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Bots & (Main)Frames: Exploring the Impact of Tangible Blocks and Collaborative Play in an Educational Programming Game

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While recent work has begun to evaluate the efficacy of educational programming games, many common design decisions in these games (e.g., single player gameplay using touchpad or mouse) have not been explored for learning outcomes. For instance, alternative design approaches such as collaborative play and embodied interaction with tangibles may also provide important benefits to learners. To better understand how these design decisions impact learning and related factors, we created an educational programming game that allows for systematically varying input method and mode of play. In this paper, we describe design rationale for mouse and tangible versions of our game, and report a 2x2 factorial experiment comparing efficacy of mouse and tangible input methods with individual and collaborative modes of play. Results indicate tangibles have a greater positive impact on learning, situational interest, enjoyment, and programming self-beliefs. We also found collaborative play helps further reduce programming anxiety over individual play.
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