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  1. 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
  2. Recent years have seen a growing recognition of the importance of enabling K-12 students to engage in computational thinking, particularly in elementary grades where students' dispositions toward STEM are developing. Block-based programming has emerged as an effective tool for engaging these novice learners in computational thinking. At the same time, digital storytelling has emerged as a promising avenue for creating motivating problem-solving scenarios that engage students in science investigations. Although block-based programming and digital storytelling are in many ways synergistic, there is a lingering question of how to design block-based languages at an age-appropriate level to enable effective and engaging storytelling. In this work, we review design principles from prior block-based and digital storytelling systems as well as propose the design of block-based programming language features to enable the creation of rich, interactive science narratives by upper elementary students.