skip to main content

Title: Building Blocks: Kids Designing scientific, domain-specific, block- based, agent-based microworlds
Next Generation Science Standards foreground science practices as important goals of science education. In this paper, we discuss the design of block-based modeling environments for learning experiences that ask students to actively explore complex systems via computer programming. Specifically, we discuss the implications of the design and selection of the types of blocks given to learners in these environments and how they may affect students’ thinking about the process of modeling and theorizing. We conclude with a discussion of some preliminary findings in this design based research to inform design principles for block-based programming of science phenomena as a medium for learning to build theory.
Authors:
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1842374 1640201
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10199201
Journal Name:
International Conference of the Learning Sciences (2020)
Issue:
Jun-2020
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1641-1644
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Visual block-based programming environments (VBBPEs) such as Scratch and Alice are increasingly being used in introductory computer science lessons across elementary school grades. These environments, and the curricula that accompany them, are designed to be developmentally-appropriate and engaging for younger learners but may introduce challenges for future computer science educators. Using the final projects of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students who completed an introductory curriculum using a VBBPE, this paper focuses on patterns that show success within the context of VBBPEs but could pose potential challenges for teachers of follow-up computer science instruction. This paper focuses on three specific strategies observed in learners' projects: (1) wait blocks being used to manage program execution, (2) the use of event-based programming strategies to produce parallel outcomes, and (3) the coupling of taught concepts to curricular presentation. For each of these outcomes, we present data on how the course materials supported them, what learners achieved while enacting them, and the implications the strategy poses for future educators. We then discuss possible design and pedagogical responses. The contribution of this work is that it identifies early computer science learning strategies, contextualizes them within developmentally-appropriate environments, and discusses their implications with respect to futuremore »pedagogy. This paper advances our understanding of the role of VBBPEs in introductory computing and their place within the larger K-12 computer science trajectory.« less
  2. Recent years have seen growing interest in utilizing digital storytelling, where students create short narratives around a topic, as a means of creating motivating problem-solving activities in K-12 education. At the same time, there is increasing awareness of the need to engage students as young as elementary school in complex topics such as physical science and computational thinking. Building on previous research investigating block-based programming activities for storytelling, we present an approach to block-based programming for interactive digital storytelling to engage upper elementary students (ages 9 to 10) in computational thinking and narrative skill development. We describe both the learning environment that combines block-based narrative programming with a rich, interactive visualization engine designed to produce animations of student generated stories, as well as an analysis of students using the system to create narratives. Student generated stories are evaluated from both a story quality perspective as well as from their ability to communicate and demonstrate computational thinking and physical science concepts and practices. We also explore student behaviors during the story creation process and discuss potential improvements for future interventions.
  3. Developing narrative and computational thinking skills is crucial for K-12 student learning. A growing number of K-12 teachers are utilizing digital storytelling, where students create short narratives around a topic, as a means of creating motivating problem-solving activities for a variety of domains, including history and science. At the same time, there is increasing awareness of the need to engage K-12 students in computational thinking, including elementary school students. Given the challenges that the syntax of text-based programming languages poses for even novice university-level learners, block-based programming languages have emerged as an effective tool for introducing computational thinking to elementary-level students. Leveraging the unique affordances of narrative and computational thinking offers significant potential for student learning; however, integrating them presents significant challenges. In this paper, we describe initial work toward solving this problem by introducing an approach to block-based programming for interactive storytelling to engage upper elementary students (ages 9 to 11) in computational thinking and narrative skill development. Leveraging design principles and best practices from prior research on elementary-grade block-based programming and digital storytelling, we propose a set of custom blocks enabling learners to create interactive narratives. We describe both the process used to derive the custom blocks, includingmore »their alignment with elements of interactive narrative and with specific computational thinking curricular goals, as well as lessons learned from students interacting with a prototype learning environment utilizing the block-based programming approach.« less
  4. C2STEM is a web-based learning environment founded on a novel paradigm that combines block-structured, visual programming with the concept of domain specific modeling languages (DSMLs) to promote the synergistic learning of discipline-specific and computational thinking (CT) concepts and practices. Our design-based, collaborative learning environment aims to provide students in K-12 classrooms with immersive experiences in CT through computational modeling in realistic scenarios (e.g., building models of scientific phenomena). The goal is to increase student engagement and include inclusive opportunities for developing key computational skills needed for the 21st century workforce. Research implementations that include a semester-long high school physics classroom study have demonstrated the effectiveness of our approach in supporting synergistic learning of STEM and CS/CT concepts and practices, especially when compared to a traditional classroom approach. This technology demonstration will showcase our CS+X (X = physics, marine biology, or earth science) learning environment and associated curricula. Participants can engage in our design process and learn how to develop curricular modules that cover STEM and CS/CT concepts and practices. Our work is supported by an NSF STEM+C grant and involves a multi-institutional team comprising Vanderbilt University, SRI International, Looking Glass Ventures, Stanford University, Salem State University, and ETR. More information,more »including example computational modeling tasks, can be found at C2STEM.org.« less
  5. There has been a growing interest in the use of computer-based models of scientific phenomena as part of classroom curricula, especially models that learners create for themselves. However, while studies show that constructing computational models of phenomena can serve as a powerful foundation for learning science, this approach has struggled to gain widespread adoption in classrooms because it not only requires teachers to learn sophisticated technological tools (such as computer programming), but it also requires precious instructional time to introduce these tools to students. Moreover, many core scientific topics such as the kinetic molecular theory, natural selection, and electricity are difficult to model even with novice-friendly environments. To address these limitations, we present a novel design approach called phenomenological programming that builds on students' intuitive understanding of real-world objects, patterns, and events to support the construction of agent-based computational models. We present preliminary case studies and discuss their implications for STEM content learning and the learnability and expressive power of phenomenological programming.