Project

COMnPLAY-Science

Goal: The project aims to help Europe better understand the new ways in which informal science learning is taking place through various coding, making, and play activities that young Europeans (children, adolescents and young adults) are nowadays increasingly engaged with, outside school and higher education science classrooms, beyond the formal boundaries of science education.

Date: 1 June 2018

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Project log

Dimitra Christidou
added a research item
Despite the increasing demand for non-formal science learning activities, few studies report on practitioners' perspectives and experiences with designing and implementing such activities worldwide. This paper focuses on their challenges by drawing upon twenty-two interviews with practitioners involved in diverse science learning activities in various non-formal settings in seven European countries. By including diverse activities and settings, this study contributes to the existing knowledge base, addresses the aforementioned gap in the literature, and informs future practices. Our findings suggest that despite the existing and celebrated diversity, practitioners face similar challenges related to (a) the activities' organisation and management, (b) the competencies required to run such activities, and (c) the attitudes held by the parties involved in them. Direct interview quotes exemplify each theme, further pinpointing the interconnection of multiple factors that inform the organisation and implementation of non-formal science learning activities. The findings allowed for a deeper understanding of challenges reported in the literature and shed light on the challenges voiced by the practitioners including the multiple competencies required and the workload. We conclude with a discussion foregrounding the need to build a knowledge base of shared practices in the field of non-formal science learning.
Dimitra Christidou
added a research item
Purpose Governments and organizations worldwide are concerned over the declining number of young people choosing to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), especially after the age of 16. Research has foregrounded that students with positive attitudes toward science are more likely to find it relevant and aspire to a science career. This study aims to understand the factors shaping students’ attitudes as these are pivotal in promoting science learning. Design/methodology/approach This study uses the framework of science capital to understand what shapes young people’s engagement with or resistance to science. The authors conducted four Computational Thinking making-based workshops with 106 children aged 15–16 years, of which 58 filled in a questionnaire and 22 were interviewed. Statistical and content analyses were performed respectively. Findings The results indicate that children who are more exposed to science-related activities and contexts are more likely to have higher self-efficacy, and that those with higher prior coding experience scored higher in their self-efficacy and science capital. Six themes emerged from the content analysis, highlighting the diverse factors shaping students’ attitudes, such as teaching methods, stereotypes and the degree of difficulty encountered while engaging with science in and out of school. Originality/value By combining qualitative and quantitative methods with the use of science capital, the authors found a number of aspects of the school experience that shape students’ attitudes to science learning in and out of school, as well as their science career aspirations.
Iro Voulgari
added 2 research items
In this chapter, we focus on the links between science learning and digital games. We review previous studies in the field, identify key findings and propose a conceptual model for further research. We view digital games not only as media through which players can explore and understand or be motivated to further study the learning content, but also as cultural and social practices within which gameplaying is situated. The main themes discussed in this chapter as factors relevant to the support of science learning and scientific thinking through game-based learning are (a) game design issues, (b) individual factors such as game preferences and motivations, game experience and literacy, and perceptions of games and (c) the social and cultural context of gameplaying (e.g. formal, non-formal and informal learning settings). Digital games can be effective instructional tools for science education but in this chapter we further examine how they can become tools for empowering the learners to meaningfully engage with science and how they can support the learners’ scientific literacy and citizenship.
This paper examines non-formal and informal learning practices for science learning. Through a case study and an exploratory, qualitative approach we identify aspects involved such as the content, the goals, the pedagogical approaches, the settings, the role of fun and playfulness, challenges, and the role of the practitioner. Data was collected through interviews and a survey. Despite the diversity in the format, settings, structure, and target group of the practices examined in this study, there seems to be a convergence in certain themes such as the objectives of the practices, the pedagogical approaches involved, and the importance of fun. These aspects are linked with the design and implementation of digital games in the context of informal and non-formal science learning. Further issues emerged from the analysis such as gender representation, resources required for efficient implementation of practices, and the role of the parents. Strengthening the links between formal and informal or non-formal science learning practices could benefit not only formal education but access of students to and effectiveness of non-formal and informal practices as well.
Dimitra Christidou
added a research item
There is a growing number of informal and non-formal learning activities worldwide related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curricular subject areas—particularly those involving coding and making. To better understand the general aim and content of such activities, we conducted a survey addressing highly experienced instructional designers and instructors of informal and non-formal science learning activities in nine European countries (N = 128). The goal of this paper is to investigate the relation between the gender of the activity leader experts, the target audience, the covered curricular subjects, the main goal, and the place of the activity. The results show that the gender and age of the participants are related to the covered curricular subjects and to the goal of the activity, and that the place of the activity is associated with all of the investigated dimensions. We introduce the patterns we identified that describe typical goals and the covered curricular subjects in relation to the participants’ gender and age along with patterns between the activity leader experts’ gender, the covered curricular subjects, and the main goal of the activity, as well as relationships between the studied dimensions and the place of the activity. Furthermore, we discuss the best practices and the bottlenecks of the activities, as well as detailed study findings regarding the revealed patterns, in addition to their implications and value for the informal and non-formal learning communities.
Marianne Kinnula
added a research item
The importance of familiarizing children with the Maker Movement, Makerspaces and Maker mindset has been acknowledged. In this literature review, we examine the complex social action of children, aged from 7 to 17 (K-12), engaging in technology Making activities as it is seen in the extant literature. The included papers contain empirical data from actual digital Making workshops and diverse research projects with children, conducted in both formal and non-formal/informal settings, such as schools or museums, libraries, Fab Labs and other makerspaces. We utilized the theoretical lens of nexus analysis and its concepts of interaction order and historical body, and as a result of our analysis, we report best practices and helping and hindering factors. Two gaps in the current knowledge were identified: (1) the current research focuses on success stories instead of challenges in the working, and, (2) histories of the participants and interaction between them are very rarely in the focus of the existing studies or reported in detail, even though they significantly affect what happens and what is possible to happen in Making sessions. Keywords: digital fabrication; technology making; intergenerational; child; teacher; facilitator; mentor; parent; interaction order; historical body; nexus analysis.
Michail Giannakos
added a research item
Learning activities for/with children include rich interactions with peers, tutors, and learning materials (in digital or physical form). During such activities, children gain new knowledge and master their skills. Automatized and continuous monitoring of children's learning is a complex task, but, if efficient, can greatly enrich teaching and learning. Wearable devices, such as eye-tracking glasses, have the capacity to continuously and unobtrusively monitor children's interactions, and such interactions might be capable of predicting children's learning. In this article, we set out to quantify the extent to which children's gaze, captured with eye-tracking glasses, can predict their learning. To do so, we collected data from a case study with 44 children (8-17 years old) during a making-based coding activity. Our analysis shows that children's gaze can predict their learning with 15.79% error. Our results also identify the most important gaze measures with respect to children's learning, and pave the way for new research in this area.
Marianne Kinnula
added a research item
This paper scrutinizes how children can be empowered to make a change through acquiring skills in digital technology design. We propose a framework that integrates theoretical understanding from literature on nexus analysis, values, and value as well as empowerment and genuine participation of children, and a related tool for educators and researchers advocating empowerment and inclusion. They should benefit from this tool when planning, analyzing, and evaluating their projects. We argue that the tool is useful beyond studies with children and can be used as a practical tool when planning and implementing digital technology design projects with any group of people and as a theoretical tool when studying such endeavors, especially when working with vulnerable or underserved participants.
Michail Giannakos
added 2 research items
Collaboration and engagement while coding are vital elements for children, yet very little is known about how children's engagement and collaboration impact their attitudes toward coding activities. The goal of the study is to investigate how collaboration and engagement moderate children's attitudes about coding activities. To do so, we designed an study with 44 children (between 8 and 17 years old) who participated in a full-day coding activity. We measured their engagement and collaboration during the activity by recording their gaze, and their attitudes in relation to their learning, enjoyment, team-work and intention by post-activity survey instruments. Our analysis shows that there is a significant moderating effect of collaboration and engagement on children's attitudes. In other words, highly engaging and collaborative coding activities significantly moderate children's attitudes. Our findings highlight the importance of designing highly collaborative and engaging coding activities for children and quantifies how those two elements moderate children's attitudes.
This paper employs facial features to recognize emotions during a coding activity with 50 children. Extracting group-level emotional states via facial features, allows us to understand how emotions of a group affect collaboration. To do so, we captured joint emotional state using videos and collaborative experience using questionnaires, from collaborative coding sessions. We define groups' emotional state using a method inspired from dynamic systems, utilizing a measure called cross-recurrence. We also define a collaborative emotional profile using the different measurements from facial features of children. The results show that the emotional cross recurrence (coming from the videos) is positively related with the collaborative experience (coming from the surveys). We also show that the groups with better experience than the others showcase more positive and a consistent set of emotions during the coding activity. The results inform the design of an emotion-aware collaborative support system.
Private Profile
added a research item
There is a growing number of informal and non-formal learning activities worldwide related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subject areas – particularly, those related to coding and making. To understand the general aim and content of such activities, we conducted a survey addressing highly experienced instructional designers and instructors of informal and non-formal science learning activities in nine European countries (N=128). The goal of this paper is to investigate the relation between (1) the targeted age-group and (2) the gender of the participants in these activities, and (3) the gender of the activity leader experts and (I) the content and (II) the main goal of the activity. The results show that the gender and age of the participants and the gender of the activity leader experts are associated with regards to the underlined content and the goal of the activity. We introduce the revealed patterns that describe typical goals and content in association with the participant's gender and age along with patterns between the activity leader experts' gender and the content and the main goal of the activity. We discuss the study findings in detail, their implications and their value for the informal and non-formal learning communities.
Michail Giannakos
added a research item
Computational thinking and coding are becoming an integral part of K-12 education, with female students being underrepresented in such subjects. The proliferation of technological tools and programming environments offers the opportunity for creative coding activities for children and increases the need for appropriate instructional practices. In this study, we design and evaluate a coding workshop for children. Our goal is to examine differences between boys and girls using eye-tracking as an objective measure and triangulating the findings with qualitative data coming from children's interviews. The results show no statistically significant difference between female and male gaze and learning gain during the coding activity; interestingly, the qualitative data show differences in the strategies and implemented practices during coding, and in perceptions about those coding activities. Our results highlight that further studies need to utilize objective measures and unveil necessary differences in the design and implementation of coding activities. Furthermore, our results provide objective evidence that female students do not lack in competences compared to boys, but simply that they have a different approach during coding activities and different perspectives about coding, an approach that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. Abstract: Computational thinking and coding are becoming an integral part of K-12 education, with female students being underrepresented in such subjects. The proliferation of technological tools and programming environments offers the opportunity for creative coding activities for children and increases the need for appropriate instructional practices. In this study, we design and evaluate a coding workshop for children. Our goal is to examine differences between boys and girls using eye-tracking as an objective measure and triangulating the findings with qualitative data coming from children's interviews. The results show no statistically significant difference between female and male gaze and learning gain during the coding activity; interestingly, the qualitative data show differences in the strategies and implemented practices during coding, and in perceptions about those coding activities. Our results highlight that further studies need to utilize objective measures and unveil necessary differences in the design and implementation of coding activities. Furthermore, our results provide objective evidence that female students do not lack in competences compared to boys, but simply that they have a different approach during coding activities and different perspectives about coding, an approach that needs to be cultivated and nurtured.
Michail Giannakos
added a research item
Over the last few years, the integration of coding activities for children in K-12 education has flourished. In addition, novel technological tools and programming environments have offered new opportunities and increased the need to design effective learning experiences. This paper presents a design-based research (DBR) approach conducted over two years, based on constructionism-based coding experiences for children, following the four stages of DBR. Three iterations (cycles) were designed and examined in total, with participants aged 8–17 years old, using mixed methods. Over the two years, we conducted workshops in which students used a block-based programming environment (i.e., Scratch) and collaboratively created a socially meaningful artifact (i.e., a game). The study identifies nine design principles that can help us to achieve higher engagement during the coding activity. Moreover, positive attitudes and high motivation were found to result in the better management of cognitive load. Our contribution lies in the theoretical grounding of the results in constructionism and the emerging design principles. In this way, we provide both theoretical and practical evidence of the value of constructionism-based coding activities.
Arnold Pears
added an update
The kickoff in the project on the 18th and 19th of June resulted in very good collaboration in the consortium and also the definition of the research framework we will use for our studies over the next three years.
Looking forward to really making a difference to the way young people view STEM education.
 
Michail Giannakos
added a project goal
The project aims to help Europe better understand the new ways in which informal science learning is taking place through various coding, making, and play activities that young Europeans (children, adolescents and young adults) are nowadays increasingly engaged with, outside school and higher education science classrooms, beyond the formal boundaries of science education.