Alexander Repenning

Alexander Repenning
University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland | FHNW · Computer Science Education

PhD
Building Computational Thinking Tools

About

151
Publications
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3,617
Citations
Citations since 2016
24 Research Items
1498 Citations
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Introduction
Pioneered modern block-based programming with AgentSheets (2D games and simulations) and AgentCubes (3D). AgentCubes has been used by over 1 million users in the USA with users in 208 countries. Created Scalable Game Design as CT teaching strategy and scaled it up with large funded projects (NSF, Google AMD Foundation, SNF, and Hasler Foundation) in the USA, Mexico, Brazil, and Switzerland. Running large pre-service elementary school teacher education programs (over 2000 in 3 years).
Education
August 1988 - November 1993
University of Colorado Boulder
Field of study
  • Computer Science

Publications

Publications (151)
Article
Making Computational Thinking relevant to schools.
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A difficult challenge to computer science education is the systemic professional development of teachers. K-12 computer science education models limited to voluntary in-service teacher professional development may not reach a critical majority of teachers who are skeptical towards information technology, computer science, programming and computatio...
Conference Paper
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Block-based programming languages effectively address syntactic difficulties allowing users to more easily create code. Syntactic code support is no doubt a crucial step in enabling the next generation of programmers. However, in what other ways do these tools support the computational thinking (CT) process? For example, how is CT supported in both...
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Die Umsetzung des Lehrplans 21, der mit dem Modul «Medien und Informatik» informatische Bildung (IB) in die Schweizer Primarschulen bringen wird, wirft wichtige Fragen auf: Insbesondere fragt sich, wie die Umsetzung gegen die bei vielen Primarlehrpersonen ablehnende Haltung gegenüber Informatische Bildung gelingen kann. Um angehende Primarlehrperso...
Conference Paper
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Computational Music Thinking combines computing education and music education with the goal to overcome common aptitudinal and attitudinal challenges. Many students, and teachers, believe that writing programs or performing music is beyond their natural abilities. Instead of trying to teach computing and music separately, Computational Music Thinki...
Conference Paper
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A promising approach to make K-12 Computer Science education more systemic could arise from a strategy focusing mostly on pre-service teachers educated through mandatory courses instead of self-selected in-service teachers. When employing mandatory courses, schools of education can reach all future teachers, but what are potential consequences resu...
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The creation of computer science tutorials is becoming critically important as hundreds of millions of students each year get their first CS experience through self-directed online activities. Creating a "cliffhanger" activity, with high engagement during and motivation to continue learning post activity, is a balancing act. If tutorials provide to...
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Das Modul «Medien und Informatik» des Lehrplans 21 verlangt von Primarlehrpersonen, dass sie mit ihren Schülerinnen und Schülern verschiedene Kompetenzen und Inhalte im Bereich der Informatik erarbeiten. Für die Erfüllung dieses Auftrags benötigen die angehenden Lehrpersonen eine entsprechende Ausbildung, die sie mit dem relevanten Fachwissen und d...
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Broadening participation in computer science necessitates balancing motivational and educational concerns. Without fully understanding potential trade-offs, Hour of Code-like tutorials may actually backfire by initially attracting students to participate, but gradually reinforcing the notion that programming is hard and boring. Previously, we analy...
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Computational Thinking is argued to be an essential skill for the workforce of the 21st century. As a skill, Computational Thinking should be taught in all schools, employing computational ideas integrated into other disciplines. Up until now, questions about how Computational Thinking can be effectively taught have been underexplored preventing ef...
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Moving beyond self-selected computer science education in Switzerland.
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We examine the challenges and advantages of 3D programming in the AgentCubes Online programming environment. 3D imagery and its associated programming provide a means for personalizing projects and may increase a learner’s motivation to learn about technology. After reviewing the challenges for learners, we suggest some ideas for helping both teach...
Conference Paper
Motivated by the essential role of music in children's lives, the potential of sound as sensory modality, and the importance of teaching Computational Thinking, there is great pedagogical potential in the integration of musical and computational thinking into " Computational Music Thinking ". In this paper we report a pilot study exploring research...
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The blocks programming community has been preoccupied with identifying syntactic obstacles that keep novices from learning to program. Unfortunately, this focus is now holding back research from systematically investigating various technological affordances that can make programming more accessible. Employing approaches from program analysis, progr...
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Currently Switzerland is going through a major reform in its education system. One of its most ambitious and important goals is the inclusion of Computer Science Education already on the primary school level, an important measure in achieving the establishment of an information society. Such a reform raises questions about the appropriate types of...
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Computational Thinking is a fundamental skill for the twenty-first century workforce. This broad target audience, including teachers and students with no programming experience, necessitates a shift in perspective toward Computational Thinking Tools that not only provide highly accessible programming environments but explicitly support the Computat...
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Online CS Ed Week and Hour of Code activities attempt to motivate hundreds of millions of student participants across the world in computer science each year. A key goal of these endeavors is long-term student engagement. However, if the activity experience is bad, it could have effects adverse to the stated goal. Thus, it is imperative upon design...
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It can be difficult to evaluate Hour of Code activities for outcome measures such as motivation. Participation levels, for example, might be more indicative of marketing effectiveness and give little insight into longitudinal user engagement. By imagining these activities as a series of steps, we can develop a survival function model based on simpl...
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Computational Thinking is an essential skill for all students in the 21 st Century. A fundamental question is how can we create computer affordances to empower novice teachers and students, in a variety of STEM and art disciplines, to think computationally while avoiding difficult overhead emerging from traditional coding? Over the last 20 years we...
Conference Paper
Computers have not only changed the way we live and work, but also how we create and consume mu-sic. Music software and apps are nowadays widespread in music education (Bauer, 2014). But the poten-tial of the computer as actual musical „computing device“ is rarely exploited. In the area of computer science education the need to approach programming...
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Computer Science Education Week activities, featuring online? programming tools embedded with tutorials, report large participation numbers. However, to truly broaden participation, activities need to be made accessible in international contexts. In 2014, Tecnológico de Monterrey and Instituto de Innovación y Transferencia de Tecnología de Nuevo Le...
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High profile computer science education events such as the Hour of Code can reach millions of students but without proper evaluation it is not clear what motivational and educational consequences the participation has. If, for instance, participants' levels of motivation towards the end of an hour long activity are significantly fading, then their...
Chapter
Dieses Kapitel führt den Begriff Computational Thinking in einer praxisorientierten Weise ein und legt dessen eminente Bedeutung für Smart Education dar. Smart Education bedeutet, dass Schülerinnen und Schüler auf motivierende Weise zu mündigen und kreativen Smart Citizens ihrer digitalen, vernetzten städtischen Welt ausgebildet werden. In der digi...
Conference Paper
The systemic introduction of computer science education in federalist countries such as the United States, Germany, and Switzerland can be extremely difficult. The lack of top down dissemination mechanisms makes it hard to scale up even successful Computer Science Education strategies to national levels, necessitating bottom up approaches. High pro...
Conference Paper
Computational thinking (CT) involves a broadly applicable and complex set of processes that are often explained by way of the knowledge, attitudes, and general practices that they entail. However, to become facile with CT, learners require instruction that is grounded in concrete, relevant experiences. This paper examines teacher practices that are...
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An educated citizenry that participates in and contributes to science technology engineering and mathematics innovation in the 21st century will require broad literacy and skills in computer science (CS). School systems will need to give increased attention to opportunities for students to engage in computational thinking and ways to promote a deep...
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This paper suggests a Cyberlearning tool based on a highly innovative assessment methodology that helps teachers with computer science education. Currently, there is a strong push to integrate aspects of programming and coding into the classroom environment. However, few if any tools exist that enable real-time formative assessment of in-class prog...
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End-user game design affords teachers a unique opportunity to integrate computational thinking concepts into their classrooms. However, it is not always apparent in game and simulation projects what computational thinking-related skills students have acquired. Computational Thinking Pattern Analysis (CTPA) enables teachers to visualize which of nin...
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Visual programming in 3D sounds much more appealing than programming in 2D, but what are its benefits? Here, University of Colorado Boulder educators discuss the differences between 2D and 3D regarding three concepts connecting computer graphics to computer science education: ownership, spatial thinking, and syntonicity.
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Future school science standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), emphasize the integration of simulation and modeling activities in the classroom environment. The extremes of these activities have two vastly different implementations. On one hand, a teacher can have students experiment on a pre-made simulation associated with...
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Our powerful computers help very little in debugging the program we have so we can change it into the program we want. We introduce Conversational Programming as a way to harness our computing power to inspect program meaning through a combination of partial program execution and semantic program annotation. A programmer in our approach interactive...
Conference Paper
The development of analytical skills is a central goal of the Next Generation Science Standards and foundational to subject mastery in STEM fields. Yet, significant barriers exist to students gaining such skills. Here we describe a new “gentle-slope” cyberlearning strategy that gradually introduces students to the authoring of scientific simulation...
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This paper presents a novel pedagogical framework, entitled the Zones of Proximal Flow, which integrates Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development theory with Csikszentmihalyi's ideas about Flow. Flow focuses on the individual-- an individual is in Flow when challenges are balanced with skills. The Zone of Proximal Development, on the other hand, bri...
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The gap between supply and demand for computer scientists has its roots in children's perception that programming is "hard and boring." The Web extra at http://youtu.be/5FSbA_YMsNE is a video showing students at Aspen Creek K-8 in Broomfield, Colorado, using AgentSheets, a program developed by author Alex Repenning to design video games in an after...
Conference Paper
Computational thinking aims to outline fundamental skills from computer science that everyone should learn. These skills include problem formulation, logically organizing data, automating solutions through algorithmic thinking, and representing data through abstraction. One aim of the NSF is to integrate these and other computational thinking conce...
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Conventionally creativity is often conceived as an aptitude to be discovered in an individual that cannot be mathematically measured. But the concept of creative thinking as a divergence from a standard "norm" is used in creativity research for the purpose of assessing creativity and is also linked to non-traditional or creative processes that lead...
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A strategy exposing middle school students to computer science through game design appears to be a promising means to mitigate the computer science pipeline challenge. Particularly when short game design activities are integrated into already existing middle school courses, research suggests that game design is effective in broadening participation...
Conference Paper
Educational game design environments have long been employed as an engaging medium for teaching computer programming and software engineering concepts such as objects, agents, instances, behavior, and interaction. However, in contrast to the collaborative nature of programming, in particular among novice programmers, existing game design environmen...
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Educational programming environments have tried to broaden the participation of women and minorities in computer science education by making programming more exciting and accessible. The Scalable Game Design Initiative, with over 8,000 participants, is showing great initial promise and is formulating a new approach in various settings that include...
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The rise of HTML5 and Web browsers' execution performance has led to the emergence of several open-Web games developed by professional developers but not by end users. To create their games, end users require higher level development environments and domain-specific languages which impose execution performance overhead. This overhead becomes a crit...
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A fundamental challenge to computer science education is the difficulty of broadening participation of women and underserved communities. The idea of game design and game programming as an activity to introduce children at an early age to computational thinking in a motivational way is quickly gaining momentum. A pedagogical approach called Project...
Conference Paper
Divergent thinking has been linked to creative processes leading to innovative artifacts. Measuring creative divergence can be difficult. Across the USA, the Scalable Game Design (SGD) Project includes thousands of student participants building their own games through learning computational thinking (CT). To evaluate these games, a technique, the C...
Conference Paper
For the last 15 years we have been exploring notions of design and social media as means to foster highly engaging as well as effective educational environments. We have created what we call social computational thinking tools with the goal to synthesize human abilities with computer affordances. This presentation will outline three social computat...
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Accelerated by the Do-It-Yourself mindset of the Web 2.0 culture, end-user programming-programming by end users with limited or even no formal programming background-is growing rapidly. Especially in educational settings, children are exposed to computational thinking by making games, building scientific simulations and creating stories. Early educ...
Conference Paper
How can learning be computed? Curriculum, using visual language as the motivational context with embedded computer science content was utilized in one college computer science class and two middle school technology classes. From the data collected in these three classes over the course of a semester, associated learning progressions were computed f...
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form only given. Above showsthat the next generation of mobile applications for MOPs need to be part of a much large mobile information system. Such system should be capable of receiving information from a large number of users, intelligently aggregating the information to useful, meaningful, real-time information and making them available to users...
Conference Paper
Accelerated by the Do-It-Yourself mindset of the Web 2.0 culture, end-user programming, which is programming by end users with limited, if any, formal programming background, is growing rapidly. Especially in educational settings, children are exposed to computational thinking by making games, building scientific simulations and creating stories. E...
Article
The iDREAMS project aims to reinvent Computer Science education in K-12 schools, by using game design and computational science for motivating and educating students through an approach we call Scalable Game Design, starting at the middle school level. In this paper we discuss the use of Computational Thinking Patterns as the basis for our Scalable...
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Computational thinking involves many different abilities, including being able to represent real and imaginary worlds in highly constrained computer languages. These typically support very selective kinds of perspectives, abstractions and articulation compared to the unlimited possibilities provided by natural languages. This paper reports findings...
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The do-it-yourself Web 2.0 culture is quickly creating and sharing more end-user produced content. Gradually moving from static content, such as pictures and text, to interactive content, such as end-user programmed games, the artifacts created and shared have become significantly more sophisticated. The next frontier to make end-user programming m...
Conference Paper
Creativity is an important aspect of industry and education. The lack of creativity in current students has become a concern for educators. Through the process of implementing the Scalable Game Design project to teach computer science through game authoring, fostered/increased creativity occurred in public middle schools. Despite some structural li...
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End-user game design tools are effective in motivating and exposing students with no prior programming experience to computer science. However, while there is good evidence that these environments are effective motivators, the question remains what do students actually learn? For our purposes, using AgentSheets, we would like to know if students ca...
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Computer science and software engineering education are limited to formal courses that are being taught in the school. Those who do not have access to the educational courses miss the learning context, even if educational tools are accessible for free. Computer game design has been employed as an engaging medium for practicing software engineering...
Conference Paper
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Visual programming languages can be used to make computer science more accessible to a broad range of students. The evaluative focus of current research in the area of visual languages for educational purposes primarily aims to better understand motivational benefits as compared to traditional programming languages. Often these visual languages cla...
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The physical environments are often limited for fostering and enriching creativity and collaborative benefits, especially in the educational context. In general, students have limited opportunities to experience peer-to-peer and group collaborative learning. Gaining knowledge, understanding and group interaction skills from a collaborative learning...
Conference Paper
High dimensional cosine calculation is a tool that is often used to discover the similarity between two vectors in semantic space. This research uses vector similarities to create a novel way of visually representing the submitted work of a whole classroom of students over the course of a semester. Using a high dimensional cosine calculation, every...
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Why has technology become prevalent in science education without fundamentally improving test scores or student attitudes? We claim that the core of the problem is how technology is being used. Technologies such as simulations are currently not used to their full potential. For instance, physiology simulations often follow textbooks by sequentially...
Conference Paper
Cyberlearning infrastructures are increasingly being integrated into physical classrooms and are often used by online classes as an outright replacement for the physical classroom. In Spring 2009, The Educational Game Design Class, taught at the University of Colorado Boulder, employed a cyberlearning infrastructure enabling students to run and eve...
Conference Paper
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A variety of approaches exist to teach computer science concepts to students from K-12 to graduate school. One such approach involves using the mass appeal of game design and creation to introduce students to programming and computational thinking. Specifically, Scalable Game Design enables students with varying levels of expertise to learn importa...
Conference Paper
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Game design appears to be a promising approach to interest K-12 students in Computer Science. Unfortunately, balancing motivational and educational concerns is truly challenging. Over a number of years, we have explored how to achieve a functional balance by creating a curriculum that combines increasingly complex game designs, computational thinki...
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Growing science apathy at the K-12 education level represents an alarming development with potentially devastating consequences at individual, societal and economic levels. Technology has been incorporated in science education without fundamentally improving test scores or student attitudes. We claim the core of the problem is how technology is bei...
Article
D game development can be an enticing way to attract K-12 students to computer science, but designing and programming 3D games is far from trivial. Students need to achieve a certain level of 3D fluency in modeling, animation, and programming to be able to create compelling 3D content. The combination of innovative end-user development tools and st...
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The way programming is currently taught at the University level provides little incentive and tends to discourage student peer-to-peer interaction. These practices effectively stifle any notion of a 'learning community' developing among students enrolled in university level programming classes. This approach to programming education stands in stark...
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The Web is evolving from the Web of documents to the Web of applications. Web 2.0 communities need end-user programming tools to create interactive applications according to their skills and domain of interest. However, due to the different domains of programming in different communities, providing a generic EUP tool to all communities is not possi...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
With the IT crisis reaching alarming levels, it is more important than ever to attract K-12 students to computer science. 3D game development can be an enticing way to achieve that, but building 3D games is far from trivial. Students need to achieve a degree of 3D fluency in modeling, animation and programming to be able to create compelling 3D con...
Conference Paper
Web 2.0 has enabled end users to collaborate through their own developed artifacts, moving on from text (e.g., Wikipedia, Blogs) to images (e.g., Flickr) and movies (e.g., YouTube), changing end-userpsilas role from consumer to producer. But still there is no support for collaboration through interactive end-user developed artifacts, especially for...
Conference Paper
Game development is quickly gaining popularity in introductory programming courses. Motivational and educational aspects of game development are hard to balance and often sacrifice principled educational goals. We are employing the notion of scalable game design as an approach to broaden participation by shifting the pedagogical focus from specific...