gains in their learning of computational thinking concepts and that gains persisted over time. Results also revealed differences in learning of computational thinking concepts among boys and girls both at the beginning and end of the program. Finally, results from student interviews provided insights into the development of computational thinking practices and perspectives over time. Results have implications for the design of after-school computing programs that help broaden participation in computing. 
    more » « less
  3. TunePad is a free, online platform designed with the goal of empowering diverse communities of learners to create and share music through code. We are interested in the idea of music as a pervasive form of literacy with abundant connections to concepts of computer programming. Over the past three years we have developed and refined successive prototypes with over 500 middle school and high school students in a variety of learning spaces including schools, libraries, summer camps, and other out-of-school programs. This paper shares the current TunePad design along with data from three summer camps for middle school students that involved daily work with the platform. Through these camps we saw significant gains in learners’ attitudes around computer programming as measured through pre-post surveys. We also share a theoretical perspective on music and coding as an intersection of literacies that we reflect on through student-created artifacts. 
    more » « less
  4. Historically, female students have shown low interest in the field of computer science. Previous computer science curricula have failed to address the lack of female-centered computer science activities, such as socially relevant and real-life applications. Our new summer camp curriculum introduces the topics of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and other real-world subjects to engage high school girls in computing by connecting lessons to relevant and cutting edge technologies. Topics range from social media bots, sentiment of natural language in different media, and the role of AI in criminal justice, and focus on programming activities in the NetsBlox and Python programming languages. Summer camp teachers were prepared in a week-long pedagogy and peer-teaching centered professional development program where they concurrently learned and practiced teaching the curriculum to one another. Then, pairs of teachers led students in learning through hands-on AI and ML activities in a half-day, two-week summer camp. In this paper, we discuss the curriculum development and implementation, as well as survey feedback from both teachers and students. 
    more » « less
  5. Comprehending programs is key to learning programming. Previous studies highlight novices’ naive approaches to comprehend ing the structural, functional, and behavioral aspects of programs. And yet, with the majority of them examining on-screen program ming environments, we barely know about program comprehension within physical computing—a common K-12 programming context. In this study, we qualitatively analyzed think-aloud inter view videos of 22 high school students individually comprehending a given text-based Arduino program while interacting with its corresponding functional physical artifact to answer two questions: 1) How do novices comprehend the given text-based Arduino pro gram? And, 2) What role does the physical artifact play in program comprehension? We found that novices mostly approached the program bottom-up, initially comprehending structural and later functional aspects, along different granularities. The artifact provided two distinct modes of engagement, active and interactive, that supported the program’s structural and functional comprehension. However, behavioral comprehension i.e. understanding program execution leading to the observed outcome was inaccessible to many. Our findings extend program comprehension literature in two ways: (a) it provides one of the very few accounts of high school students’ code comprehension in a physical computing con text, and, (b) it highlights the mediating role of physical artifacts in program comprehension. Further, they point directions for future pedagogical and tool designs within physical computing to better support students’ distributed program comprehension. 
    more » « less