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Female Teenagers and Coding: Create Gender Sensitive and Creative Learning Environments

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The number of women in technical fields is far below the average number of males, especially in developed countries. Gender differences in STEM are already present in secondary schools in students aged between 12 to 15 years. It is during this intermediate female adolescence that girls begin to make critical career choices, which therefore makes this a key age to reinforce them and reduce the gender disparities in ICT. Acquiring computational thinking (CT) skills, particularly coding, is important for building a positive economic, developmental, and innovative future. To address the gender bias in schools, one of the goals of the European H2020 project No One Left Behind (NOLB) included integrating Pocket Code, a free open source app developed by the non-profit project Catrobat, into different school lessons. Through game design, Pocket Code allows teenage girls to incorporate diversity and inclusiveness, as well as the ability to reflect their cultural identity, their likes, and their ways of interacting and thinking. To evaluate the impact of the use of the app in these courses, we captured the results on engaging girls in design and coding activities. For this paper, the authors present the data of surveys via a qualitative content analysis during the second cycle of the project. The results let the researchers conclude that the organization and the setting of the coding courses (for example, guidance and supporting material, freedom of choice) had much more influence on female students’ engagement than the coding aspects or the app itself. In contrast, male students more frequently mentioned missing features in the app, and stated that they liked the coding. With a focus on female teenagers, the results allow us to conclude that a suitable classroom setting is significantly more important for them than the coding tool itself.
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Constructionism 2018, Vilnius, Lithuania
For BibTex entry see last page.
Female Teenagers and Coding: Create Gender
Sensitive and Creative Learning Environments
Bernadette Spieler, bernadette.spieler@ist.tugraz.at
Institute of Software Technology, Graz University of Technology, Austria
Wolfgang Slany, wolfgang.slany@tugraz.at
Institute of Software Technology, Graz University of Technology, Austria
Abstract
The number of women in technical fields is far below the average number of males, especially in
developed countries. Gender differences in STEM are already present in secondary schools in
students aged between 12 to 15 years. It is during this intermediate female adolescence that girls
begin to make critical career choices, which therefore makes this a key age to reinforce them and
reduce the gender disparities in ICT. Acquiring computational thinking (CT) skills, particularly
coding, is important for building a positive economic, developmental, and innovative future. To
address the gender bias in schools, one of the goals of the European H2020 project No One Left
Behind (NOLB) included integrating Pocket Code, a free open source app developed by the non-
profit project Catrobat, into different school lessons. Through game design, Pocket Code allows
teenage girls to incorporate diversity and inclusiveness, as well as the ability to reflect their cultural
identity, their likes, and their ways of interacting and thinking. To evaluate the impact of the use of
the app in these courses, we captured the results on engaging girls in design and coding activities.
For this paper, the authors present the data of surveys via a qualitative content analysis during
the second cycle of the project. The results let the researchers conclude that the organization and
the setting of the coding courses (for example, guidance and supporting material, freedom of
choice) had much more influence on female students’ engagement than the coding aspects or the
app itself. In contrast, male students more frequently mentioned missing features in the app, and
stated that they liked the coding. With a focus on female teenagers, the results allow us to conclude
that a suitable classroom setting is significantly more important for them than the coding tool itself.
Figure 1: Providing inclusive coding environments for female teenagers
Keywords (style: Keywords)
Pocket Code, Game Design, Gender Inclusion, Coding, Mobile Learning, STEM, Social
Inclusion, Constructionism, Girls, Learning Environment
Introduction
Secondary school is the place where students make the critical choices which decide their future
careers, develop a more realistic picture of their future jobs, and assess their career-relevant
abilities. Researchers observe that girls’ interest in IT drops significantly from the age of 12 to 15
(Tsan, Boyer, and Lynch, 2016). To address this gender bias at an early stage, a goal of the
European project No One Left Behind (NOLB) was to integrate Pocket Code, an app developed
at Graz University of Technology, into different school subjects, thus making coding more
accessible and attractive to female students. Although promoting gender equality is a longstanding
policy which all European countries place on their agendas (EC, 2014), a gender-based inequity
in ICT still poses barriers for women. Thus, the acquisition of digital skills is more important than
ever and represents a key professional qualification (Balanskat and Engelhardt, 2015, Kahn, 2017,
Tedre and Denning, 2016). For the NOLB project, the authors assumed that according to related
literature it is possible to spark girls’ interests by getting them engaged in computational thinking
through collaborative, creative, and engaging coding activities (Khan and Luxton-Reilly, 2016).
Thus, the team studied whether the design of mobile games has an impact on inclusion and
satisfaction of female students. Thus, the following research question has been defined: How can
we organize coding activities to reinforce female teenagers in computer science?
The paper is organized as follows: First, we describe the challenges of teaching CS in Europe and
discuss several learning theories, with a focus on constructionism. Second, we present solutions
on how to provide suitable learning environments for girls, followed by a brief description of the
NOLB project and our educational apps for coding. Third, we present the results of the quantitative
and qualitative surveys which show insights for framing suitable classroom settings for coding
activities for girls. Finally, the last sections conclude the paper and describe our future work.
Learn Coding: A Worldwide Challenge
The European Commission states, All of Europe's citizens need to be educated in both digital
literacy and informatics (Informatics Europe/ACM Europe, 2013, EC, 2016). Thus, IT education
is seen as an interdisciplinary field that bridges the gap between the use of digital media and
information-processing technology as well as basic concepts and fundamental ideas of computer
science. The EC recommend that students should benefit from computer literacy at an early stage
and that it is important to find a standardized definition of the informatics curricula through all
countries. However, in Austria and in many other European countries, computer science topics
are underrepresented in school curricula, hence, teaching time for these topics is limited
(Informatics Europe/ACM Europe, 2016). From primary through secondary school, only a few
opportunities exist for students to explore coding and CS topics.
Learning theories from the past serve as an organized set of principles, clarifying how people
acquire, retain, and recall knowledge (Schunk, 2016). These theories helped researchers to gain
a better understanding of how learning occurs and help us to select appropriate techniques, tools,
and strategies to support learning and teaching how to code. Three basic types of learning theory
exist: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism, and some subtypes or variations, e.g.,
Instructionism, and Constructionism.
Figure 2 provides an overview of important findings of each theory, how each theory handles
students’ motivations, and shows details on how teaching and learning should be done.
Figure 2: Learning theories of the 20th century: Behaviorism/Instructionism (Pavlov, 1927, Skinner, 1976,
von Foerster et al., 2009), Cognitivism (Piaget, 1968, Perry, 1999), Constructivism (Piaget, 1968,
Vygotsky, 1978), Constructionism (Papert, 1980, Paper, 1991).
Constructionism
The Constructionist approach (Papert, 1980) is interested in building knowledge through active
engagement and personal experience. Papert noted that individual learning occurred more
effectively when students understood the world around them and were creating something that
was meaningful to them. This experiential and discovery learning by challenges should inspire
creativity, and project work allows for independent thinking and new ways of constructing
information. The iterative process of self-directed learning underlines that humans learn most
effectively when they are actively involved in the learning process and build their own structures
of knowledge. In this theory, communication between students about the work, and the process
of learning with peers, teachers, and collaborators, is seen an indispensable part of a students’
learning (Papert, 1993, Papert, 1991).
“The construction of knowledge through experience and the creation of
personally relevant products. The theory proposes that whatever the
product, e.g. a birdhouse, computer program, or robot, the design and
implementation of products are meaningful to those creating and that
learning becomes active and self-directed through the construction of
artefacts.” [Papert, 1980, p.2]
Thus, Papert described the huge potential of bringing new technology into the classroom (Papert,
1993). For this reason, he co-invented the LOGO programming language in the late 1960s at the
MIT. LOGO was designed to have a “low threshold and no ceiling” and was indeed used to help
novice programmers, and to support complex explorations and the creation of sophisticated
projects (Tinker and Papert, 1989). LOGO set the basis for later visual programming tools, such
as Etoys (Kay et al., 1997) or Scratch (Resnick et al., 2009). Such block based visually oriented
tools made programming accessible for a large number of people and taught new skills such as
engineering, design, and coding (Blikstein and Krannich, 2013). They allow students to recognize
blocks instead of recalling syntax. They are broadly integrated in schools, or even at universities
all over the world (Meerbaum-Salant et al., 2010).
To conclude, psychologists and pedagogues from today following the constructionist approach
state three main goals. First, they wish to rethink traditional education without step-by-step
guidance and to create new social and open environments. Second, they strive to allow students
to engage in meaningful and relevant problem-solving activities, and third, they want to integrate
new tools, media, and technologies in school lessons (Neo and Neo, 2009).
Jeannette Wing, 2006 shaped the term “Computational Thinking” (CT):
“Computational thinking involves solving problems, designing
systems, and understanding human behavior, by drawing on the
concepts fundamental to computer science” (Wing, 2006)
Wing’s idea that children who are introduced to CS learn more than just programming opened a
new way of thinking, e.g., it showed the benefits of learning to think like a technician (Wing, 2008).
Wing’s findings have been incorporated into the CS curriculum of many countries (Kahn, 2017)
and into K-12 movements (Mannila et al., 2014). However, CT is just a small subset of Seymour
Papert's ideas in the 80s (see previous section). Papert was the first who used the phrase
computational thinking and defined it in a much broader way. For instance, Wing focuses mainly
on computer programs, whereas Papert stated that there are more kinds of constructionist
projects, and computational ideas could serve learning in a broad variety of subjects, this can
change the way [children] learn everything else” (Papert, 1980, p. 8). In comparison, CT concepts
lack creativity and student-directed projects (Kahn, 2017). To summarize, CT concentrates on the
importance of coding and computer science activities, thus delivering concepts that are more
applicable and successful on a number of levels (Tedre and Denning, 2016). However, critics
argue that coding should not be seen as a unitary skill but instead as a meta-skill for a complex
network of other skills.
Creative Environments to Reinforce Female Teenagers in Coding
Teaching good game design and development skills is especially important for girls because they
are not that likely to play games (Krieger, Allen and Rawn, 2015). In addition, the literature argues
that even if the number of female students who plays video games increased in recent years, male
students have a greater interest in playing games (Jenson, Castell and Fisher, 2007). However, a
recent study which examined American female players’ experiences showed that 65% of women
play mobile games, compared to 2011 when only 31% of women played mobile games (Google
and NewZoo, 2017). Furthermore, 64% of women prefer smartphones to other platforms (38% of
the men do so). Thus, to use smartphones to design mobile games seems to be a very promising
approach to attract young females. Furthermore, framing a supportive classroom setting for coding
activities is a critical factor, and literature suggests that interventions should specifically target the
classroom climate to strengthen teenage girls’ confidence to motivate female students extrinsically
as well (Beyer et al., 2003). Such first positive experiences in coding may direct their future career
choices towards STEM fields. If they become game designers and creators of their own learning
content through a constructionist, creative, and engaging learning environment, this can
significantly contribute to closing the divide and participation gap in digital culture (Veilleux et al.,
2013, Allison, Cheryan, and Meltzoff, 2016). Thus, the literature states that for young women,
creativity and interest in STEM professions are often related, but there is a lack of practical
relevance in a lot of these subjects. A European-wide study in which 11,500 young women
between 11 and 30 were interviewed (Microsoft, 2017) showed that girls between the ages of 12
and 16 are the most creative. Approximately every third women that has been asked (33%)
criticized how scientific topics were explained in schools and that those subjects are taught from
a more "male perspective". Thus, it is important to make CS more attractive for girls in order to
sustain a balance in this very strongly male-dominated IT labor market. It is therefore important to
eliminate the prejudice that STEM professions are not creative. Through game design activities,
creative environments, and customization, a broader spectrum of girls can be reached (Subsol,
2005). If facilitators promote especially IT careers that are more driven by creative thinking and
design, more female students will expressed their interest in IT careers (Wong and Kemp, 2017).
The European No One Left Behind (NOLB) Project
The focus in the subsequent sections lies on the European No One Left Behind
1
(NOLB) project
and the Catrobat
2
learning apps, Pocket Code and Create@School. The NOLB project has been
funded by the Horizon 2020 framework and involved partners from Germany, Spain, the UK, and
Austria. The vision of the NOLB project was to unlock inclusive game creation and to construct
experiences in formal and informal learning situations from primary to secondary level, particularly
for students at risk of social exclusion. This project started in January 2015 and reached its
conclusion in June 2017 by validating its outcome in different phases: preparation phase, feasibility
study, first, and second cycle. To limit the scope of topics to those relevant to this paper, the
remainder of this section focuses on the results of the second cycle and on the Austrian pilot. In
the past the authors work concentrated on the feasibility study (Petri et al., 2016), evaluation of
performed Pocket Code Game Jams (Spieler et al., 2016), and analyzing female teenagers’
performance in regard to the learning goal achievement of submitted programs (Spieler, 2018).
Educational Coding Apps
Our app Pocket Code (Slany, 2014), is a visual programming language environment that allows
the creation of games, stories, animations, and many types of other apps directly on smartphones
or tablets, thereby teaching fundamental programming skills. Programs in Pocket Code follow a
similar syntax to the one used in Scratch. During NOLB an enhanced version of the app has been
developed and adapted for use in schools. This new version is called Create@School and
integrated the results of the observations during the pilot studies as well as feedback from teachers
and students. Furthermore, a web based Project Management Dashboard (PMD) for teachers was
developed. The app was released in October 2016 for first test runs during the second cycle of
the project. Important components of the new Create@School flavor of Pocket Code were the
gathering of analytics data, the integration of accessibility preferences for children with special
needs, and pre-coded game design templates. In previous work the authors focused on the
evaluation of the Create@School features (Spieler et al., 2017 [1]) and the teachers’ perspective
during NOLB (Spieler et al., 2017 [2]). This paper focuses on the evaluation of the NOLB coding
environments, thus the apps will not be explained in more detail.
In Austria, the NOLB project piloted in three different schools, in total, 478 students participated in
Austria (281 female students and 197 male students). Altogether, 22 coding courses were
conducted, and the coding apps were integrated in the curricula of English, computer science,
physics, fine arts, and music (Spieler et al., 2017 [2]).
Gender Inclusiveness in NOLB
The idea of NOLB included that game creation challenges in classes should enhance female
students’ abilities across all academic subjects, including logical reasoning, creativity, and the
development of social and computational thinking skills (see previous section). Moreover, students
had the opportunity to socialize with their peers during the game making process by working in
teams. To address the gender bias in coding classes, the goal of the Austrian study included how
to make the coding environment more suitable for female teenagers. From the literature, the
assumption for NOLB was to attract girls by:
Increasing their personal attachment to programming by improving our services with
appropriate example games/templates, new assets, and themed tutorials/templates.
Increasing their involvement by encouraging them to become active members of the
Pocket Code community by providing them a safe and interesting environment to join,
with featured games from female users for female users.
Asking them to design their own games rather than just to code programs.
1
http://no1leftbehind.eu/
2
https://www.catrobat.org/
The intent was to discover how to organize the coding units in ways that specifically empower girls
by engaging them with playful and creative activities.
Evaluation of NOLB Activities in Austria
In this section, the NOLB results from the Austrian case study are evaluated to investigate female
students’ experiences, behaviors, and outcomes when using our tools and services in different
courses. With the help of a quantitative and qualitative survey, students’ opinions about the user
experience (UX) of the Create@School app and the courses in which the app was used has been
collected to gain a deeper understanding of the experience evaluation. Overall, a total of 131
students filled out feedback forms in Austria during the second cycle (63 male and 68 female
students). Based on the research design, a t-test was performed which compares whether two
groups (female/male students) have different average values. The evaluation is part of the NOLB
Delivery 5.4 (Spieler and Mashkina, 2017). Results are collected by answering like/dislike
questions: How was your experience with Create@School? (very good very bad). Figure 3
illustrates students’ opinions per answer in percentage. The percentage of female students (in
orange) who rated the experience as “good” was 29% (38), and the percentage of male students
(in cyan) account for 21% (27). The answer option bad was chosen by 13% of the girls (17) and
14% of the boys (19). In general, girls rated the app experience more positively (mean female =
2.63) as their male colleagues did (mean male = 2.37, but not significantly: p = .130, α = .05).
Figure 3: Distribution of answers about the experience with the Create@School app.
To clarify the motivation for these answers, it is necessary to take a closer look at the analysis of
the open-ended questions: What did you like the most? The answers of the participants describe
their positive impressions about the Create@School experience. Answers could be classified into
five different categories: working process, “the app”, the results (their game), organization, or
others. The distribution of the answers among the categories can be seen in Figure 4. This time
a Mann-Whitney U test was performed to analyse whether the central trends of the two
independent samples are different.
Figure 4: Categorization of the positive impressions during NOLB.
Note that one answer could contribute to two categories, for instance the feedback "the finished products
+ the facilitators" contributed to both, results and organization categories.
The category working process contains feedback about preferred actions (e.g., I like to program,
to play the game, to design), or properties of the school units (e.g., having a freedom of choice,
that you could be very creative). The largest statistically significant difference between the
responses of male and female participants was observed for this category, namely 26% of the
girls (36) and 13% of the boys (18) provided positive working process related feedback (z = 2.402;
p = .016, α = .05). The category “app” contains the answers mentioning the experiences directly
connected with the app itself, e.g., the simplicity of the app, or the different effects and
backgrounds. Male students seemed to be significantly more positively impressed by the app
than girls were (z = -1.969; p = .049, α = .05). A number of 8 girls and 20 boys evaluated the app
qualities as positive. Some students were especially satisfied with the results of their work or the
concept of game creation, and the category “results (own game)” contains this type of feedback.
For instance, the results and how everything turned out, or I liked the idea of creating a game
demonstrates this feedback. Of the girls, 9% (12) and 11% of the boys (7) were satisfied with the
results or their personal game. The answers from the category “organization” highlights feelings
about how the unit was structured. This includes if students were enjoying teamwork or solving
the problems on their own, the presence of external people (facilitators of the workshop), usage
of tablets during the school units, etc. It was noticeable that students in the younger age group of
12 - 14 years old were very excited about using the tablets during the school units. Typical
responses for this category were, e.g., to work in a team with your friends, when you (the
facilitators) explained to us how the app really worked, that we had our own tablets. The same
number of the male and female participants’ feedback falls into the category of “organization” with
nine responses from boys and from girls. The replies that could not be clearly classified into any
of the described categories above were summarized into the “other” category. For example,
answers with no clear message, or containing feedback connected to a particular game or
classroom setting, as well as such responses as nothing or everything.
Next, we will take a closer look on the categories “working process” and “app”. The category
“working process” was divided into six subcategories: “designing”, ”creativity”, “playing”, “freedom
of choice”, “programming”, and “other”. Figure 5 shows the distribution of the responses.
Figure 5. Detailed overview of positive impressions category “working process”
The subcategory with the name “designing” summarizes the feedback related to drawing, taking
pictures, personalization of the characters, etc. For instance, drawing our pictures or creating
the characters fall into this subcategory. There were 32% of the girls (17) and only two boys who
identified design related activities as the essence of their positive experience (significant: z =
2.151; p = .032, α = .05). The subcategory “creativity” represents the feedback praising the creative
side of the school units, for instance, you could be very creative, you could do almost any game
you wanted. A total of seven female students and two male students evaluated creativity as the
positive aspect of the Create@School experience. A total of six boys and three girls stated that
they considered “playing” as a positive experience. Answers like “you were allowed to play were
typical for this subcategory. No constraints in choice or actions were valued by two boys and five
girls. These responses were summarized within the subcategory “freedom of choice”. A
representative statement for this subcategory was That you could do whatever you want. There
were four boys and two girls who enjoyed the programming process itself. Typical responses for
the subcategory “programming” were “programming the rocket or programming by ourselves.
The category “app” was divided into four subcategories: LEGO®-style bricks”, features, and
design. The distribution of the feedback can be seen in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Detailed overview of positive impressions of the category “app”.
None of the girls but six boys stated that they were pleased about the LEGO-style bricks in
Create@School. Although the number of answers is too small to be significant, the insights are
interesting. The response “brick system” was representative for this subcategory. A total of nine
boys and four girls liked the “simplicity” of the app. Feedback included It was relatively self-
explaining!”, or components are easy to understand”. The subcategory “features” consists of
answers like the different effects and backgrounds” or “variables were available”. Four boys and
two girls contributed to this subcategory. Equally, two of each gender liked the design of the app.
What did you like the least? Any suggestions for app improvement? The answers to the questions
were the basis for the negative feedback evaluation. Note that some students responded with
everything was fine (6) and some did not give any answer to this question (10). Figure 7
categorizes the negative impressions about the app and the school units.
Figure 7: Categorization of the negative impressions about the app and the school unit.
Note that one answer can contribute to two categories, for instance the feedback It was too complicated
and it took too long to finish the game” contributed to both the “organization” and “complicated” categories.
The category “app” consists of the feedback related only to the Create@School app, for example,
it looked kind of tacky, complicated, confusing”, “the axis of the screen”, or “it was buggy”. There
were 33% of the boys (41) and 17% of the girls (21) who provided this kind of feedback (significant:
z = -3.372; p = .0007, α = .01). Responses such as it took too long to finish up the game”,
introduction of the app was boring”, or The instructors were not able to explain everything to us”
about the unit were summarized into the category “organization”. There were 8 boys and 14 girls
who gave this kind of responses. The feedback of the contents of the type “I found some things
complicated”, make it simpler for people that are not technical”, or “you needed help a lot” were
summarized under the category “complicated”. There were 21 girls (17%) and only 2 boys who
gave this type of feedback about their experience with Create@School. The replies that could not
be clearly classified into any of the categories described above were summarized into “other”, for
example, the answers with no clear message, or complaints about the devices and other apps. A
breakdown of the category “app” into subcategories can be seen in Figure 8.
Figure 8. Detailed overview of negative impressions of the category “app”.
The subcategory “buggy” contains the feedback about the app behavior that students considered
as bugs, responses about slow performance, and mentions of app crashes. 32% of the boys (23)
and only 8% of the girls (6) gave this type of feedback about the app (significant: z = -2.73; p =
.006, α = .01). The representative answers for this subcategory were Create@School crashes
ALL the time, It sometimes stopped, didn't always work smoothly”, or “it took AGES to load”.
Seven boys and one girl stated that the app lacks structural clarity, and is confusing, e.g. the app
totally lacks the structure”, or some things should be easier to find”. These answers were
summarized within the subcategory “confusing”. Nine girls and eleven boys complained about the
complexity of the app (subcategory “complicated”). Comments characterizing the subcategory
“unattractive design” were, for example “It looked kind of tacky” or “the design is rather boring”.
The subcategory “other” contains all other responses that were related to the app, e.g., missing
features (the axes of the screen should be like in Scratch).
Conclusion and Discussion
The results of the UX experiences with Create@School showed many significant responses and
helped the authors to shape future workshops. Overall, the answers about likes and dislikes can
be clearly separated by gender. On the one hand, female students significantly preferred the
aspects of the Create@School units (“working process”) and mostly related to design activities,
but did not mention the programming aspect explicitly. Negative impressions from female students
concentrated more on the organization of the units or on the level of complexity, and less on the
app itself. On the other hand, male students mentioned app related aspects, like programming
and Create@School’s simplicity, as positive impressions significantly much more often than the
units. Their dislikes significantly concentrated on the app, e.g., that it was buggy. This reflects the
complaints of only six girls. Surprisingly, answers from girls also included that they did not like
coding at all, whereas this was not an answer given by boys. The low performance and high error
rate of the app is still a serious issue, but seems to have been more problematic for the male
students. Possible reasons are again that boys are more used to utility apps (“tools”) and game
engines than girls are (Krieger, Allen, and Rawn, 2015).
To conclude, there are statistically significant different aspects which are more important for girls
than for boys. In the literature review, the authors already described that CS lessons are mostly
constructed to suit the interests of males. However, this evaluation shows that the working process
and the sequence of the units are particularly important for engaging female students. Thus, for
them not only is the tool essential but the learning environment as a whole, as well as the ability
to express their own interests, e.g., through designing and creative activities. Based on these
statistically significant results and our analysis of the existing literature, and after the completion
of the NOLB project, we started to design more suitable learning environments for girls, particularly
focussing on aspects of gender sensibility and awareness (McLean and Harlow, 2017). We shortly
describe them in the next section and will publish a more detailed description in a future paper.
Outlook
One result of NOLB, the Create@School app, was a great opportunity to provide schools with a
tailored package of tools and services to help them integrate coding in their classrooms and to
apply the app for interdisciplinary project work. This is important for the future to support teachers
in Austria with the upcoming challenge to integrate a basic set of digital literacy education
3
in
secondary schools. After NOLB, the authors concentrated their research on how to apply the
NOLB results to tailor the Catrobat services to female needs. Therefore, we have developed a
new course model that includes extrinsic and intrinsic motivators as well as four key fields which
have been considered as important for coding activities: playfulness, engagement, creativity, and
coding. This model has already been tested with two classes of 23 students (one mixed gender
class and one girls-only class). This sample clearly was very small, and thus we plan further larger
studies in the same and in different contexts (outside school). As a first step, an intensive “Girls
Coding Week” will be performed later in 2018 to test the model’s efficiency.
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BibTex entry:
@InProceedings{SPIELER2018APP,
author = {Spieler, B. and Slany, W.}
title = {Female Teenagers and Coding: Create Gender
Sensitive and Creative Learning Environments}
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 5th Conference on
Constructionism},
isbn = {978-609-95760-1-5},
location = {Vilnius, Lithuania},
month = {22-25 August, 2018},
year = {2018},
pages = {644-655}}
... The PECC Assessment Template is part of the PECC Framework (Spieler and Girvan, 2020). Originally developed as the Game-Making Teaching Framework (GMTF) for middle and high school children during the H2020 project "No One Left Behind" (NOLB, funded by the European Commission [645215]), and it has developed based on emerging data (see Spieler and Slany, 2018a;Spieler and Slany, 2018b). The NOLB GMTF provided a frame for the NOLB project to understand and apply game mechanics and dynamics as well as to integrate the app and other tools and services into the academic curricula. ...
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Game development-based learning and creative coding activities are seen as an opportunity for young people to acquire programming skills and overall, Computational Thinking (CT) skills in an entertaining way. The goal of such activities is to create playable gaming artefacts. While learning to code is becoming more and more important, young game designers miss a clear map to know how game and design elements can be organized and in which situations, specific elements or structures are appropriate. The aim of this paper is to present a valid assessment for structuring games created with visual coding languages. In different workshop settings (out-off school workshops, school workshops) 84 participants between 10 and 15 years old have individually created gaming applications with our Catrobat environment. Games created during these workshops (2017-2019) were analysed and structured in game elements, design elements, and game complexity. This method is based on various existing frameworks, for example, the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics (MDA) framework, which provide a consistent structure to define game elements, goals, and rules, thereby delivering a common framework and vocabulary for games. The transfer of game concepts in a consistent structure should support the overall clarity of the game and should help to focus students on the relevant elements of games. We argue that students need guidelines to be able to implement more complex games even with visual programming languages. The result, the Playing, Engagement, Creativity, and Creating (PECC) Assessment Template should support the process of evaluating gaming apps in visual coding languages, can be used by researchers as a valid method for structuring games, helps all students to adhere to good game design principles, and teachers can use the analysis to evaluate games created with visual programming languages.
... The results showed that gaming elements female teenagers tend to create during the GCW mostly follow stereotypical expectations as described in Section 2.1. Compared to our previous experiences in heterogeneous groups and school classes this was not seen as something negative by girls (Spieler and Slany, 2018b). ...
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Recent studies from all over the world show that more boys than girls play video games. The numbers are different for mobile gaming apps, where 65% of women are identified as gamers. Adapting game design activities for academic purposes is a widely applied approach at schools or off-school initiatives is seen as a promising opportunity for all teenagers to learn to code in an entertaining way. This raise the questions do special girls' game-design patterns exist, and what can we learn from them? This paper describes a girl-only intervention where girls were asked to create their own games. This "Girls' Coding Week" was designed as an off-school event and took place during summer 2018 with 13 girls between 11 to 14 years old. To explain the basic steps of programming and to create personalized games, the visual coding app Pocket Code, an app developed at Graz University of Technology, was used. The girls created their own games with the help of a storyboard after receiving all important information about coding. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected through open interviews, as well as created artefacts and surveys which refer to motivational aspects. The findings show that gaming elements female teenagers tend to like, create, and play, mostly follow stereotypical expectations. In contrast to our experiences in heterogeneous course settings, this was not seen as something negative by girls. Furthermore, the findings provided evidence for game-making environments for girls. Subsequently, the results contributed to the development of new featured games to be used in our app to inspire female users around the world to code their own games. The authors argue that by understanding these differences in game design, we can support girls so that they become game designers and thereby more interested in coding.
... What seems to be a promising opportunity for all students to learn about coding in an entertaining way raised the question of whether such game-based concepts also help to fix the gender gap of women in CS related fields. In more recent contributions, the authors presented results from the European H2020 No One Left Behind (NOLB) project (2015-2017) which aimed at supporting female students in particular with the coding app Pocket Code during different classroom projects (Spieler, 2018;Spieler and Slany, 2018a;Spieler and Slany, 2018b). The results suggested promising ways of empowering female students in coding classes with game design and creative activities, although locally designed courses are not a guarantee of longterm success. ...
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