Conference PaperPDF Available

To Scratch or not to Scratch?: A controlled experiment comparing plugged first and unplugged first programming lessons

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Programming education is in fashion: there are many methods, tools, books and apps to teach children programming. This gives rise to the question of how to teach programming. Do we teach the concepts with or without the use of a computer, also called plugged and unplugged respectively? This paper aims to measure what method is more effective to start with: plugged or unplugged first. Specifically, we are interested in examining which method is better in terms of (1) facilitating understanding of programming concepts, (2) motivating and supporting the students' sense of self-efficacy in programming tasks and (3) motivating the students to explore and use programming constructs in their assignments. To this end we conduct a controlled study with 35 elementary school children, in which half of the children receive four plugged lessons and the other half receives four unplugged lessons After this, both groups receive four weeks of Scratch lessons. The results show that after eight weeks there was no difference between the two groups in their mastering of programming concepts. However, the group that started with unplugged lessons was more confident of their ability to understand the concepts, i.e. demonstrated better self-efficacy beliefs. Furthermore, the children in the unplugged first group used a wider selection of Scratch blocks.
Content may be subject to copyright.
To Scratch or not to Scratch?
A controlled experiment comparing plugged first and unplugged first programming lessons
Felienne Hermans, Ehimia Aivaloglou
Del University of Technology
f.f.j.hermans@tudel.nl,E.Aivaloglou@tudel.nl
ABSTRACT
Programming education is in fashion: there are many methods,
tools, books and apps to teach children programming. is gives
rise to the question of how to teach programming. Do we teach the
concepts with or without the use of a computer, also called plugged
and unplugged respectively? is paper aims to measure what
method is more eective to start with: plugged or unplugged rst.
Specically, we are interested in examining which method is beer
in terms of (1) facilitating understanding of programming concepts,
(2) motivating and supporting the students’ sense of self-ecacy
in programming tasks, and (3) motivating the students to explore
and use programming constructs in their assignments. To this end
we conduct a controlled study with 35 elementary school children,
in which half of the children receive four plugged lessons and the
other half receives four unplugged lessons. Aer this, both groups
receive four weeks of Scratch lessons. e results show that aer
eight weeks there was no dierence between the two groups in
their mastering of programming concepts. However, the group that
started with unplugged lessons was more condent of their ability
to understand the concepts, i.e. demonstrated beer self-ecacy
beliefs. Furthermore, the children in the unplugged rst group used
a wider selection of Scratch blocks.
CCS CONCEPTS
Social and professional topics Computing education; Com-
putational thinking; K-12 education;
KEYWORDS
programming education, Scratch, unplugged
ACM Reference format:
Felienne Hermans, Ehimia Aivaloglou. 2017. To Scratch or not to Scratch?.
In Proceedings of WiPSCE ’17, Nijmegen, Netherlands, November 8–10, 2017,
8 pages.
DOI: 10.1145/3137065.3137072
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or
classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed
for prot or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation
on the rst page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than the
author(s) must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permied. To copy otherwise, or
republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specic permission
and/or a fee. Request permissions from permissions@acm.org.
WiPSCE ’17, Nijmegen, Netherlands
©
2017 Copyright held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM.
978-1-4503-5428-8/17/11. . . $15.00
DOI: 10.1145/3137065.3137072
1 INTRODUCTION
Over the last decade interest in programming education has been
growing. An increasing number of countries is including program-
ming and computational thinking (CT) in the curricula of elemen-
tary schools. In the UK, children as young as 5 are already intro-
duced to programming concepts [3].
e introduction of programming education naturally gives rise
to the question how to best teach programming and CT to children.
One of the topics of these discussions is the role of the computer:
should we teach with or without the computer, or plugged versus
unplugged.
We do believe that ultimately children need to be able to apply
programming concepts using a computer, so we are not interested
in comparing unplugged entirely to plugged entirely. Hence, in this
paper we focus on the question whether it is beer to start with
plugged lessons immediately, or is it beer to rst use unplugged
materials.
Specically, we are interested in examining which method is
beer in terms of (1) facilitating understanding of programming
concepts, (2) motivating and supporting the students’ sense of self-
ecacy in programming tasks, and (3) motivating the students to
explore and use programming constructs in their assignments.
Our motivation for investigating the eects the teaching meth-
ods to the student’s self-ecacy beliefs is that those have been
found to aect certain career entry behaviors, such as college ma-
jor choices and academic performance [
12
,
19
]. Self-ecacy was
originally presented by A. Bandura as the belief that one can suc-
cessfully execute behaviors required to produce a desired outcome
[
4
]. In education research, self-ecacy has become one of the most
important motivational variables that helps explain the relationship
between past performance and future results [
13
]. is relation-
ship had been found to be strong also in middle-school students
[
5
] and for various subject areas, including mathematics [
16
] and
programming [13, 18, 23].
To address our three research questions, we run a two phase ex-
periment that compares starting with unplugged lessons to starting
on the computer. We teach 35 elementary school children aged 8
to 12, separated in two random groups, for eight weeks. In the rst
phase, consisting of four weeks, we teach half of the children (17)
with Scratch, while the other half (18) used unplugged materials
only. Both the plugged and the unplugged lessons covered these
concepts: loops, conditionals, procedures, broadcasts, paralleliza-
tion and variables. Aer these four weeks, both groups receive
two weeks of Scratch lessons, to practice Scratch programming
in more depth. In these lessons, we repeat the concepts taught in
phase one. For the unplugged group, we design one special lesson
that connects the concepts as they used them unplugged to con-
cepts in Scratch. Aer these two weeks, two more weeks follow
WiPSCE ’17, November 8–10, 2017, Nijmegen, Netherlands Felienne Hermans, Ehimia Aivaloglou
in which children create their own games in Scratch. We close
the experiment with an endterm test in which we assess children’s
understanding and correct use of programming concepts in Scratch.
e results show that aer eight weeks (1) there was no dier-
ence between the two groups in their mastering of programming
concepts, (2) the unplugged rst group demonstrated more self-
ecacy, and (3) that they use a wider vocabulary of Scratch blocks,
including more blocks that were not explained in the course mate-
rials.
2 EXPERIMENTAL SETUP
2.1 Research estions
e goal of this study is to understand whether there is a dier-
ence between starting with Scratch immediately (Plugged rst) or
practicing programming concepts without a computer before (Un-
plugged rst). We therefore answer the following three research
questions:
RQ1
Do the children that start with unplugged materials
understand programming concepts beer?
RQ2
Do the children that start with unplugged materials
have more self-ecacy about programming?
RQ3
Do the children that start with unplugged materials use
a smaller vocabulary of Scratch blocks?
Associated with these research questions are three null hypothe-
ses, which we formulate as follows:
H10
Learning about programming concepts unplugged rst
does not impact children’s understanding of programming
concepts.
H20
Learning about programming concepts unplugged rst
does not impact children’s self-ecacy about program-
ming.
H30
Learning about programming concepts unplugged rst
does not impact children’s use of dierent Scratch blocks.
e alternative hypotheses that we use in the experiment are
the following:
H11
Learning about programming concepts unplugged rst
increases children’s understanding of programming con-
cepts.
H21
Learning about programming concepts unplugged rst
increases children’s self-ecacy about programming.
H31
Learning about programming concepts unplugged rst
impacts children’s use of dierent Scratch blocks.
To test the null hypotheses, we perform a controlled experiment
with 35 elementary school children, randomly assigned to one of
two groups: starting with Scratch programming immediately or
starting with four weeks of unplugged material.
2.2 Subjects
e subjects in our experiment are children from three grades of
one school, varying in age between 8 and 12, with an average of
10.0.
Figure 1 shows an overview of the ages of the 35 children in
the experiment. We randomly divided the 35 children into two
groups, however we balanced the genders and the grades as much
as possible given the constraints we were given.
1
Figure 2 shows
the division of the children and their grades over the two groups,
and Figure 3 shows their gender.
Figure 1: Ages of the children
Figure 2: Grades of the children in the two groups (8 being
the nal grade of elementary school)
Figure 3: Genders of the children in the two groups
2.3 Programming Concepts
In the materials for both the plugged rst and the unplugged rst
group, we teach six basic programming concepts.
Loops
Conditionals
Procedures
1
among the children were two pairs of siblings who could not be in the same group
since they would work on the same laptop
To Scratch or not to Scratch? WiPSCE ’17, November 8–10, 2017, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Table 1: Overview of the materials of the eight week programming course
Week Unplugged group Plugged group Concepts
0 Geing to know Scratch, create user accounts Geing to know Scratch, create user accounts
1 CS Unplugged Marching Orders Scratch MOOC lesson 1 Loops and Conditionals
2 Self-Ecacy estionnaire Self-Ecacy estionnaire
2 CS Unplugged Network Protocols Scratch MOOC lesson 2 Broadcasts and Procedures
3 Computing Without Computers Box Variables Scratch MOOC lesson 3 Variables and Parallelization
4 Finish materials Finish materials All
5 Intro Scratch More Scratch practice Loops, Conditions and Procedures
6 Scratch Practice Scratch Practice Broadcasts, Variables and Parallelization
7 Final Project Final Project
8 Final Project Final Project
8 End Term Scratch Test End Term Scratch Test
8 Self-Ecacy estionnaire Self-Ecacy estionnaire
Broadcasts
Parallelization
Variables
ese concepts are divided over three chapters that teach two
concepts each, both for the plugged rst and for the unplugged rst
group.
2.4 Lesson plan
Table 1 shows an overview of our lesson plan. We start with one
introductory computer lesson for all children, in which we set up
wi on their computers and create a Scratch account for all children.
In addition to that, we show them a demo of how Scratch works, en-
suring that also the children that will do the unplugged lessons rst
have context of what programming is. Aer that initial lesson, we
divide the children into two random groups which receive dierent
treatment. Half of the children use Scratch to learn about the six
programming concepts, while the other group learns programming
‘unplugged’. e following describes the eight weeks of lessons in
more detail.
2.4.1 Week 0. In week 0, children set up a Scratch account, and
we also show them the basic idea of Scratch: that you can control a
sprite on the screen with blocks.
2.4.2 Weeks 1 to 4. Aer week 1, the groups are split and work
on either plugged or unplugged materials. Initially we envisioned
that the children would nish the material we provided in three
weeks, but we gave them an additional week to nish all lessons,
and also to provide an opportunity to children that missed a lesson
due to sickness to catch up.
Unplugged rst
For the four unplugged lessons, we use ma-
terial based on CS Unplugged.
2
CS Unplugged is “a collec-
tion of free learning activities that teach Computer Science
through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string,
crayons and lots of running around”. Previous research has
shown that CS Unplugged is an eective way of teaching
programming concepts [
21
]. All our adapted materials are
available online.3
2hp://csunplugged.org/
3link removed for double blind submission
Plugged rst
For the four plugged lessons, we use materials
developed for the rst author’s online Scratch course
4
,
which has been used previously by over 6000 children to
date. ese materials too are available.5
2.4.3 Weeks 5 and 6. From week 5 onwards, children in both
groups use Scratch to create programs and to practice the learned
concepts. e plugged rst group receives materials in which the
concepts that were previously taught are repeated, and practiced
more.
For the unplugged rst group, we design a special introductory
lesson, in which we explain how the programming concepts they
practiced with in the unplugged lessons manifest in Scratch. An
example of the connection of unplugged to Scratch concepts is
shown in Figure 4.
2.4.4 Week 7 and 8. In weeks 7 and 8, we give children the
opportunity to create their own programs, in order to measure
children’s Scratch vocabulary, and see what blocks and concepts
they use when creating programs.
2.4.5 Week 8. In week 8, we close the course with an endterm
test, in which we measure understanding of programming concepts,
in Scratch, but performed on paper. e endterm consisted of mul-
tiple choice questions, some testing one and some testing multiple
concepts. e endterm too is available.6Figure 5 shows questions
testing the concepts operators and variables.
2.5 Self-ecacy assessment
To measure the students’ self-ecacy beliefs we used the self-
ecacy subscale of the Motivated Strategies for Learning es-
tionnaire (MSLQ) [
17
]. MSLQ consists of een subscales designed
from classic social-cognitive learning theories and is widely used
as a self-report instrument for measuring student motivation and
learning strategies and for subsequently predicting academic per-
formance [
6
]. e self-ecacy scale comprises of eight statements
which assess both expectancy for success in the course and self-
ecacy. ey include judgments about the student’s abilities to
4link removed for double blind submission
5link removed for double blind submission
6Link removed for double blind
WiPSCE ’17, November 8–10, 2017, Nijmegen, Netherlands Felienne Hermans, Ehimia Aivaloglou
Figure 4: Explanation of unplugged concepts into Scratch
Figure 5: estions in the endterm testing the concepts op-
erators and variables
accomplish tasks, as well as student’s condence in their skills to
perform those tasks.
Using questionnaires at the beginning (Week 2) and the end
(Week 8) of the course, the students rated themselves on a seven
point likert-scale from ‘not at all true of me’ to ‘very true of me’. As
specied in the MSLQ, students’ self-ecacy scores were computed
Figure 6: Scores per group on the endterm exercises, out of
8 possible points. Center lines indicate the medians; boxes
indicate the 25th and 75th percentiles; whiskers extend 1.5
times the interquartile range from the 25th and 75th per-
centiles. n = 17, 18 sample points.
T-test shows that groups do not dier signicantly.
by taking the average of the points given to the eight statements of
each questionnaire.
3 RESULTS
3.1 Mastering of Programming Concepts
Figure 6 shows the results of both groups on the endterm, aer
eight weeks of lessons.
A Shapiro-Wilk test showed that both the plugged rst and the
unplugged rst sample follow the normal distribution (p=0.125)
with means of 4.29 and 3.73 respectively, and standard deviations
of 0.87 and 0.80. Furthermore the two groups have equal variance
as demonstrated by Levene’s test. We therefore use a t-test to de-
termine whether there is a dierence between the samples. e
test resulted in a p-value of 0.311, meaning we cannot reject
H
1
0
.
In other words children in both groups perform similar, and there
is no eect measured of the plugged rst versus unplugged rst
treatment on their understanding of programming concepts.
In addition to the total score on all questions, we also separated
the results for the six programming concepts. On the individual
concepts too we measured no signicant dierences.
Aer eight weeks, we measure no dierence in understanding of
programming concepts between the plugged rst and unplugged
rst group.
3.2 Self-Ecacy
Figure 7 shows the aggregated self-ecacy scores of the children
aer eight weeks, calculated as the averages of the seven-point
likert-scale replies given to the 8 self-ecacy MSLQ scale state-
ments as described in Section 2.5.
A Shapiro-Wilk test (p=0.327) showed that both the plugged and
the unplugged rst sample follow the normal distribution with
means of respectively 5.05 and 5.75 and standard deviations of
0.54 and 0.32. Furthermore the two groups have equal variance as
To Scratch or not to Scratch? WiPSCE ’17, November 8–10, 2017, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Figure 7: Self-ecacy scores at the end of the course per
group. Scores are calculated as the averages of the seven-
point likert-scale replies given to the 8 self-ecacy MSLQ
scale statements. Center lines indicate the medians; boxes
indicate the 25th and 75th percentiles; whiskers extend 1.5
times the interquartile range from the 25th and 75th per-
centiles. n = 18, 17 sample points. T-test shows that groups
dier signicantly.
Figure 8: Self-ecacy scores at the beginning of the course
per group. Scores are calculated as the averages of the seven-
point likert-scale replies given to the 8 self-ecacy MSLQ
scale statements. Center lines indicate the medians; boxes
indicate the 25th and 75th percentiles; whiskers extend 1.5
times the interquartile range from the 25th and 75th per-
centiles. n = 18, 17 sample points. T-test shows that groups
do not dier signicantly.
demonstrated by Levene’s test. We therefore use a t-test to deter-
mine whether there is a dierence between the samples. e test
resulted in a p-value of 0.023, meaning we must reject
H
1
0
. In other
words children in the unplugged rst group have a signicantly
beer sense of self-ecacy in programming.
At the beginning of the course we also measured the self-ecacy,
and then we measured no dierence, as shown in Figure 8.
Aer 8 weeks, children in the unplugged rst group measure
signicantly beer in self-ecacy beliefs.
Figure 9: Distinct number of Scratch blocks per group in the
end projects children built in weeks 7 and 8. Center lines
indicate the medians; boxes indicate the 25th and 75th per-
centiles; whiskers extend 1.5 times the interquartile range
from the 25th and 75th percentiles. n = 17, 18 sample points.
T-test shows that groups dier signicantly.
3.3 Block Vocabulary
Figure 9 shows the number of distinct Scratch blocks appearing in
the end projects that children worked on in weeks 7 and 8.
A Shapiro-Wilk test showed that both the plugged and the
unplugged sample follow the normal distribution (p=0.087) with
means of 9.47 and 14.22 respectively, and standard deviations of
2.55 and 4.08. Furthermore the two groups have equal variance as
demonstrated by Levene’s test. We therefore use a t-test to deter-
mine whether there is a dierence between the samples. e test
resulted in a p-value of 0.047, meaning we must reject
H
3
0
. In other
words children in the unplugged rst group use dierent Scratch
blocks. Specically, they use more dierent blocks than the Scratch
rst group.
Figure 10 shows the division over the categories of blocks that
Scratch denes. Children in the unplugged rst group use more
dierent Motion blocks, which move the sprites over the 2d plane.
ey also use more Control blocks which include loops and condi-
tionals, and more Looks blocks.
In the projects created in weeks 7 and 8, children in the unplugged
rst group use more dierent Scratch blocks than children in the
plugged rst group.
4 DISCUSSION
In the above, we have described an experiment in which we compare
programming competency, self ecacy and vocabulary of children
that started with four weeks on Scratch lessons, versus four weeks
of unplugged lessons. In this section, we discuss the results.
4.1 Classroom atmosphere
A dierence between the two classrooms that goes beyond mea-
suring performance and ecacy is the ‘vibe’ of the classrooms,
which we aribute to the presence of computers, since all other
factors where equal. e groups had the same teachers and used the
same physical classroom. We observed a huge dierence between
the plugged rst group where computers where present. In this
WiPSCE ’17, November 8–10, 2017, Nijmegen, Netherlands Felienne Hermans, Ehimia Aivaloglou
Figure 10: Distinct number of Scratch blocks per group, in 8
of the 10 dierent categories of blocks that Scratch denes.
group, the children were more excited by the presence of comput-
ers, which are not commonly used in class. is lead to increased
excitement, but also meant that children were oen distracted by
the the games they created, playing them rather than programming.
In the unplugged rst group the vibe was more calm and classroom
like, which could explain why children got more condence in their
mastering of concepts. is might have resulted in the fact that
children in the unplugged rst group could easier reach a state of
ow, where a person is performing a task that is not too easy or
too hard, and is completely engaged in the task [
7
]. Kinnunen and
Simon [
10
] describe a similar phenomenon. ey explored how
students experience programming assignments in CS1 courses and
described the true novice experience of encountering a diculty
as similar to being hit by lightning: an unexpected, shocking ex-
perience which leaves one dazed and confused, largely aecting
the student’s self-ecacy beliefs. Similar observations on the re-
ciprocal relationship between performance and self-ecacy beliefs
were made in [
13
]. Maybe the unplugged rst group had a more
“natural”, “paved way” to learning programing, avoiding feeling
confused, encountering obstacles or dealing with the increased cog-
nitive load that the Scratch web interface imposes in comparison
to unplugged learning.
4.2 Programming and Gender
Regarding the eect of gender on programming performance and
orientation, a number of studies have found it to be signicant. For
example, strong social support and high self-ecacy have been
found to be associated with strong orientation toward CS careers
[
19
], while Lishinski et al. found that female students adjust their
self-ecacy beliefs earlier in courses, which suggests that responses
to early failures could be causing them to disengage from CS [
13
].
In week 2 of our study, we measured no dierence in self-ecacy
between boys and girls. In week 8, girls have lost more self-ecacy
than boys, however this dierence is not signicant. We further-
more nd no signicant dierences in the performance between
students of dierent genders.
Figure 11: Distinct number of Scratch blocks per group cov-
ered and not covered by the coursework.
4.3 Self-ecacy and Vocabulary
It is interesting that we measure an increase both in the self-ecacy
of children in the unplugged rst group and in the diversity of
the blocks they use. We hypothesize that these two observations
might be related. We think that because children have increased
condence, they feel more condent exploring dierent Scratch
blocks. is is illustrated by Figure 11, which shows the use of
blocks by children in the two groups, divided into the blocks that
we did and did not cover in the coursework, again divided over the
categories of Scratch blocks. As you can see, the unplugged group
uses more blocks that are not covered in the lessons, potentially
indicating that they feel comfortable exploring those.
4.4 reats to Validity
A threat to the external validity of our evaluation concerns the
representativeness of children in the experiment. To mitigate this
eect we have used three dierent classes and divided them in
two random groups, however all children are pupils of one school,
which means they might not be representative of all children or
even all children in this country. We plan to repeat this study with
a larger group of children later this year.
With respect to internal validity, one of the threats is the quality
of the materials. It could be that the unplugged lessons are easier
than the plugged materials, resulting in higher self-ecacy. How-
ever, since the children in the unplugged rst group demonstrate
the same understanding of concepts, this seems not to be the case.
5 RELATED WORK
ere is a limited number of studies that have tried to evaluate
teaching programming concepts unplugged.
ies and Vahrenhold [
21
] researched the CS unplugged ma-
terials specically as a method of teaching. ey taught a group
of 25 children aged 11 and 12 in a classroom seing, and used
the CS Unplugged activities to teach half the students, and used
alternative methods for the other half of the students, including
traditional computer science textbooks, among which Algorithms
Unplugged [
22
]. ey nd that CS unplugged is as eective as the
To Scratch or not to Scratch? WiPSCE ’17, November 8–10, 2017, Nijmegen, Netherlands
alternative methods, since there was no signicant dierence in
achievement between the group who learned with CS Unplugged
activities and the group who learned with alternative materials.
However, they do not measure subsequent behavior in a plugged
programming environment like we do.
A number of studies have been carried out on teaching program-
ming concepts to novice programmers with block-based languages
in general, and Scratch in particular. Scratch was taught in mid-
dle school classes containing a total of 46 students in the study
presented in [
15
]. Evaluating the internalization of programming
concepts, it was found that students had problems with concepts
related to initialization, variables and concurrency. Maloney et
al. [
14
] taught Scratch as an extracurricular activity, in an aer-
school clubhouse. By analyzing the 536 students’ projects for blocks
that relate to programming concepts, they found that within the
least used ones are boolean operators and variables. Using the
performance results from an online introductory Scratch program-
ming course that was run recently, Hermans and Aivaloglou found
that students over 12 years of age perform signicantly beer in
questions related to operators and procedures [9].
Apart from projects created during courses, other works analyze
the public repository of Scratch programs for indications of learn-
ing of programming concepts. Yang et al. examined the learning
paerns of programmers in terms of block use over their rst 50
projects [
24
]. In [
8
], the use of programming concepts was exam-
ined in relation to the level of participation, the gender, and the
account age of 5 thousand Scratch programmers. [
1
] analyzed 250
thousand Scratch projects in terms of complexity, programming
concepts and code smells, bad programming practices. Seiter and
Foreman [
20
] proposed a model for assessing computational think-
ing in primary school students and applied it on 150 Scratch projects,
nding that design paerns requiring understanding of paralleliza-
tion, conditionals and, especially, variables were under-represented
until a certain age.
e relationship between performance and self-ecacy in the
computing education domain is widely studied. Lishinski et al. re-
cently examined the interaction of self-ecacy, intrinsic and extrin-
sic goal orientation, and metacognitive strategies and their impact
on students performance in a CS1 course, and found that females’
self-ecacy had a dierent connection to programming perfor-
mance than that of their male peers [
13
]. In [
18
] it is found that, in
the context of a CS1 course, self-ecacy is inuenced by previous
programming experience and increases as a student progresses
through an introductory programming course, while self-ecacy
aects course performance. e MSLQ was used in a study with
39 university students in their introductory programming course,
where it was found that, of all motivational and learning strategies
scales on the MSLQ, self-ecacy had the strongest correlation with
the students’ course performance [
23
]. Examining the relationships
between MSLQ scores and academic performance, [
6
] found that
the self-ecacy scores had within the highest observed validities
for grades in individual classes, along with the scores for eort
regulation and time and study environment.
e eects of using Scratch in the self-ecacy beliefs of stu-
dents is also studied by Armoni et al., who found that learning
programming through Scratch in middle school greatly facilitated
learning professional textual programming languages (C# or Java)
in secondary school, while students with Scratch experience were
observed to display higher levels of motivation and self-ecacy
[
2
]. On university-level students, however, [
11
] examined the eect
of introducing Scratch-based game activities at the introductory
programming course and found that they contributed signicantly
to their C++ programming performance, but had no eect on their
sense of self-ecacy towards the C++ programming language.
6 CONCLUDING REMARKS
e goal of this paper is to explore the impact of starting with
unplugged lessons before programming in Scratch or another pro-
gramming system on the computer. To that end we have designed
and executed a controlled experiment in which we randomly di-
vided 35 children aged 8 to 12 into two groups. One group was
taught with Scratch for the rst four weeks (plugged rst) while
the other did exercises on paper for four weeks (unplugged rst).
Aer these lessons, both groups used Scratch for four weeks, two
weeks of repeated concepts lessons and two weeks of free program
creation.
We nd that aer these eight weeks, there is no dierence in
performance on the understanding of programming concepts. How-
ever, the unplugged rst group shows more self-ecacy and uses
a wider vocabulary of Scratch blocks, including more blocks not
covered by the lessons.
e contributions of this paper are as follows:
Lessons teaching loops, conditionals, procedures, broad-
casts, parallelization and variables in a plugged and un-
plugged fashion. (Section 2.4)
A controlled experiment comparing the use of these plugged
and unplugged lessons (Section 2, Section 3)
Our current research gives rise to several directions for future
work. Firstly, we want to replicate these ndings on a larger scale.
Furthermore, we are interested in understanding more deeply why
children in the unplugged rst group show improved self-ecacy
beliefs. An interesting way of studying this would be to use Scratch
printouts and lessons in the unplugged rst group. at way we
could study if it is indeed the atmosphere in the classroom without
computers that inuences children’s self-ecacy or whether it is
due to the unplugged teaching methods.
WiPSCE ’17, November 8–10, 2017, Nijmegen, Netherlands Felienne Hermans, Ehimia Aivaloglou
REFERENCES
[1]
Ehimia Aivaloglou and Felienne Hermans. 2016. How Kids Code and How We
Know: An Exploratory Study on the Scratch Repository. In Proceedings of the
2016 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research (ICER ’16).
ACM, 53–61. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1145/2960310.2960325
[2]
Michal Armoni, Orni Meerbaum-Salant, and Mordechai Ben-Ari. 2015. From
Scratch to Real Programming. Trans. Comput. Educ. 14, 4, Article 25 (Feb. 2015),
15 pages. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1145/2677087
[3]
Computing at School Working Group. 2012. Computer Science: A Curriculum for
Schools.
[4]
A. Bandura. 1977. Self-ecacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change.
Psychological review 2, 84 (1977), 191–215.
[5]
Shari L. Britner and Frank Pajares. 2006. Sources of science self-ecacy beliefs
of middle school students. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 43, 5 (2006),
485–499. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20131
[6]
Marcus Cred and L. Alison Phillips. 2011. A meta-analytic review of the Motivated
Strategies for Learning estionnaire. Learning and Individual Dierences 21, 4
(2011), 337 – 346. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2011.03.002
[7] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 2000. Beyond boredom and anxiety. Jossey-Bass.
[8]
Deborah A. Fields, Michael Giang, and Yasmin Kafai. 2014. Programming in the
Wild: Trends in Youth Computational Participation in the Online Scratch Commu-
nity. In Proceedings of the 9th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Ed-
ucation (WiPSCE ’14). ACM, 2–11.
DOI:
hps://doi.org/10.1145/2670757.2670768
[9]
Felienne Hermans and Ehimia Aivaloglou. Teaching Soware Engineering
Principles to K-12 Students: A MOOC on Scratch. In Proceedings of the 39th
International Conference on Soware Engineering Companion (ICSE ’17).
[10]
Paivi Kinnunen and Beth Simon. 2010. Experiencing Programming Assignments
in CS1: e Emotional Toll. In Proceedings of the Sixth International Workshop
on Computing Education Research (ICER ’10). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 77–86.
DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1145/1839594.1839609
[11]
O. Korkmaz. 2016. e Eects of Scratch-Based Game Activities on Students’
Aitudes, Self-Ecacy and Academic Achievement. International Journal of
Modern Education and Computer Science 8, 1 (2016).
[12]
Robert W Lent and Gail Hacke. 1987. Career self-ecacy: Empirical status and
future directions. Journal of Vocational Behavior 30, 3 (1987), 347 – 382.
DOI:
hps://doi.org/10.1016/0001-8791(87)90010- 8
[13]
Alex Lishinski, Aman Yadav, Jon Good, and Richard Enbody. 2016. Learning to
Program: Gender Dierences and Interactive Eects of Students’ Motivation,
Goals, and Self-Ecacy on Performance. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Confer-
ence on International Computing Education Research (ICER ’16). ACM, New York,
NY, USA, 211–220. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1145/2960310.2960329
[14]
John H. Maloney, Kylie Peppler, Yasmin Kafai, Mitchel Resnick, and Natalie
Rusk. 2008. Programming by Choice: Urban Youth Learning Programming with
Scratch. In Proceedings of the 39th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer
Science Education (SIGCSE ’08). ACM, 367–371.
DOI:
hps://doi.org/10.1145/
1352135.1352260
[15]
Orni Meerbaum-Salant, Michal Armoni, and Mordechai (Moti) Ben-Ari. 2010.
Learning Computer Science Concepts with Scratch. In Proceedings of the Sixth
International Workshop on Computing Education Research (ICER ’10). ACM, New
York, NY, USA, 69–76. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1145/1839594.1839607
[16]
F. Pajares and M. D. Miller. 1994. Role of self-ecacy and self-concept beliefs in
mathematical problem solving: A path analysis. Journal of ed ucational psychology
2, 86 (1994), 193.
[17]
R. Paul, S. Smith, M. L. Genthon, G. G. Martens, C. L. Hauen, G. G. Martens, M.
Genthon, and P. Wren. 1991. Technical Report No. 91-B-004: A Manual for the Use
of the Motivated Strategies for Learning estionnaire (MSLQ). Technical Report.
e Regents of e University of Michigan.
[18]
Vennila Ramalingam, Deborah LaBelle, and Susan Wiedenbeck. 2004. Self-
ecacy and Mental Models in Learning to Program. In Proceedings of the 9th
Annual SIGCSE Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science
Education (ITiCSE ’04). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 171–175.
DOI:
hps://doi.org/
10.1145/1007996.1008042
[19]
Mary Beth Rosson, John M. Carroll, and Hansa Sinha. 2011. Orientation of
Undergraduates Toward Careers in the Computer and Information Sciences:
Gender, Self-Ecacy and Social Support. Trans. Comput. Educ. 11, 3, Article 14
(Oct. 2011), 23 pages. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1145/2037276.2037278
[20]
Linda Seiter and Brendan Foreman. 2013. Modeling the Learning Progressions of
Computational inking of Primary Grade Students. In Proceedings of the Ninth
Annual International ACM Conference on International Computing Education
Research. ACM, 59–66. DOI:hps://doi.org/10.1145/2493394.2493403
[21]
Renate ies and Jan Vahrenhold. 2013. On Plugging ”Unplugged” into CS
Classes. In Proceeding of the 44th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science
Education (SIGCSE ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 365–370.
DOI:
hps://doi.
org/10.1145/2445196.2445303
[22]
Berthold Vcking, Helmut Alt, Martin Dietzfelbinger, Rdiger Reischuk, Christian
Scheideler, Heribert Vollmer, and Dorothea Wagner. 2011. Algorithms Unplugged
(1st ed.). Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated.
[23]
Christopher Watson, Frederick W.B. Li, and Jamie L. Godwin. 2014. No Tests
Required: Comparing Traditional and Dynamic Predictors of Programming
Success. In Proceedings of the 45th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science
Education (SIGCSE ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 469–474.
DOI:
hps://doi.
org/10.1145/2538862.2538930
[24]
Seungwon Yang, Carloa Domeniconi, Ma Revelle, Mack Sweeney, Ben U.
Gelman, Chris Beckley, and Aditya Johri. 2015. Uncovering Trajectories of
Informal Learning in Large Online Communities of Creators. In Proceedings of
the Second ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale. ACM, 131–140.
DOI:
hps:
//doi.org/10.1145/2724660.2724674
... While there is often a debate around the relevance of such types of activities to develop CT competences, there is an increasing amount of research being done on the topic. While certain small scale studies were undertaken and showed that CS Unplugged activities could be as effective as traditional approaches (Thies & Vahrenhold, 2013;Hermans & Aivaloglou, 2017), more and more large scale studies at the level of primary school show the benefits of CS Unplugged activities compared to traditional approaches for learning (Brackmann et al., 2017;del Olmo-Muñoz et al., 2020;Sun et al., 2021;Zhan et al., 2022;Kirçali &Özdener, 2022), in addition to the benefits in terms of motivation and gender issues (del Olmo-Muñoz et al., 2020), engagement (Zhan et al., 2022), and self-efficacy (Hermans & Aivaloglou, 2017), thus contributing to the promotion of CS for all and the development of CT competencies (Huang & Looi, 2021). 3. CT skills here refers to the definition of skills provided by the European Union (2006) as "the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems". ...
... While there is often a debate around the relevance of such types of activities to develop CT competences, there is an increasing amount of research being done on the topic. While certain small scale studies were undertaken and showed that CS Unplugged activities could be as effective as traditional approaches (Thies & Vahrenhold, 2013;Hermans & Aivaloglou, 2017), more and more large scale studies at the level of primary school show the benefits of CS Unplugged activities compared to traditional approaches for learning (Brackmann et al., 2017;del Olmo-Muñoz et al., 2020;Sun et al., 2021;Zhan et al., 2022;Kirçali &Özdener, 2022), in addition to the benefits in terms of motivation and gender issues (del Olmo-Muñoz et al., 2020), engagement (Zhan et al., 2022), and self-efficacy (Hermans & Aivaloglou, 2017), thus contributing to the promotion of CS for all and the development of CT competencies (Huang & Looi, 2021). 3. CT skills here refers to the definition of skills provided by the European Union (2006) as "the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems". ...
Article
Full-text available
With the increasing importance of Computational Thinking (CT) at all levels of education, it is essential to have valid and reliable assessments. Currently, there is a lack of such assessments in upper primary school. That is why we present the development and validation of the competent CT test (cCTt), an unplugged CT test targeting 7–9 year-old students. In the first phase, 37 experts evaluated the validity of the cCTt through a survey and focus group. In the second phase, the test was administered to 1519 students. We employed Classical Test Theory, Item Response Theory, and Confirmatory Factor Analysis to assess the instruments’ psychometric properties. The expert evaluation indicates that the cCTt shows good face, construct, and content validity. Furthermore, the psychometric analysis of the student data demonstrates adequate reliability, difficulty, and discriminability for the target age groups. Finally, shortened variants of the test are established through Confirmatory Factor Analysis. To conclude, the proposed cCTt is a valid and reliable instrument, for use by researchers and educators alike, which expands the portfolio of validated CT assessments across compulsory education. Future assessments looking at capturing CT in a more exhaustive manner might consider combining the cCTt with other forms of assessments.
... While there is often a debate around the relevance of such types of activities to develop CT competences, there is an increasing amount of research being done on the topic. While certain small scale studies were undertaken and showed that CS Unplugged activities could be as effective as traditional approaches Vahrenhold 2013, 2016;Hermans and Aivaloglou 2017), more and more large scale studies at the level of primary school show the benefits of CS Unplugged activities compared to traditional approaches for learning (Brackmann et al. 2017;del Olmo-Muñoz et al. 2020;Sun et al. 2021;Zhan et al. 2022;Kirc¸ali and Ozdener¨ 2022), in addition to the benefits in terms of motivation and gender issues (del Olmo-Muñoz et al. 2020), engagement (Zhan et al. 2022), and self-efficacy (Hermans and Aivaloglou 2017), thus contributing to the promotion of CS for all and the development of CT competencies (Huang and Looi 2021). ...
... While there is often a debate around the relevance of such types of activities to develop CT competences, there is an increasing amount of research being done on the topic. While certain small scale studies were undertaken and showed that CS Unplugged activities could be as effective as traditional approaches Vahrenhold 2013, 2016;Hermans and Aivaloglou 2017), more and more large scale studies at the level of primary school show the benefits of CS Unplugged activities compared to traditional approaches for learning (Brackmann et al. 2017;del Olmo-Muñoz et al. 2020;Sun et al. 2021;Zhan et al. 2022;Kirc¸ali and Ozdener¨ 2022), in addition to the benefits in terms of motivation and gender issues (del Olmo-Muñoz et al. 2020), engagement (Zhan et al. 2022), and self-efficacy (Hermans and Aivaloglou 2017), thus contributing to the promotion of CS for all and the development of CT competencies (Huang and Looi 2021). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
With the increasing importance of Computational Thinking (CT) at all levels of education, it is essential to have valid and reliable assessments. Currently, there is a lack of such assessments in upper primary school. That is why we present the development and validation of the competent CT test (cCTt), an unplugged CT test targeting 7-9 year-old students. In the first phase, 37 experts evaluated the validity of the cCTt through a survey and focus group. In the second phase, the test was administered to 1519 students. We employed Classical Test Theory, Item Response Theory, and Confirmatory Factor Analysis to assess the instruments' psychometric properties. The expert evaluation indicates that the cCTt shows good face, construct, and content validity. Furthermore, the psychometric analysis of the student data demonstrates adequate reliability, difficulty, and discriminability for the target age groups. Finally, shortened variants of the test are established through Confirmatory Factor Analysis. To conclude, the proposed cCTt is a valid and reliable instrument, for use by researchers and educators alike, which expands the portfolio of validated CT assessments across compulsory education. Future assessments looking at capturing CT in a more exhaustive manner might consider combining the cCTt with other forms of assessments.
... Therefore, such program offers a good approach to teaching programming skills, as proven through previous studies, which confirmed the effectiveness of computer sciences unplugged in teaching and simplifying programming concepts. The major studies included Hermans and Aivaloglou (2017) that has aimed at identifying the most effective method to start teaching programming using both plugged or unplugged methods, to facilitate understanding the programming concepts. According to the findings, it has been proven that the group, which started with unplugged activities showed more confidence in understanding the programming concepts and ...
Article
Full-text available
This study aims at identifying the effectiveness of CS Unplugged program for developing programming skills among eighth-grade female students. The study tools consist of a test to measure the cognitive side of programming skills in Scratch language, in addition to a product evaluation card to measure the performance aspect of programming skills in Scratch language. The sample of the study consisted of (14) female students from the eighth primary grade in Khan Yunis Preparatory Co. School "C". The study applies quasi-experimental design. The results indicated there are statistically significant differences between the ranks of the students’ grades in the programming skills pre- test application, and the ranks of their scores in the post application. The CS Unplugged program has a great impact on developing the cognitive aspect of programming skills. There are statistically significant differences between the ranks of the students’ grades in the product evaluation card in the pre application, and the ranks of their scores in the post application as the average of the positive ranks is greater than the average of the negative ranks. The CS Unplugged program has a great impact on developing the performance side of programming skills. The study concluded with the most important recommendations, as there is need for the Ministry of Education to adopt the CS Unplugged program in the plan of teaching programming curriculum for the various stages; especially in light of the limited capabilities of the Gaza Strip.
... Therefore, such program offers a good approach to teaching programming skills, as proven through previous studies, which confirmed the effectiveness of computer sciences unplugged in teaching and simplifying programming concepts. The major studies included Hermans and Aivaloglou (2017) that has aimed at identifying the most effective method to start teaching programming using both plugged or unplugged methods, to facilitate understanding the programming concepts. According to the findings, it has been proven that the group, which started with unplugged activities showed more confidence in understanding the programming concepts and used more varied masses during programming in comparison to the other group and with better effectiveness. ...
... Así, en relación con el Nivel I, un trabajo desarrollado en España proporciona evidencia empírica sobre la efectividad del enfoque desconectado para desarrollar el pensamiento computacional, al menos en sus fases iniciales, demostrando que es posible trabajar esta habilidad en la escuela aunque no se cuente con dispositivos electrónicos, ordenadores o conexión a Internet (Brackmann., Román-González, Robles, Moreno-León, Casali y Barone, 2017). Pero además, un estudio realizado en Países Bajos concluye que las actividades desenchufadas no son solo un recurso con el que trabajar cuando no contemos con conectividad y equipamiento informático, sino que de hecho Introducción a la investigación parece que el uso temprano de recursos desconectados tiene un impacto positivo en el desarrollo futuro de esta habilidad (Hermans y Aivaloglou, 2017). El uso de actividades desenchufadas para trabajar específicamente la IA es un campo poco investigado, pero ya existen algunos trabajos recientes que apuntan a que este tipo de actividades puede contribuir al aprendizaje de conceptos sobre la IA (Lindner, Seegerer y Romeike, 2019) y el aprendizaje automático (Ossovski y Brinkmeier, 2019), incluso con estudiantes de Educación Primaria (Ho y Scadding, 2019). ...
Technical Report
La Escuela de Pensamiento Computacional e Inteligencia Artificial (EPCIA) es un proyecto del Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional, que se desarrolla en colaboración con las Consejerías y Departamentos de Educación de las comunidades y ciudades autónomas. El objetivo del proyecto es ofrecer recursos educativos abiertos, formación, acompañamiento y evidencias de impacto en las prácticas educativas y en el aprendizaje del alumnado, a fin de impulsar la incorporación del pensamiento computacional en la práctica docente a través de actividades de programación y robótica. Este proyecto, que está dirigido a docentes de todas las etapas educativas no universitarias y de cualquier materia o especialidad, lanzó su primera edición en el curso 18/19 en la que se inscribieron más de 700 docentes y durante el curso 19/20 en la que se inscribieron más de un millar de docentes de la práctica totalidad del país para participar en el proyecto. En este caso, la temática se centró en la Inteligencia Artificial. Uno de los objetivos de este proyecto es que la formación de los docentes se traslade a las aulas. Por ello, las tareas prácticas con las que el profesorado participante se familiarizó durante la fase de formación estaban diseñadas para ser utilizadas directamente en el aula. De este modo, los docentes de esta edición de la EPCIA han llevado a la práctica, con su alumnado, al menos 5 sesiones de trabajo relacionado con el pensamiento computacional y la Inteligencia Artificial. Por último, y en paralelo con la Fase 2, de puesta en práctica, se realizó una investigación para medir el impacto del proyecto en el aprendizaje y en la práctica docente. Esta investigación se ha desarrollado de forma independiente, pero coordinada, en las tres propuestas de la EPCIA: las actividades desconectadas, la programación con bloques (Scratch) y el desarrollo de apps con App Inventor, estas dos últimas combinadas con Machine Learning for Kids. Son los resultados de esta investigación los que se presentan en este informe.
... The CT-AE instructional approach aligns with other unplugged literature showing that unplugged CT lessons can support programming skills and learning (Grover et al., 2019;Hermans & Aivaloglou, 2017). While these articles used unplugged lessons that supported programming, they were not situated in science contexts. ...
Article
Full-text available
Computing has become essential in modern-day problem-solving, making computational literacy necessary for practicing scientists and engineers. However, K–12 science education has not reflected this computational shift. Integrating computational thinking (CT) into core science courses is an avenue that can build computational literacies in all students. Integrating CT and science involves using computational tools and methods (including programming) to understand scientific phenomena and solve science-based problems. Integrating CT and science is gaining traction, but widespread implementation is still quite limited. Several barriers have limited the integration and implementation of CT in K–12 science education. Most teachers lack experience with computer science, computing, programming, and CT and therefore are ill-prepared to integrate CT into science courses, leading to low self-efficacy and low confidence in integrating CT. This theoretical paper introduces a novel instructional approach for integrating disciplinary science education with CT using unplugged (computer-free) activities. We have grounded our approach in common computational thinking in STEM frameworks but translate this work into an accessible pedagogical strategy. We begin with an overview and critique of current approaches that integrate CT and science. Next, we introduce the Computational Thinking through Algorithmic Explanations (CT-AE) instructional approach. We then explain how CT-AE is informed by constructionist writing-to-learn science theory. Based on a pilot implementation with student learning outcomes, we discuss connections to existing literature and future directions.
... It should be noted that plugged and unplugged approaches to CT are not mutually exclusive, as several studies have shown (see [39][40][41][42][43]). Both approaches can achieve different goals or be complementary and reinforcing (see e.g., [44][45][46][47][48]). ...
Article
Full-text available
There is a debate about the way to introduce computational thinking (CT) in schools. Different proposals are on the table; these include the creation of new computational areas for developing CT, the introduction of CT in STEM areas, and the cross-curricular integration of CT in schools. There is also concern that no student should be left behind, independently of their economic situation. To this effect, an unplugged approach is the most cost-effective solution. In addition, this topic is interesting in the context of a pandemic situation that has prevented the sharing of materials between students. This study analyzes an unplugged cross-curricular introduction of CT in the Social Sciences area among sixth grade students. A group of 14 students was selected to carry out an unplugged intervention design—where they were required to program an imaginary robot on paper—in the Social Sciences area. Their CT development and academic results were compared to those of 31 students from the control group who continued attending regular classes. Results showed that an unplugged teaching style of CT in Social Sciences lessons significantly increased CT (p < 0.001) and with a large effect size (d = 1.305) without differences in students’ academic achievement. The findings show that children can potentially develop their CT in non-STEM lessons, learning the same curricular contents, and maintaining their academic results.
... These activities, also referred to as Unplugged Computer Science in the literature, enable programming education to be performed with simple tools such as paper and pencil without any electronic device such as computers, tablets, or mobile phones others. Many studies on this subject show that unplugged activities can be used in teaching algorithmic concepts (Alamer et al., 2015;Bell, Witten, & Fellows, 2015;Hermans & Aivaloglou, 2017). Additionally, they can be applied without the need for any technical infrastructure, which makes these tools preferred and, ultimately, effective alternatives. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study examines the effects of plugged and unplugged programming tools used in algorithm teaching at the K-12 level on student computational thinking skills and to determine whether gender is a factor in this process. The study group was designed with a control group pre-test–post-test; quasi-experimental model, that consisted of 109 students in 6th grade at a secondary school. 3 of 4 branches in the school were randomly selected and the experiment and control groups were determined by random assignment. During the study, experiment group 1 was taught Code.org while experiment group 2 was taught unplugged tools, and the control group was taught Scratch. The study lasted for 6 weeks and had 2 lessons per week. The data collection tool used was the "Computational Thinking Levels Scale" as the pre- and post-tests. Our findings showed that while the group that was taught unplugged activities showed positive development for computational thinking skills, there were no significant improvements observed in the other groups. Also, when comparing computational thinking skills, again, there was no significant difference found among the groups. It was observed that group and gender cofactors did not create significant variation among the groups; and when examined on a group basis, differences were found to favor male students when they were performing unplugged activities.
Chapter
Computational thinking (CT) is an approach to problem-solving that has its roots in computer science. However, its inherent value in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines cannot be over-emphasized, considering that we are in the fourth industrial revolution. The chapter draws attention to its close affinity to problem-solving and programming, and the impact of computational thinking on the labour market, and in turn the digital economy is highlighted. A global overview of recent research findings and initiatives to implement CT education in school curricula are discussed. Because of the importance of STEM education, and the inherent value of CT, it is necessary to explore the status and inclinations of CT in STEM disciplines. Hence, a snapshot of research over the last two years was used in a systematic review to determine the trends and challenges for integrating CT in the curriculum of STEM related fields. Using the ERIC database of journals, and specific criteria for selection of publications, 31 articles were examined in this study. Overall, it was found several tools and instructional strategies are used to develop CT, but more needs to be done to increase teachers’ knowledge and enactment for CT in the STEM fields.
Article
In recent years, computer programming has reappeared in school curricula with the aim of transmitting knowledge and skills beyond the simple ability to code. However, there are different ways of teaching this subject and very few experimental studies compare plugged-in and unplugged programming learning. The purpose of this study is to highlight the impact of plugged-in or unplugged learning on students' performance and subjective experience. To this end, we designed an experimental study with 217 primary school students divided into two groups and we measured their knowledge of computational concepts, ability to solve algorithmic problem, motivation toward the instruction, self-belief and attitude toward science. The programming sessions were designed to be similar between the two conditions, only the tools were different. Computers and Scratch software were used in the plugged-in group while the unplugged group used paper instructions, pictures, figurines and body movements instead. The results show better learning performance in the plugged-in group. Furthermore, although motivation dropped slightly in both groups, this drop was only significant in the unplugged condition. Gender also seems to be an important factor, as girls exhibit a lower post-test motivation and a lower willingness to pursue their practice in programming outside the school context. However, this effect on motivation was only observable in the plugged-in group which suggests that educational programming software may have a positive but gendered motivational impact.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Previous research in computer science education has demon- strated the importance of motivation for success in introduc- tory programming. Theoretical constructs from self-regulated learning theory (SRL), which integrates several different types of metacognitive processes, as well as motivational constructs, have proved to be important predictors of success in most academic disciplines. These individual components of self- regulated learning (e.g., self-efficacy, metacognitive strate- gies) interact in complex ways to influence students’ affec- tive states and behaviors, which in turn influence learning outcomes. These elements have been previously examined individually in novice programmers, but we do not have a comprehensive understanding of how SRL constructs inter- act to influence learning to program. This paper reports on a study that examined the interaction of self-efficacy, intrinsic and extrinsic goal orientations, and metacognitive strategies and their impact on student performance in a CS1 course. We also report on significant gender differences in the relationships between SRL constructs and learning out- comes. We found that student performance had the ex- pected motivational and SRL precursors, but the interac- tions between these constructs revealed some unexpected relationships. Furthermore, we found that females’ self- efficacy had a different connection to programming perfor- mance than that of their male peers. Further research on success in introductory programming should take account of the unique and complex relationship between SRL and student success, as well as gender differences in these rela- tionships that are specific to CS.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Block-based programming languages like Scratch, Alice and Blockly are becoming increasingly common as introductory languages in programming education. There is substantial research showing that these visual programming environments are suitable for teaching programming concepts. But, what do people do when they use Scratch? In this paper we explore the characteristics of Scratch programs. To this end we have scraped the Scratch public repository and retrieved 250,000 projects. We present an analysis of these projects in three different dimensions. Initially, we look at the types of blocks used and the size of the projects. We then investigate complexity, used abstractions and programming concepts. Finally we detect code smells such as large scripts, dead code and duplicated code blocks. Our results show that 1) most Scratch programs are small, however Scratch programs consisting of over 100 sprites exist, 2) programming abstraction concepts like procedures are not commonly used and 3) Scratch programs do suffer from code smells including large scripts and unmatched broadcast signals.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Most research in primary and secondary computing education has focused on understanding learners within formal classroom communities, leaving aside the growing number of promising informal online programming communities where young learners contribute, comment, and collaborate on programs. In this paper, we examined trends in computational participation in Scratch, an online community with over 1 million registered youth designers primarily 11-18 years of age. Drawing on a random sample of 5,000 youth programmers and their activities over three months in early 2012, we examined the quantity of programming concepts used in projects in relation to level of participation, gender, and account age of Scratch programmers. Latent class analyses revealed four unique groups of programmers. While there was no significant link between level of online participation, ranging from low to high, and level of programming sophistication, the exception was a small group of highly engaged users who were most likely to use more complex programming concepts. Groups who only used few of the more sophisticated programming concepts, such as Booleans, variables and operators, were identified as Scratch users new to the site and girls. In the discussion we address the challenges of analyzing young learners' programming in informal online communities and opportunities for designing more equitable computational participation.
Article
Presents an integrative theoretical framework to explain and to predict psychological changes achieved by different modes of treatment. This theory states that psychological procedures, whatever their form, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. It is hypothesized that expectations of personal efficacy determine whether coping behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences. Persistence in activities that are subjectively threatening but in fact relatively safe produces, through experiences of mastery, further enhancement of self-efficacy and corresponding reductions in defensive behavior. In the proposed model, expectations of personal efficacy are derived from 4 principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Factors influencing the cognitive processing of efficacy information arise from enactive, vicarious, exhortative, and emotive sources. The differential power of diverse therapeutic procedures is analyzed in terms of the postulated cognitive mechanism of operation. Findings are reported from microanalyses of enactive, vicarious, and emotive modes of treatment that support the hypothesized relationship between perceived self-efficacy and behavioral changes. (21/2 p ref)
Article
Scratch is a visual programming environment that is widely used by young people. We investigated if Scratch can be used to teach concepts of computer science (CS). We developed learning materials for middle-school students that were designed according to the constructionist philosophy of Scratch and evaluated them in a few schools during two years. Tests were constructed based upon a novel combination of the revised Bloom taxonomy and the Structure of the Observed Learning Scratch is a visual programming environment that is widely used by young people. We investigated if Scratch can be used to teach concepts of computer science (CS). We developed learning materials for middle-school students that were designed according to the constructionist philosophy of Scratch and evaluated them in a few schools during two years. Tests were constructed based upon a novel combination of the revised Bloom taxonomy and the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome taxonomy. These instruments were augmented with qualitative tools, such as observations and interviews. The results showed that students could successfully learn important concepts of CS, although there were problems with some concepts such as repeated execution, variables, and concurrency. We believe that these problems can be overcome by modifications to the teaching process that we suggest. Outcome taxonomy. These instruments were augmented with qualitative tools, such as observations and interviews. The results showed that students could successfully learn important concepts of CS, although there were problems with some concepts such as repeated execution, variables, and concurrency. We believe that these problems can be overcome by modifications to the teaching process that we suggest.
Article
Computer science (CS) activities for young students are widely used, particularly visual programming environments. We investigated the use of the Scratch environment for teaching CS concepts to middle school students. In a previous article [Meerbaum-Salant et al. 2013], we reported on the extent to which the CS concepts were successfully learned. In this article, we look at the transition from studying CS with the visual Scratch environment in middle school to studying CS with a professional textual programming language (C# or Java) in secondary school. We found that the programming knowledge and experience of students who had learned Scratch greatly facilitated learning the more advanced material in secondary school: less time was needed to learn new topics, there were fewer learning difficulties, and they achieved higher cognitive levels of understanding of most concepts (although at the end of the teaching process, there were no significant differences in achievements compared to students who had not studied Scratch). Furthermore, there was increased enrollment in CS classes, and students were observed to display higher levels of motivation and self-efficacy. This research justifies teaching CS in general and visual programming in particular in middle schools.
Conference Paper
We analyzed informal learning in Scratch Online – an online community with over 4.3 million users and 6.7 million instances of user-generated content. Users develop projects, which are graphical interfaces consisting of interacting programming blocks. We investigated two fundamental questions of how we can model informal learning, and which patterns of informal learning emerge. We proceeded in two phases. First, we modeled learning as a trajectory of cumulative programming block usage by long-term users who created at least 50 projects. Second, we applied K-means++ clustering to uncover patterns of learning and corresponding subpopulations. We found four groups of users manifesting four different patterns of learning, ranging from the smallest to the largest improvement. At one end of the spectrum, users learned more and in a faster manner. At the opposite end, users did not show much learning progress, even after creating dozens of projects. The modeling and clustering of trajectory patterns that enabled us to quantitatively analyze informal learning may be applicable to other similar communities. The results can also support administrators of online communities in implementing customized interventions for specific subpopulations.
Book
Algorithms specify the way computers process information and how they execute tasks. Many recent technological innovations and achievements rely on algorithmic ideas - they facilitate new applications in science, medicine, production, logistics, traffic, communition and entertainment. Efficient algorithms not only enable your personal computer to execute the newest generation of games with features unimaginable only a few years ago, they are also key to several recent scientific breakthroughs - for example, the sequencing of the human genome would not have been possible without the invention of new algorithmic ideas that speed up computations by several orders of magnitude. The greatest improvements in the area of algorithms rely on beautiful ideas for tackling computational tasks more efficiently. The problems solved are not restricted to arithmetic tasks in a narrow sense but often relate to exciting questions of nonmathematical flavor, such as: How can I find the exit out of a maze? How can I partition a treasure map so that the treasure can only be found if all parts of the map are recombined? How should I plan my trip to minimize cost? Solving these challenging problems requires logical reasoning, geometric and combinatorial imagination, and, last but not least, creativity - the skills needed for the design and analysis of algorithms. In this book we present some of the most beautiful algorithmic ideas in 41 articles written in colloquial, nontechnical language. Most of the articles arose out of an initiative among German-language universities to communicate the fascination of algorithms and computer science to high-school students. The book can be understood without any prior knowledge of algorithms and computing, and it will be an enlightening and fun read for students and interested adults.