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Getting Started in Teaching and Researching Computer Science in the Elementary Classroom


Abstract and Figures

The recent growth of interest in computer science has created a movement to more readily introduce computer science in K-12 classrooms. However, little research exists on how to successfully bring computer science to lower grade levels. In this paper, we present advice for researchers and curriculum developers who are getting started working with computer science in elementary schools. Specifically, we focus on practical tips for studies of this nature, developed from our experiences piloting a computational thinking curriculum with 4 th-6 th grade students. We address issues arising in elementary school classrooms such as recruiting and interfacing with teachers and schools, classroom management strategies, student computer literacy and developmental stages, and curriculum life cycles.
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Getting Started in Teaching and Researching Computer
Science in the Elementary Classroom
Diana Franklin†, Charlotte Hill†, Hilary Dwyer‡, Ashley Iveland‡, Alexandria Killian‡,
Danielle Harlow
†Computer Science Department
UC Santa Barbara
{franklin, charlottehill}
‡Gevirtz Graduate School of Education
UC Santa Barbara
{hdwyer, aockey, akillian,
The recent growth of interest in computer science has created a
movement to more readily introduce computer science in K-12
classrooms. However, little research exists on how to successfully
bring computer science to lower grade levels. In this paper, we
present advice for researchers and curriculum developers who are
getting started working with computer science in elementary
schools. Specifically, we focus on practical tips for studies of this
nature, developed from our experiences piloting a computational
thinking curriculum with 4th-6th grade students. We address issues
arising in elementary school classrooms such as recruiting and
interfacing with teachers and schools, classroom management
strategies, student computer literacy and developmental stages,
and curriculum life cycles.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
K.3.2 [Computer and Education]: Computer Science Education
General Terms
Design; Experimentation; Human Factors
K-12; Outreach; Computer Science Education; Curriculum
Recent efforts to expand the computer science field have led to a
variety of outreach programs and activities, many targeted at
underrepresented groups such as girls and students of color (e.g.
GirlsWhoCode, BlackGirlsCode, etc.). Since we know that eighth
graders’ interest in pursuing a career in science and engineering is
a strong predictor of whether or not they will later pursue a
science career [18], it follows that introducing students to
computer science in elementary school can increase the likelihood
that they will pursue careers that require computer science in the
future. But, bringing computer science to younger grades comes
with challenges. Though many K-8 teachers have added computer
science to their curriculum [1], they are unlikely to have had
formal training in how to teach computer science. In this paper,
we provide practical tips for people who are interested in teaching
computer science and who are creating material for computer
science curricula.
Developing computer science curricula requires knowledge of
computer science, understanding of how young children learn, and
awareness of how elementary school classrooms function. This
requires an interdisciplinary team of experts working together.
Computer scientists are needed to identify important computer
science content but are unlikely to have experience working with
schools, particularly with lower grade levels. Likewise, teachers
have extensive knowledge about children, but may be unfamiliar
with the content as well as the tools (computers and programming
languages). Education researchers bring relevant theory, research
methodology, and knowledge about how students learn, but they
may not have worked specifically computer science classrooms.
To this end, we combined our interdisciplinary experience with
research on this age group to compile a set of tips for those
seeking to create successful computer science experiences for
We narrow our list and discussion to only those ideas most
important for getting started. For those familiar with university
level computer science teaching, we present nuances of how
elementary schools students differ from college students. For
those familiar with children and classrooms but not computer
science instruction, we present factors that distinguish computer-
based instruction from traditional classroom instruction.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. We provide
background on the educational environment of elementary schools
in Section 2, followed by a brief summary of related work in
Section 3. Section 4 summarizes our classroom experience.
Section 5 presents our tips, from preparation through classroom
Recent trends in education have made it easier to introduce
computer science curricula in elementary school. The amount of
technology on school campuses has dramatically increased with
the demand of computer assessment practices. With the
implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessments, all U.S.
students will be required to take national standardized assessments
on computers [16]. Thus, many schools now have minimum
requirements for Internet bandwidth, operating systems,
keyboards, headphones, and screen size.
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While the amount of technology present in schools has recently
increased, some argue that this does not necessarily indicate
meaningful student learning of computational thinking [7].
Students may spend computer lab time rehearsing multiplication
facts, playing math games, or playing games to increase the speed
and accuracy of their typing, activities that address skills other
than computational thinking. However, an increasing national
focus on computer programming has left many schools wanting to
integrate programming into computer lab time.
Another recent educational movement, the “Hour of Code” has
attempted to increase the amount of computer programming
present on K-12 school campuses [1]. Since December 2012, over
20,000 teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade have implemented
some type of computer programming lesson in their classrooms
[14]. This is made possible, in part, by student-friendly
programming interfaces such as Alice[8], Scratch[14], ScratchJr
(K-3)[9], and LaPlaya[12] that have made programming more
accessible to younger populations. The increased attention and
accessible avenues for coding have left teachers and
administrators eager for more curricula in this developing area.
We are developing, piloting, and evaluating a modular Scratch-
based computational thinking curriculum for upper elementary
school students. The curriculum consists of three types of
activities: (1) short, pre-populated projects that students can finish
within a lab period, (2) off-computer activities for the classroom
rather than a lab designed to relate computational thinking
concepts to every day life, and (3) an open-ended design-thinking
project. We implemented the first module during the 2013-2014
academic year. On-computer activities were completed in a
Scratch variant named LaPlaya [12] with a modified environment
that introduced only the concepts necessary for digital
storytelling: sequential execution, event-based programming,
initialization, message-passing, costume changes, and scene
changes. We modified the environment to hide blocks not
introduced in our lessons to maximize the short, computer lab
times (less than 45 minutes). Further modifications were
completed after the pilot study [12].
The curriculum was piloted in fifteen 4th – 6th grade classrooms at
five schools across California with over 400 students. We
performed a design-based research design study [2] in which we
collected data from each school and made changes (to the
curriculum, interface, or language) where deemed necessary.
The initial purpose of the data collection was to research students’
mental models of the concepts involved in the new curriculum.
To this end, we collected three types of data. First, in all
classrooms, our software collected snapshots of project data.
Second, in classrooms with direct observation, Graduate Student
Researchers (GSRs) took field notes as to what issues the students
encountered each session and why. Third, as students completed
projects, GSRs prompted the elementary school students by
asking them to share their work and explain what they did. The
elementary school students demonstrated and described their
programs in short videos collected on iPhones. Observation and
videos were used to identify potential problems, and analysis of
snapshots was performed to determine the prevalence of problems
(and therefore decide whether to make changes). Details of our
research study, data collection, and findings can be found in Hill
et al[12]. While our intended purpose was to explore elementary
student learning, we found that many of the challenges students
faced were due to factors related more to the environment than to
the concepts.
Table 1 shows selected demographics of schools that participated
in the pilot to demonstrate the different populations. We refer to
these schools as A, B, C, D, E, and F, with A being the first
school trial and F being the last. In schools B and E, we collected
only student project snapshots. In schools A, C, D, and F, we also
observed instruction and filmed students explaining their projects.
Each school had a varying number of classrooms, grades
participating, start dates.
Who was assigned to teach computing varied across schools. In
schools A, C, and D, individual classroom teachers taught their
own students. In school F, one 4th grade teacher taught computing
to all four 4th grade classes. In school B, a technology teacher
coordinated the program, but a team of parent volunteers with
programming experience taught the curriculum. School E had a
programming course taught by a dedicated technology teacher.
The schools also differed in the way students accessed the
curriculum. In school D, students had their computers on their
desks. All other classes went to a dedicated lab for their on-
computer activities.
Table 1. Participating school characteristics.
% Free/
Lunch Classes Grade Observed
A23% 35% 2 4t
B2% 4% 4 4-5t
C43% 73% 1 4t
D82% 92% 2 4t
E10% 37% 2 6t
F32% 40% 4 4t
At the conclusion of the study, we interviewed each participating
teacher for suggestions on all aspects of the study, including the
curriculum, tools, and interfacing with our team.
The practical tips in this paper are gathered from our observations
and data, as well as previous research we used to design our
curriculum. The advice in this study can be roughly categorized
in three ways: (1) prior research we used when we designed our
curriculum that we found to be very successful, (2) advice
grounded in prior research that we were unaware of and only
discovered as a result of challenges that emerged during our pilot,
and (3) advice about situations we were very surprised by, and for
which we found no prior research providing solutions or advice.
We start by providing recommendations about early stages of
preparation (choosing or developing an interface and language
and designing a curriculum), to interfacing with schools and
teachers, through delivering content in the classroom.
4.1 Language and environment
When teaching a text-based programming language such as C or
Java, choosing the programming environment and language are
often two completely separate decisions. For visual block-based
languages, a popular choice for elementary school students, the
environment and language are often entwined because the
environment is necessary to program. Therefore, the decision is
typically made together.
Choosing or creating the language and environment requires
special attention to the abilities of the target age group, in our case
4th – 6th grade. Most upper elementary school students have had
experience with computers, but vary widely in the amount and
type of computer experiences and comfort levels with the physical
tasks required by computing, such as typing or clicking and
dragging an object across the screen.
Choose a language that requires only content at or below target
grade level
Each school is accountable to state standards for math, literacy,
science and social studies. Many states have or are moving
towards standards that are aligned with the Common Core State
Standards (CCSS)[5,6]. Check the standards for the grade level
you are targeting to ensure using the programming language or
interface do not require knowledge of math or literacy content
above grade level. Math content is especially important:
percentages, negative numbers, and fractions are not covered until
3rd-6th grades [6,12].
Use drop-down menus in interfaces whenever possible
Because of the variability in typing skills, drop-down menus
should be used in lieu of typing whenever possible. Solomon
found spelling and typing difficulties to be common problems for
children aged 7-11[17]. Crook found that using the mouse and
joystick is much easier than typing for young children [4]. We
experienced similar challenges in our classrooms. Often students
struggled to type specific strings of characters correctly, leading
us to implement drop-down menus as often as possible.
Avoid downloading and uploading files from a shared computer.
Interfaces on browsers and modern operating systems are not well
designed for labs configured using identical, parallel file
structures for different students on the same computer. Because
the parallel file structures differ by only one directory, and this
directory may not be obvious in some views, we found this
resulted in two common difficulties. First, students sometimes
started from a previous student’s project rather than their own;
and second, they sometimes uploaded the other student’s project
rather than their own. This is because when opening a file or
uploading a file, the browser starts in the most recent location for
that application. In both cases, the file will be from the last person
who sat on the computer. Because the directories had the same
files in them, the students only noticed if he or she looked at the
folder name and recognized it as not his or her own student
Choose between installation and connectivity-dependence
Most platforms are either installed (requiring downloads of
project material) or accessible through the browser (requiring
connectivity). This choice depends on the attributes of the target
computer environment. If connectivity is reliable and plentiful,
then an in-browser platform with files that are easy to locate could
be preferred. If connectivity is unreliable, then installing the
platform and uploading and downloading the files could be
preferred (just be careful about downloading as described above
and installation issues as described later).
Further Resources
For more information on the research in languages and interfaces
for children, consider looking at conference proceedings from
Interaction Design and Children (IDC), Innovation and
Technology in Computer Science (ITiCSE), Human Factors in
Computing Systems (CHI), and Special Interest Group on
Computer Science Education (SIGCSE).
4.2 Teacher and Student Materials
Once you have identified the language and environment, it is time
to choose or create a curriculum. If you are designing a
curriculum, there are several considerations to keep in mind.
Create an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, education
researchers and teachers.
All three components - computer science researchers, education
researchers, and classroom teachers – are critical to designing a
curriculum. Computer scientists bring content knowledge,
education researchers bring research on how students learn, and
classroom teachers bring knowledge on how the curriculum will
fit into the current norms and expectations in the classrooms.
Reinforce, but do not depend on, other content knowledge
Our initial projects integrated subjects taught that year (e.g.
missions, California geography, physics [13]). We believed that
doing so would increase the value of the curriculum and help
teachers justify the time dedicated to it because computing is not a
required area of elementary school instruction. Our collaborating
teachers were also very positive about this idea. Unfortunately,
we found two drawbacks. First, teachers choose varying starting
times (early or late in school year) and paces (one 40 minute
session a week to two one-hour sessions a week). It is challenging
for a teacher to time the computer science content to match when
they present other material during the year. Second, projects that
depend on material from outside subjects make students’ success
contingent on material not related to computing.
Our solution was to integrate other content areas in ways that
reinforced the content, but did not require students to remember
any of the other content. For example, instead of providing a
planets project with no labels and asking students to fill in the
labels and “say bubbles”, we provided the planets project with
labels and had students fill in the “say bubbles” with those names.
That way, students can focus on programming without being
distracted or frustrated by their knowledge of outside subjects.
Limit or avoid use of student worksheets in computer lab
Although math and science activities require students to follow
written instructions from books or notebooks and write their
responses, written materials do not work as well alongside
computers. Depending on the lab configuration and students’
comfort with computer, it can be difficult to manage worksheets and
computer activities in the same space. If the lab is far from the
classroom, pencils and paper need to be transported back and forth.
Also, there may not be space between computers for students to
work on paper. Instead, worksheets can be filled out separately from
lab and then brought to lab if they are absolutely necessary.
Tailor writing in workshops to student needs
Students in 4th grade have learned to read, but there is great
variation at their comfort and speed when writing. If desired,
writing requirements can be limited by providing options to circle
words or answers, drawing pictures, or filling in the blank. Other
classrooms may want to use the computer time as an opportunity
to practice writing and would design more open-ended responses.
Show how your material links to standards in different content
Elementary school teachers teach lessons across multiple content
areas within the span of a single day. Elementary teachers may
benefit from knowing how curriculum activities from the
computer science curriculum reinforce other topics. Consider
aligning your materials to content standards to increase available
time for computer science. For example, carefully chosen
reflection questions that require students to write in specific ways
can be designed to address literacy standards.
Provide one-page summary of activity for teacher.
Providing teachers a succinct description of the activity allows
teachers to quickly identify the information relevant to the lesson
while walking around and working with students at their
Further Resources
If you are interested in using an existing curriculum for this age
group, some free choices are CSTA, ScratchJr, ScratchEd, CS
Unplugged, KELP CS, and
4.3 Working with schools
In our project, we worked with a variety of schools, teachers,
students, and lab configurations. In this section, we present the
lessons we learned across our experiences in schools.
Finding schools partners is easier than you may think
Finding school partners can be daunting for computer scientists
without contacts with local schools. Education departments often
have existing relationships with local schools. In addition, we
found that schools and districts were eager to learn more. We
received e-mails from interested teachers and administrators
requesting to use our curriculum. Schools were interested in using
our computer programming curriculum during their lab time to
provide their students with opportunities to learn computer
science. Fifteen classrooms participated in the first year, and we
anticipate over fifty classrooms will participate in the second year.
Pilot with your own researchers teaching the curriculum
Computing curricula are complex, involving development
environments, languages, activities, and students. During the first
iteration, members of your team should teach so that you can
make rapid changes to any aspect of the environment. Schedule
teacher training after this initial pilot so that teachers are trained
on the revised material.
Know the context you will be working in
In preparation for teacher training, working with elementary
school students, or any other implementation, it is important to
figure out how and where the material will be taught. Classroom
technology and personnel teaching computer activities vary across
schools. In just our study, various combinations of classroom
teachers, dedicated technology teachers, and parent volunteers
taught computer labs. Moreover, reliable Internet and firewall
restrictions varied, as well as the types of devices students used
(netbooks, PCs, iPads).
Find out the process for installing and/or using computers
Using software on the web and installing software on the
computers may require school level or district permissions.
Procedures for granting permission differ across schools and
districts.. For web access, you need to learn whether there is a
firewall limiting access to websites. Students may not be allowed
to access Google or YouTube, so if you have video content, you
may need to house it yourself.
Installing software on lab computers has two barriers. The first is
obtaining permission for the software to be installed. The second
is performing the actual installation. In two of our participating
schools, the people responsible for installing software for the
schools were located off-site. This meant that there was a
considerable delay between the request to install software and the
actual installation. Any problems installing can result in additional
delays. In the other schools, our staff was responsible for
installing the software on every computer. Each change required
updating every computer.
4.4 In the classroom
Managing a class of 25-30 students on computers differs from
managing students working on paper and pencil tasks. It can be
challenging to keep everyone occupied while assisting individual
students. The following recommendations are intended to increase
student productivity in the classroom or computer lab. In addition,
we present different lab configurations we encountered and how
we worked with each.
Bookmark web locations for students
As discussed earlier, typing a url is difficult for young students.
On the first day, we helped students bookmark important locations
for our project.
Use a mouse, not just a laptop touch pad
Younger students may still be developing the manual dexterity
required for clicking and dragging objects, especially when using
touch pads. There are two separate problems associated with this.
The first is that a student who is trying to click may instead trigger
a drag of a very short distance. The second is that a student may
have difficulty holding down the button while simultaneously
We identified two solutions. The first is to provide a mouse for
every student so they do not depend on the touch pad. If this is not
possible, students who have trouble dragging can use two hands.
The pointer finger on one hand clicks the button while the pointer
finger on the other hand glides across the touch pad.
Create a supportive collaborative environment
Research on college-level pair programming courses found that
mixed-gender pairs were the least harmonious, and females had
complaints about gender bias [3]. This might be due to a
combination of stereotypes and different communication patterns
[10]. We observed similar patterns in the elementary classroom:
when girls asked a boy for assistance, the boy sometimes took
over and fixed it for the girl rather than explaining the concept to
the girl. Therefore, we suggest that students be physically next to
someone of the same gender or someone with whom they work
well. For example, if students are seated linearly, four boys can
be seated in a row, then four girls, etc. If students are seated in
pairs, students could be paired with a student of the same gender.
Use hands-free visual aid for students to request assistance
When students need help and raise their hands, they are unable to
make progress. In order to provide you a clear visual cue and
allow students to continue working, you can use visual aids such
as red and green paper tents.
Students can create paper tents by placing a green paper on top of
a red paper and folding them in half, making a tent with a green
paper on the outside and red on the inside. The students keep the
green paper on the outside to signal that they are working
successfully. When they need help, they place the red on the
outside and on top of the monitor, providing a visual cue to the
teacher that they request assistance, but leaving their hands free to
continue working.
Use sticky notes on monitors to indicate completed students
If students are working on a short, skill-building exercise, then
visual cues are also useful to indicate who has completed the
exercise. For example, in our curriculum, when students complete
the pre-populated projects, they place a sticky note on their
monitor and play in “sandbox” area. Placing a sticky note on the
monitor allows teachers to easily see who has finished and moved
into the “sandbox” or bonus area.
Include bonus options
Students work at different speeds. When students finish the
assignment at different times, early finishers may be bored and
ready for additional challenges. We found three categories of
“bonus” options to be useful. First, the curriculum can provide
extra, optional, more challenging tasks for those who finish early.
Second, instructors can pose challenges for existing projects such
as completing programming tasks with fewer instructions, with a
wider variety of instructions, or adding “bells and whistles” to the
project. Finally, students can go to a separate, open-ended
activity, either within the environment (such as the sandbox in
KELP CS) or a separate environment (Scratch project).
Create student experts
Teachers and researchers can use elementary school students as
resources for their peers for basic computing issues. In one of our
classrooms, the principal had trained small groups of 4th graders in
every class to serve as computer ambassadors. These ambassadors
learned basic computing and computer knowledge around the
school’s new netbooks. We found that these student experts
helped immensely in managing basic technology concerns such as
where to find files, typing websites, and general use of their
classrooms computers. As a result, teachers and researcher had
time to address more conceptual issues. Moreover, the student
ambassadors took pride in being classroom resources, and many
of their peers were more comfortable getting help from them than
other adults in the room.
Create hands-free attention signal
Elementary school teachers often use a signal to get students’
attention, such as having students raise one hand with a peace
symbol or repeat a phrase after the teacher. When in a computer
lab, use a signal that requires students to use both hands so that
students remove their hands from the keyboard. Examples are
placing both hands behind the neck, clapping, or wiggling their
Turn off monitors or close laptops during discussions,
demonstrations, and directions.
Because computer screens are dynamic and engaging, they
compete for students’ attention during group activities when
students are requested to listen to the teacher or a peer. Turning
off the monitor removes this competition.
Have students direct their chairs to the teacher or gather in the
middle of the room on the floor during group time.
Even if the computers are closed or screens turned off, students
may have difficulty watching demonstrations if their chairs are
not turned towards the teacher. Bringing the students together
removes them from the computer work, allowing them to focus
more on group time..
Analysis and tips for specific configurations
During our pilot study, we encountered three classroom
configurations used in the computer labs. Here, we provide
discussion of the pros and cons in each of these configurations
along with tips to handle any drawbacks.
Figure 1: Computers arranged in groups
One arrangement was computers arranged in table groups (Figure
1). This arrangement encouraged students to work together and
share ideas. One needs to consider how to group students. Placing
students with similar skill levels can help teachers provide
targeted support to groups while placing students in mixed ability
groupings can facilitate peer support. How well students are
comfortable assisting their peers will depend on existing
classroom norms. This configuration is challenging for full-class
demonstrations, so consider have the “front” of the classroom be
to the side of everyone, have students turn their chairs, or
assemble students away from the tables for presentations.
Figure 2: Computers arranged in rows
The second arrangement was computers arranged in rows (Figure
2). This arrangement facilitates students’ view of a teacher in the
front of the room allows students to work with their neighbors.
Because students look over their screens at the board, it is
especially important to have them turn off their monitors during
group demonstrations.
Figure 3: Computers arranged around perimeter
The third arrangement was computers arranged around the
perimeter of the classroom (Figure 3). This provides easy access
for the instructor to see all of the monitors, but it is very hard for
the students to see the instructor. It is imperative that the students
turn their chairs for group demonstrations.
4.5 Providing Feedback
Specific and timely feedback has been shown to increase learning
and retention [8]. For this age group, the way you determine
correctness and the way you express feedback is critical,
especially given the variability of comfort with the material. This
feedback can be given verbally by in-class instructors or
programmed into the programming or project environment (if
Be flexible about your definition of “correct.”
Elementary school students are still developing their reading
skills, so having very precise instructions to lead students to a
single right answer may not be successful. Instead, look at the
overarching goals of the project and develop a broad definition of
what it means to succeed at these goals.
Be careful about the wording of your feedback.
The majority of elementary school students are new to computing.
When they struggle at learning, they may believe this is because
they are not good at computing, rather than attribute their
difficulties to learning something new. Critical language can
reinforce possible preconceived notions that they are not meant
for computing. For example, in our feedback we adopted the
wording of “You are not finished yet” rather than “The answer is
Working in elementary schools is incredibly rewarding:
elementary school teachers and students are enthusiastic, and
there is the opportunity to make significant contributions through
curriculum development or implementation. Working in
elementary school classrooms, however, differs from outreach
activities – there is more time involved, elementary school
teachers may be less comfortable with the material than dedicated
outreach providers, and attendance is compulsory rather than
voluntary Therefore, it is critical that everyone involved be
careful about the languages, development environment,
curriculum, and classroom atmosphere. We found that
establishing a collaborative team consisting of computer
scientists, teachers, and educational researchers facilitated
This work is supported by the National Science Foundation
CE21 Award CNS-1240985.
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... Guides for new researchers may also alleviate other issues in computing education research, including the lack of a strong evidence base at pre-college levels [34], as well as a need for collaborations between researchers and practitioners [41]. Daniels and Pears state that "[w]ithout higher order research frameworks systematic research in [Computing Education Research] will ultimately lack power and credibility" [35, p. 101], while Valentine calls on researchers to "prove that you did what you said that you did!" [14, p. 259]. ...
... Daniels and Pears state that "[w]ithout higher order research frameworks systematic research in [Computing Education Research] will ultimately lack power and credibility" [35, p. 101], while Valentine calls on researchers to "prove that you did what you said that you did!" [14, p. 259]. The use of formal methodologies to improve computing education research has been and continues to be emphasized [10,13,31,37], and providing such a guide to new researchers or educators who may want to contribute to the body of knowledge within the community can be of value [31,41]. ...
... Guides for new researchers may also alleviate other issues in computing education research, including the lack of a strong evidence base at pre-college levels [34], as well as a need for collaborations between researchers and practitioners [41]. Daniels and Pears state that "[w]ithout higher order research frameworks systematic research in [Computing Education Research] will ultimately lack power and credibility" [35, p. 101], while Valentine calls on researchers to "prove that you did what you said that you did!" [14, p. 259]. ...
... Daniels and Pears state that "[w]ithout higher order research frameworks systematic research in [Computing Education Research] will ultimately lack power and credibility" [35, p. 101], while Valentine calls on researchers to "prove that you did what you said that you did!" [14, p. 259]. The use of formal methodologies to improve computing education research has been and continues to be emphasized [10,13,31,37], and providing such a guide to new researchers or educators who may want to contribute to the body of knowledge within the community can be of value [31,41]. ...
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This Research Full Paper describes the early research conducted to design a searchable repository of peer-reviewed research related to pre-college computing activities. This repository is part of a larger project to enable the computer science education community to gather and analyze data related to the effectiveness of these activities. To ensure that the repository met the needs of the community, we convened a virtual focus group of experienced and expert researchers and educators to discuss the repository's value, what it should contain, and how it should be presented. This paper presents 1) an analysis of these discussions, which shows that participants were equally interested in the repository's content and quality, 2) an initial list of variables that can affect the outcomes of these activities, and 3) an initial set of questions researchers should ask when authoring computer science education research involving pre-college computing activities. We also consider these results in light of the larger challenge raised by others of how to improve quality research in computing education.
... The number of students involved may vary depending on the educational setting, the type of tool(s) used and the overall design of the teaching scenario. Digital storytelling and drama integrated in combination in a fourth grade English Language course (Franklin et al. 2015) Computational thinking in primary school curricular activities (fourth to sixth grade students) ...
... In (Franklin et al. 2015) digital storytelling is discussed from the point of view of Computer Science researchers. The goal is to integrate computational thinking in primary school curricular activities focusing on fourth to sixth grade students. ...
Although the development of time concepts in early childhood is a difficult milestone, in most preschool curricula there are activities and routines, such as “calendar time," that engage children in learning using the temporal system and its regularities. Studies have shown that young children have difficulty in grasping time concepts and cope with these activities rather mechanically. Unless teachers use creative tools, combine time concepts with children’s experiences, engage them in meaningful activities that address their developmental level and different learning styles, teaching these concepts may remain an elusive task. This chapter discusses an approach combining music, poetry and digital stories to amusingly teach concepts involving the seven days of the week. Two different types of stories have been created in this context. One story has been created with Alice, a three-dimensional environment. The scenario of the three-dimensional digital story is based on a child song. The other story was created with JClic and consists of a sequence of multicolored illustrations. Its scenario is based on a child poem. Both stories include recorded dialogues and narration. Interactive activities related to the stories have also been created with JClic for self-assessment purposes. The proposed teaching scenario integrates digital stories in classroom activities in a differentiated and cross-thematic approach that promotes learning in a child-centered way.
... With this context, it is even more critical for educator preparation programs (EPPs) to prepare K-8 core subject area PSTs to teach CS concepts (Kim et al., 2022). The development of CS curricula by EPPs requires an interdisciplinary team of experts knowledgeable of both CS concepts in addition to pedagogical awareness in instructing young learners about CS constructs (Franklin et al., 2015). Unfortunately, few EPPs prepare K-8 PSTs to teach CS concepts, deepening the problem (Gleasman & Kim, 2020). ...
Computer science teaching standards for grades K-8 have been implemented in nearly all U.S. states, and the core subject area teachers (e.g., math, science, English, social studies) have been asked to integrate these standards into their instruction. Thus, it is important that K-8 pre-service teachers of all subjects are both prepared and motivated to teach computer science concepts—such as programming—upon entering the field. However, little is known about how pre-service teachers learn and retain programming knowledge or obtain and sustain their motivation related to programming. Maker-focused educational robotics activities have the potential to both reduce abstract cognitive load and work as motivational tools for STEM learning. The purpose of this study was to examine pre-service teachers’ motivational persistence and retention of programming concepts after learning with educational robotics through maker-focused computer science activities. Hands-on maker robotics programming activities were used to teach and motivate pre-service teachers. This quantitative study utilized repeated measures through pre-, post-, and 6-month follow-up surveys and tests. The findings indicated the pre-service teachers’ programming comprehension gains exhibited on the posttest deteriorated substantially to near-baseline levels within 6 months of instruction. Conversely, pre-service teachers’ motivation related to programming continued to rise after the instruction had concluded. Both the retention of comprehension of programming concepts and motivational persistence findings imply that educator preparation providers should integrate programming instruction throughout their pre-service teacher curricula and support curricular initiatives that call for the integration of computer science instruction across pre-service teacher methods courses to reinforce computer science learning.
... Given the general acceptance of group work in the elementary grades as a teaching and learning strategy (i.e. collaborative inquiry, project-based problem-solving etc.) (Adams & Hamm, 1998;De Lisi & Golbeck, 1999) and the growing popularity of block-based programming for this age-range (Franklin et al., 2015), it seems worthwhile to explore pedagogical practices related to pair programming with elementary-aged students as well. ...
Background and Context: Researchers and practitioners have begun to incorporate collaboration in programming because of its reported instructional and professional benefits. However, younger students need guidance on how to collaborate in environments that require substantial interpersonal interaction and negotiation. Previous research indicates that feedback fosters students’ productive collaboration. Objective: This study employs an intervention to explore the role instructor-directed feedback plays on elementary students’ dyadic collaboration during 2-computer pair programming. Method: We used a multi-study design, collecting video data on students’ dyadic collaboration. Study 1 qualitatively explored dyadic collaboration by coding video transcripts of four dyads which guided the design of Study 2 that examined conversation of six dyads using MANOVA and non-parametric tests. Findings: Result from Study 2 showed that students receiving feedback used productive conversation categories significantly higher than the control condition in the sample group considered. Results are discussed in terms of group differences in specific conversation categories. Implications: Our study highlights ways to support students in pair programming contexts so that they can maximize the benefits afforded through these experiences.
... Furthermore, the tasks should be linked to the students' own experience and allow working collaborative. Franklin et al. (2015) also give specific advice for teaching computer science in primary schools. Their guidelines are based on their experiences in developing, piloting and evaluating a scratch-based computational thinking curriculum and refer to different topics such as providing feedback, learning environment or teaching materials. ...
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Computer Science (CS) is increasingly entering the early levels of childhood education, like primary school or even kindergarten. Although Germany has not yet developed mandatory guidelines for how to deal with these new topics, Bavaria seems to consider extending the field of computer science education to the primary sector in the long term. It is therefore becoming more and more necessary to gain insight into which teaching methods and content would be suitable for students at primary level. To investigate the characteristics of effective programming courses for primary schools, we developed a three-day introductory course following the design-based research approach. This article will set focus on both the theoretical foundation resulting from this specific research approach and the didactic implementation of the theoretical framework.
... La filosofia dietro il progetto Computer Science Unplugged (Bell, Witten, Fellows, 1998-2015Casey et al., 1992) è quella di ripensare l'insegnamento della tecnologia e dell'informatica. La vera Computer Science, la scienza dei computer, è basata su algoritmi, risoluzione di problemi e procedure da completare. ...
... Scratch is a popular introductory programming language and environment [9]. We use Scratch for teaching programming at primary school in our experiments because it is designed for novice programmers without any programming experience [1,14], and the environment is student-friendly [10]. Scratch has a drag and drop interface that provides visual support when combining programming blocks. ...
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Programming and computational thinking are becoming more important in primary education. This raises the question of how different approaches to teaching programming in primary schools compare with each other. We designed two approaches to teach programming to primary school students. One approach uses the instructionistic 4C/ID model, the other approach uses constructionism. The learning gains of these two approaches were compared using a pre- and post test. In total, 129 students from two different schools participated. A significant difference (p = .020, d = .66) between the two approaches was found on one of the schools, favoring the 4C/ID approach. On the other school and for the total group no significant difference was found.
Conference Paper
Elementary computer science has gained increasing attention within the computer science education research community. We have only recently begun to explore the many unanswered questions about how young students learn computer science, how they interact with each other, and how their skill levels and backgrounds vary. One set of unanswered questions focuses on gender equality for young computer science learners. This paper examines how the gender composition of collaborative groups in elementary computer science relates to student achievement. We report on data collected from an in-school 5th grade computer science elective offered over four quarters in 2014-2015. We found a significant difference in the quality of artifacts produced by learner groups depending upon their gender composition, with groups of all female students performing significantly lower than other groups. Our analyses suggest important factors that are influential as these learners begin to solve computer science problems. This new evidence of gender disparities in computer science achievement as young as ten years of age highlights the importance of future study of these factors in order to provide effective, equitable computer science education to learners of all ages.
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The recent renaissance in early computer science education has provided K-12 teachers with multiple options for introducing children to computer science. However, tools for teaching programming for children with wide-scale adoption have been targeted mostly at pre-readers or middle school and higher grade-levels. This leaves a gap for 4th -- 6th grade students, who differ developmentally from older and younger students. In this paper, we investigate block-based programming languages targeted at elementary and middle school students and demonstrate a gap in existing programming languages appropriate for 4th -- 6th grade classrooms. We analyze the benefits of Scratch, ScratchJr, and Blockly for students and curriculum developers. We describe the design principles we created based on our experiences using block-based programming in 4th -- 6th grade classrooms, and introduce LaPlaya, a language and development environment designed specifically for children in the gap between grades K-3 and middle school students.
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This study reports findings of the gender differences within a pair programming context. A large pool of university computer programming course undergraduate and graduate students was paired into three distinct pair categories: male-male, male-female, and female-female. All pairs performed pair programming tasks under a controlled lab environment. The pairs' final outputs in the categories of code productivity and code design were quantitatively measured, and the post-experiment questionnaire was also measured. The results revealed that the male-male pairs had the highest scores and female-female pairs had the lowest scores in both code categories, but not significantly. In the post-experiment questionnaire, the communication and compatibility levels showed significant differences between the three different pair categories. The male-male, female-female pairs or same gender pairs had significantly higher levels than the male-female or mixed gender pairs. Additionally, the female participants particularly voiced gender-biased concerns about collaborating with male partners in doing the pair programming task.
Download Free Sample Computer science faces a continuing crisis in the lack of females pursuing and succeeding in the field. Companies may suffer due to reduced product quality, students suffer because educators have failed to adjust to diverse populations, and future generations suffer due to a lack of role models and continued challenges in the environment. In this book, we draw on the latest research in sociology, psychology, and education to first identify why we should be striving for gender diversity (beyond social justice), refuting misconceptions about the differing potentials between females and males. We then provide a set of practical types (with brief motivations) for improving your work with undergraduates taking your courses. This is followed by in-depth discussion of the research behind the tips, presenting obstacles that females face in a number of areas. Finally, we provide tips for advising undergraduate independent projects or graduate students, supporting female faculty, and initiatives requiring action at the institutional level (department or above). Table of Contents: Introduction / Why is Gender Diversity Important? / Obstacles to Gender Balance / In The Classroom Tips / Advising Tips / Faculty Recruiting / Retention Tips / Institutional Change Tips
Conference Paper
In learning to program, students must gain an understanding of how their program works. They need to make a connection between what they have written and what the program actually does. Otherwise, students have trouble figuring out what went wrong when things do not work. One factor that contributes to making this connection is an ability to visualize a program's state and how it changes when the program is executed. In this paper, we present Alice, a 3-D interactive animation environment. Alice provides a graphic visualization of a program's state in an animated small world and thereby supports the beginning programmer in learning to construct and debug programs.
As advertised in the October 2013 edition of the Bulletin, this year's CS Ed Week encouraged everyone to host an "Hour of Code" event, in which educators hosted (at least) an hour of CS instruction to any audience they chose. SIGCSE members responded to the call enthusiastically. Here is just a sampling of the many great Hour of Code events that were put on.
Conference Paper
ScratchJr is a graphical programming language based on Scratch and redesigned for the unique developmental and learning needs of children in kindergarten to second grade. The creation of ScratchJr addresses the relative lack of powerful technologies for digital creation and computer programming in early childhood education. ScratchJr will provide software for children to create interactive, animated stories as well as curricula and online resources to support adoption by educators. This paper describes the goals and challenges of creating a developmentally appropriate programming tool for children ages 5-7 and presents the path from guiding principles and studies with young children to current ScratchJr designs and plans for future work.
Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative. Its power is frequently mentioned in articles about learning and teaching, but surprisingly few recent studies have systematically investigated its meaning. This article provides a conceptual analysis of feedback and reviews the evidence related to its impact on learning and achievement. This evidence shows that although feedback is among the major influences, the type of feedback and the way it is given can be differentially effective. A model of feedback is then proposed that identifies the particular properties and circumstances that make it effective, and some typically thorny issues are discussed, including the timing of feedback and the effects of positive and negative feedback. Finally, this analysis is used to suggest ways in which feedback can be used to enhance its effectiveness in classrooms.
Most policy makers, corporate executives, practitioners, and parents assume that wiring schools, buying hardware and software, and distributing the equipment throughout will lead to abundant classroom use by teachers and students and improved teaching and learning. This article examines these assumptions in two high schools located in the heart of technological progress, Northern California’s Silicon Valley. Our qualitative methodology included interviews with teachers, students, and administrators, classroom observations, review of school documents, and surveys of both teachers and students in the two high schools. We found that access to equipment and software seldom led to widespread teacher and student use. Most teachers were occasional users or nonusers. When they used computers for classroom work, more often than not their use sustained rather than altered existing patterns of teaching practice. We offer two interrelated explanations for these challenges to the dominant assumptions that guide present technological policy making.
Children's speed and fluency of writing has elsewhere been shown to correlate with the quality of their composition. Here, we compared speed and fluency of text production when children aged between 6 and 11 used either a pen or a computer keyboard. Younger children were reliably slower and less fluent when writing at a keyboard. All children were slower when the text was more demanding. These impediments to smooth writing were shown to be associated with the different patterns of visual attention required by the two writing tools. It is argued that writing is usefully approached as a tool-mediated activity whose coordination presents developmental challenges. Moreover, the results suggest grounds for investing more in helping children towards greater confidence in visual–manual control of the keyboard.