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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 10, 2024
  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. 
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  3. Integration of computational thinking (CT) within STEM subjects is common, although not often at the elementary school level where teachers have minimal experience with CT. We have designed and are refining INFUSECS, a narrative-centered digital learning environment to support upper elementary students’ CT and science knowledge construction as they create digital stories. We used orchestration as our theoretical framework, to examine how elementary teachers planned to approach this multidisciplinary implementation. Through a series of three focus groups, we learned that teachers planned for their students to take notes or utilize other graphic organizers to align the science content with the narrative planning, to engage in collaborative sense-making, and to observe the teacher modeling use of the INFUSECS system. Ultimately, the results have informed the next phase of our research design as we collect teacher and student level data as INFUSECS is utilized in authentic classroom settings. 
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