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The hAPPy-Lab: A Gender-Conscious Way To Learn Coding Basics in an Open Makerspace Setting


Abstract and Figures

In Computer Science, and particularly in the context of Maker Education, students should try out new technologies (including coding) or craft techniques without fear of failure and in a playful way. Studies have shown that learning programming through tinkering appeals to boys more than girls. Taking that into consideration, tools and tasks can make a huge difference in an open learning and teaching environment. These observations are supported by the results of a pop-up-makerspace event for children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 14. The "MAKER DAYS" for kids took place in the summer of 2019 at Graz University of Technology and attracted 132 children for 4 days. The main goal of the event was to enable authentic learning experiences and to try out new technologies. Participants could choose from a variety of activities, including digital fabrication with 3D-printing, soldering, programmed embroidery, coding, and robotics. Five workshop areas focused on coding skills. The "hAPPy-Lab" acted as a starting point to practise Computational Thinking as well as to learn the basics of coding by developing an app. For example, participants with minor or no coding skills, who wanted to create an embroidery design or use a microcontroller, were asked to visit the hAPPy-Lab first. The hAPPy-Lab implemented a carousel activity and the participants were supported by peer tutors. In this paper, we present the didactic and educational environment of the hAPPy-Lab and suggestions for a similar environment in school.
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The hAPPy-Lab: A Gender-Conscious Way To
Learn Coding Basics in an Open Makerspace
Bernadette Spieler1[000000032738019X], Maria Grandl2 [0000000248699725],
and Vesna Krnjic2 [0000000195554556)]
1University of Hildesheim, Universit¨asplatz 1, 31141 Hildesheim, Germany
2Graz University of Technology, Rechbauerstr. 12, 8010 Graz, Austria
Abstract. In Computer Science, and particularly in the context of Maker
Education, students should try out new technologies (including coding)
or craft techniques without fear of failure and in a playful way. Stud-
ies have shown that learning programming through tinkering appeals to
boys more than girls. Taking that into consideration, tools and tasks can
make a huge difference in an open learning and teaching environment.
These observations are supported by the results of a pop-up-makerspace
event for children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 14. The
“MAKER DAYS” for kids took place in the summer of 2019 at Graz
University of Technology and attracted 132 children for 4 days. The
main goal of the event was to enable authentic learning experiences and
to try out new technologies. Participants could choose from a variety of
activities, including digital fabrication with 3D-printing, soldering, pro-
grammed embroidery, coding, and robotics. Five workshop areas focused
on coding skills. The “hAPPy-Lab” acted as a starting point to practise
Computational Thinking as well as to learn the basics of coding by devel-
oping an app. For example, participants with minor or no coding skills,
who wanted to create an embroidery design or use a microcontroller,
were asked to visit the hAPPy-Lab first. The hAPPy-Lab implemented
a carousel activity and the participants were supported by peer tutors.
In this paper, we present the didactic and educational environment of
the hAPPy-Lab and suggestions for a similar environment in school.
Keywords: Open Learning Spaces ·Maker Space ·Girls ·Creative Cod-
ing ·Improving Classroom Teaching ·Teaching/Learning Strategies.
1 Introduction
Making is seen as a promising didactical approach in school to promote im-
portant skills such as creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. However,
making is not so much about a fully equipped makerspace, but rather about the
2 B. Spieler et al.
development of a maker mindset: Being self-confident and motivated to imple-
ment one’s ideas [3].
A “maker” is a person who builds, creates, disassembles, extends, redesigns,
finds solutions, or implements his or her ideas, which can be anything. There
is no clear definition of a Maker’s creative area. However, the new thing that
has defined the Maker community for some years now, at least since the rise and
omnipresence of smartphones and tablets, is the use of modern technologies along
with traditional craftsmanship and the related materials (e.g., craft stuff) and
tools (e.g., sewing machine). Characteristical maker tools are digital fabrication
tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and programmable boards [18]. Maker
Education creates opportunities to engage children in crafting and tinkering by
building creative designs or (digital) projects, thereby learning fundamentals of
computer science, electronics, or design and engineering practices, specifically,
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM, or STEAM when art
is included) [10].
The MAKER DAYS for kids, which took place in the summer of 2018 and
2019 at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) in Austria, acted as a play-
ground for the implementation of the basic principles of Maker Education in an
open teaching and learning setting for children and teenagers aged 10-14. With
the MAKER DAYS, new learning experiences with digital technologies should
be enabled, i.e., combining technical educational content with do-it-yourself ac-
tivities and social aspects. Results of the MAKER DAYS 2018 showed that
participants who already had some basic programming skills found it easier to
develop innovative product ideas [8]. Three workshop areas (robotics, physical
computing, and programmed embroidery) focused on the creation of a program
while using a defined development environment [7]. In 2019, the hAPPy-Lab was
introduced to act as a starting point to practise Computational Thinking (CT)
and to learn the basics of coding by developing small programs with the help of
the app Pocket Code.
In this paper, we focus on the learners’ experiences in the hAPPy-Lab by
asking how to efficiently teach the basics of programming within a short time and
with the goal of empowering girls through playful and creative coding activities in
an open makerspace setting. Based on the results of the MAKER DAYS 2019, the
authors comment on the learning activity design in terms of flexibility, efficiency,
gender ratio, popularity and creativity in the context of an open learning and
teaching environment.
2 Computer Science and Maker Education
There has been a growing interest in teaching students to program to prepare
them for the demands of our increasingly digital society [4]. Computational
Thinking (CT) and programming are often referred to as the literacy of the
2121 century [23]. This movement goes well beyond the idea that “we need more
software developer” [6]. Consensus is growing that CT and programming are
The hAPPy-Lab 3
critical skills for all and are quickly becoming a new learning domain, on par
with reading and mathematics.
The concept of Makerspaces is more related to creating tinkering-spaces for
children, promoting active participation, knowledge sharing, and collaboration
among children through open exploration and creative use of technology [14].
Smaller “versions” of this concept could also be integrated into classrooms in
the form of maker education [5]. Digital tools, including low-cost microcontroller
platforms, visual coding applications, or online community infrastructures can
bring the idea of making and tinkering to classrooms [10] and create opportuni-
ties to learn about programming principles.
The most difficult issue of making is to define and implement one’s projects.
Identifying a problem or finding an idea for a (digital) project are important
qualifications. However, the possibility to choose one’s project increases the iden-
tification and consequently, the motivation to work on this project [17]. Many
things are demanded from a teacher in an open learning environment as they
need to accompany and supervise the individual implementation of their stu-
dents’ ideas. The teacher has to accept that he or she might not have an answer
to a question immediately. In the best case, the teacher has to structure a learn-
ing activity in a way that it is open, but has enough instructions, so that nobody
is overwhelmed. Asking students to act as facilitators or experts and to help the
other students can take some of the pressure off the teacher, but forces the
teacher to (probably) change the understanding of one’s role. From a student’s
point of view, learning is different in an open makerspace setting, compared to
the content and methodology of a regular class in school. They are allowed to
copy and share their ideas and to define and solve their problems. Sometimes
such activities are focused on designing games or supporting students to build
playable artefacts [12]. In this case, strategies that focus more on design and
creativity a game and less othe programming itself can provide a promising way
to attract all and female teenagers in particular for coding activities [20]. With
digital designs, activities coded to be more “male” such as engineering and CS
can be combined with activities that are considered as traditionally “female”,
such as crafting and sewing. For example, e-textiles have a huge potential to
attract all genders. Decorating cloth, sewing circuit designs on clothes, for ex-
ample with conductive thread, or programmable embroidery machines are often
part of maker spaces. As a result, young people have something to wear that
they could show to others.
Another crtical aspect of maker education is creation of safe learning envi-
ronments in a more gender-sensitive way, e.g., taking into account that young
people with different levels of prior knowledge in CS visit such courses. There-
fore, mentoring or tutoring programs are key elements to introduce especially
girls to technical subjects and to awaken their interest for CS [22, 1]. Female tu-
tors with whom they can personally identify are described as the most effective.
Furthermore, the research of Krieger, Allan, and Rawn [9] observed tinkering
strategies across genders in undergraduate students of CS via interviews and a
questionnaire. According to the authors, tinkering means exploring and is gen-
4 B. Spieler et al.
erally considered as an informal practice. Thereby, they see it on the same level
as using problem-solving abilities or students asking for help. Results showed
different definitions or perceptions of tinkering activities by gender, and that
girls are less likely to see themselves as tinkers. Thus, the authors proposed to
think of teaching tinkering for non-tinkerers as well. This is also consistent with
the findings of Beckwith et al. [2] who stated that male students seem to benefit
more from tinkering activities. However, tinkering can help girls to gain valuable
information about the features and increase their self-efficiency. Low tinkering
interactions and low self-efficiency occur in girls if they use environments that
are described as too complex. The study concludes that gender differences exist
in the way students solve problems, which may indicate a need for supportive
feature designs.
3 The Event: MAKER DAYS for kids
The MAKER DAYS for kids are an educational event for children and young
people aged 10 -14 year, with the overall goal to help children and teenagers
become more fluent and expressive with new innovative technologies as well
as traditional tools and materials [7]. Inspired by the concept and results of
the first MAKER DAYS in Bad Reichenhall (Germany) in 2015, the MAKER
DAYS took place at TU Graz in the summer of 2018 and 2019. As part of the
university’s summer course program for children and teenagers, the MAKER
DAYS offered different activities in an open makerspace setting, where more
than 50 participants per day were supported by (peer) tutors. In 2019, the pop-
up makerspace was open for four days and participation was limited to two days.
Registration was required to ensure a balanced gender ratio. In 2019, 58 children
and teenagers (45% female, 55% male) participated at the MAKER DAYS on
the first day, 57 (44% female, 56% male) on the second day, 65 (46% female,
54% male) on the third day and 59 participants (47% female, 53% male) on the
last day.
Four lecture rooms with an overall size of 400 m2were transformed in a tem-
porary makerspace with separated workshop areas, focusing mainly on digital
fabrication (creating files for the 3D-printer, vinyl cutter, laser cutter, sticker ma-
chine and embroidery machine), coding and robotics (physical computing with
programmable boards, e.g., BBC micro:bit, Calliope mini, creating projects in
Scratch, choose from selected coding tutorials, app design, and coded embroi-
dery with Pocket Code, solving tasks with the Thymio robot, the mBot, and
the Ozobot), electrical engineering (soldering, building electric circuits, projects
with littleBits), crafts and arts.
From a participant’s point of view, the day started with a guided makerspace
tour. Then, participants could choose from different activities and work on their
projects in the corresponding workshop areas. In 2019, every participant got
an empty sticker card, which also acted as a name tag. The participants could
collect stickers if they spend a certain amount of time on a specific activity or
The hAPPy-Lab 5
create a (valuable) product [8]. Each workshop area had a characteristic sticker
and additional star stickers for outstanding projects.
4 The hAPPy-Lab
The idea of the hAPPy-Lab was to teach children the basic principles of pro-
gramming (e.g., loops, conditions, variables, communication between objects)
and to practise CT (e.g., writing an algorithm, debugging, decomposition). The
results of the MAKER DAYS 2018 showed that basic programming skills were
required in three main workshop areas or making activities. The tutors argued
that they often had to explain the basics in a short space of time to keep the
participants’ motivation and interest on a higher level. The participants’ focus
was often more on the final product (e.g., a traffic light, using the BBC micro:bit,
3 LEDs, crocodile clips and cardboard) and not on the iterative (learning) pro-
cess (e.g., How can I turn an LED on/off with the BBC micro:bit) that leads
to the final result. This is why the project head decided to implement a cod-
ing activity, where a large number of participants could participate at the same
time, independent of their programming experience and learning rate. As well
as that, participants should be motivated to create their app (e.g., game, story,
animation,etc.) with the Pocket Code app in the end.
4.1 The Pocket Code App
For creating games during the hAPPy-Lab we used our coding app Pocket Code.
Pocket Code uses visual block-oriented programming language very similar to the
one within the Scratch environment. With over 50 million shared projects (as of
July, 2020), Scratch is one of the best-known visual programming languages for
children and teenagers in the world. According to Seymour Papert [13], founder
of constructionism and developer of LOGO, a programming language needs to
be characterized by the following two characteristics: On the one hand, it should
enable an easy and intuitive introduction to programming (“low floor”) [16]. On
the other hand, it should allow users to implement complex and sophisticated
projects (“high ceiling” and “wide walls”)(ibid.) Scratch and Pocket Code, both
fulfill those requirements. Accordingly, a programming language should enable
the implementation of many different projects to meet the user’s different in-
terests and learning methods (ibid., [15]). Programs created by the users show
that Scratch appeals to different target groups since the context of a program
is not limited to areas related to CS. However, currently Scratch is only avail-
able on desktop computers. Considering the enormous growth and low prices
in the market of smartphones in the past 15 years we can assume that smart-
phones will probably be used more by students in future than PCs or laptops.
The free mobile app Pocket Code developed by the non-profit Catrobat project
( at Graz University of Technology, was one of the first de-
velopment environment for Android based systems, implementing a block-based
and object-oriented programming language according to model of Scratch. In
6 B. Spieler et al.
addition, users of Pocket Code can use all built-in sensors (inclination sensor,
GPS, face detection, etc.) of their device to control an object.
Furthermore, Pocket Code has a number of extensions that allow users to use
external hardware within their created projects. Categories for special hardware
such as Raspberry PIs, Arduino, Lego Robotic, or Embroidery are hidden per
default and can be enabled in the preferences. The Embroidery extension was
especially developed to make the app more attractive for young women from 13
years on. During the MAKER DAYS 2019 participants were able to program
self-created patterns and designs that were embroidered on T-shirts, bags, or
other fabrics.
4.2 Tutors
The results of the first MAKER DAYS event in Bad Reichenhall in the year
2015 have shown that “girls chose more workshops offered by female tutors
than boys” [19]. Consequently, a female role model (tutor or teacher) “seems
to be a strong supporter to help girls to get in touch with technology.” (ibid.)
A European-wide study by Microsoft [11], in which 11,500 young women be-
tween 11 and 30 were interviewed, showed that the lack of female role models
is currently among the top 5 reasons why girls/women are underrepresented
in technical professions and studies. Because of this, we decided to ask female
students, who have applied for a holiday internship at TU Graz, to support
younger kids in the hAPPy-Lab. The students were between 16 and 19 years
old and had already worked several weeks with Catrobat/Pocket Code at the
Institute of Software Technology. They were also required to participate in the
development process of the learning and teaching materials that were used in
the hAPPY-Lab.
4.3 Activity Design
The hAPPy-Lab implemented a carousel learning activity that consisted of five,
more or less mandatory, tasks and two optional tasks. In order to receive a
sticker for the hAPPy-Lab, participants of the MAKER DAYS had to solve all
five tasks/units. On each table, they could find the corresponding learning ma-
terials. The units build upon each other. In the first unit (at the first table), a
new “empty” app (project) is created in Pocket Code and the term object was
introduced. In each unit, participants are asked to add a new functionality to
the app (Unit 1: new project/objects, Unit 2: animation/loops, Unit 3: interac-
tion/messages, Unit 4: collision/conditions, Unit 5: game design/variables). A
guided process was defined: There is a task, which should be implemented by
the students as independently as possible. New commands and programming
concepts are explained on the correlating aid or cheat sheet. To better under-
stand the (logical) program flow and to get to know new commands even faster,
the commands (bricks), that are necessary to solve the task/unit, are provided
as laminated printouts. In this way, participants had the opportunity to place
the sequence of commands (for a specific object) on the table and discuss the
The hAPPy-Lab 7
program structure with other students and the tutor. After this unplugged cod-
ing activity, participants are asked to solve the task with Pocket Code. If all
tasks were completed by the participants, he or she could do an additional task
(Cookie-Clicker app) or start with the development of an own app. The whole
lab is illustrated in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1. The hAPPy-Lab: A carousel learning activity with five learning units and tasks
to introduce participants to the basic concepts of coding by using the app Pocket Code.
Another optional activity was offered in the lab (see Fig. 1 left): Children
who were waiting for a free place in the carousel coding activity or those who
just wanted to try something out for a short time could tinker by using special
robots called “bigtrack Rover”. To control the wheels, these robots do not require
an additional connection, e.g., via Bluetooth, but it is controlled with four light
sensors. Children used a pre-installed program and they only had to call the
predefined messages within the code to activate the different light sensors. A
tutorial of the required bricks was part of the printed-out mazes, so they could
try this activity without further guidance and thus had a first introduction to
the app and coding.
5 Findings
The findings of the hAPPy-Lab elucidate the setting of the lab and explore the
activities more broadly by providing insights into the different learning units
and workshop days. Throughout the week, participant observation notes were
recorded during and immediately after each day. Based on those observations,
short-term adjustments on the activities were made. Furthermore, we tracked
if participants who visited the lab intending to gain programming experiences
8 B. Spieler et al.
visited other stations, for example, the programmed embroidery workshop where
participants had to use the Pocket Code app again.
5.1 The hAPPy-Lab in Numbers
A total of 76 individuals (42 girls, 34 boys) visited the hAPPy-Lab during all
workshop days (Monday: 25 participants, Tuesday: 11 participants, Thursday:
19 participants, Friday: 21 participants). Some of the children visited the Maker
Days for two days (either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday). Since
the hAPPy-Lab was promoted as a pre-activity for other workshop areas focused
on coding skills, more participants decided to visit the hAPPy-Lab on their first
day. The numbers of participants for each activity within the hAPPy-Lab (see
Section 3.2) are summarized in Tab. 1.
Table 1. Completed activities of hAPPy-Lab participants.
Individual visits All units Cookie Clicker
Challenge Own app Rover activity
Female 42 32 19 1 5
Male 34 28 13 3 6
Total 76 60 32 4 11
60 participants, this is 45% of all participants, finished all units. Almost
all participants experimented with the rovers while waiting for the “all units”-
activity. 11 participants only tried out the Rover without any further engagement
in the hAPPY-Lab. 32 participants (19 girls, 13 boys) finished all units and the
final Cookie Clicker challenge. One girl and three boys finished all units and
created their own app afterward. Five students (4 female, 1 male) visited the lab
on two different days to work further on the units.
3 students (2 male, 1 female) received a star sticker for their completion. On
average, participants needed 105.26 minutes to finish all five units. The fastest
with all units was a boy with the minimum time of 31 minutes. The longest
time needed to complete all units was 325 minutes by a girl (almost 6 hours).
On average participants spent 91.26 minutes within the hAPPy-Lab working on
different activities. Girls spent on average 87.68 minutes within the hAPPy-Lab
and boys spent on average 94.41 minutes. 5 participants visited the lab two times
(4 girls, 1 boy).
Additionally, we examined if participants who programmed their embroidery
designs in Pocket Code in the textile studio have visited the hAPPy-Lab before-
hand. 26 children created their embroidery designs in the textile studio and 7
children (2 male, 5 female) completed all units in the hAPPy-Lab before the em-
broidery activity, 5 students participated in the hAPPy-Lab afterwards, 2 girls
only did the rover activity beforehand and 12 participants (6 male, 6 female) did
not visit the hAPPy-Lab at all.
The hAPPy-Lab 9
5.2 Observation Notes
The whole lab was designed with a focus on gender-sensitive issues by having
female tutors and a progressive course introducing the foundations of program-
ming. During the guided makerspace tour, first, the hAPPy-Lab was promoted
as “If you have no prior knowledge in coding, you better start here.” The team
had the feeling that especially the girls took this advice very seriously. Conse-
quently, on the first and third days, the lab had been fully exploited and many
participants were waiting for the next slot. Furthermore, the team recognized
that many participants wanted to complete all units within a short time to be
able to attend other workshops where those basics of programming were needed.
The idea was that each of the four tutors introduce one unit and supervise
6 children. After completing one unit, the children go to the next table to work
on the subsequent unit with a different tutor. For most of the participants it
was their very first introduction to coding thus they needed more time for unit
1 and unit 2 to get familiar with the tool and the basic concepts/vocabulary
such as algorithms and loops. So when the first six participants started with
Unit 1, not only the other children had to wait until the tutor from Unit 1
was available again, but also three of the tutors had nothing to do. The whole
material (instructions, bricks, activities etc.) was glued to the table. That made
it impossible to do a unit at another table and also the room was very small
so that it was not possible to rearrange the tables. This was the reason why we
decided that the tutors escort one group of children through all five units and
move with them from table to table. On the one hand, this allowed each group
to work at their own pace and not feel stressed as the next group was already
waiting. On the other hand, fewer children could visit the lab at the same time.
Starting with the second day, it was also said that more time should be scheduled
to get the sticker for the hAPPy-Lab.
Children who were waiting were asked to come back at a later time or six
children could try out the Rover activity at the same time, which was intended
as an introductory activity. In contrast, most of the other workshops had a fixed
start and end times. In general, less than one hour was planned for all units.
Children who completed all units, and the corresponding challenge or an own
app needed much more time (up to 2 hours). In the beginning we planned that
only those who completed all units and the challenge would get a sticker in
their pass. From day two onwards a sticker was given as soon as all units were
With the adjustments of day one, the children were much more relaxed and
wanted to try out several activities of the lab. Some just visited to try out
the Rover activity. This could be completed in about 10 minutes. Three of the
children also spent a longer amount of time to create their own gaming apps
by making extensions of the Cookie Clicker challenge or they used the tutorial
cards with whole games explained (for example the one girl who spent almost 6
hours in the lab).
10 B. Spieler et al.
6 Discussion
The hAPPy-Lab has two central findings: on the one hand, results lend evidence
to the assumption that coding workshops that were promoted as “learning the
basic knowledge” interest predominantly female participants; on the other hand,
it shows that those who visited the hAPPy-Lab mostly finished all units. 74.07%
who entered the hAPPy-Lab also received a sticker for completing all units. This
let us conclude that the overall structure of the lab (guided process, step-to-step
approach, tutors) strongly encourages participants to finish the activity, i.e., to
have a finished app/game at the end. As well as that, tutors of other workshop
areas agreed, in an qualitative interview after the event, that participants per-
formed better in the coding activities after finishing the hAPPy-Lab activities.
The hAPPy-Lab was mainly attended by girls. Compared with the other
workshops of the Maker Days only two more workshops had more participating
girls than boys: the programmable embroidery workshop with 18 girls and 8 boys
and the Smart-Lab (physical computing with programmable boards) with 17
girls and 13 boys. In contrast, the Code Garden (e.g., coding tutorials, Scratch,
textual programming languages, etc.), where basic knowledge in programming
was of advantage, only 18 girls took part but 42 boys.
The observation notes of the hAPPy-Lab activities during the Maker Days
let conclude that the setting of the lab and the carousel learning activity in
particular (with different times required for each unit) was not ideal for this
open learning space environment. The room offered space for 24 people. Due
to the carousel learning activity and the necessary change between the tables,
far fewer than planned were able to attend at one time. Since especially in the
morning everyone came to the lab at the same time, a fixed seat with one tutor
per table for all units and without the formation of group would have been a
better solution.
7 Conclusion & Outlook
To current study showed an effective way how 11-14 year old children can learn
the basics of coding in an open makerspace setting and whether this lab also
appeals to girls in particular, e.g. through the support of female peer tutors and
an easy introduction to coding with the visual coding tool Pocket Code. The
hAPPy-Lab provides evidence for the learning of coding in a short time, but
also highlights some difficulties. For example, children must have the possibility
to work at one’s own pace. Some felt stressed by working as a group in such a
carousel learning activity. Those who were faster wanted to go already to the
next station whereas some needed more time. Therefore, it is difficult to set a
fixed time frame for the hAPPy-Lab. Especially in children’s first programming
attempts it is essential to have time and to get support especially for girls [21].
If important concepts are taught too fast and are not understood, the chance
that those visit another coding activity at the MAKER DAYS will probably be
The hAPPy-Lab 11
All the documents that were used in the hAPPy-Lab are published as Open
Educational Resource (OER) on the project website (
Teachers are allowed to copy, edit, and redistribute the learning material. This
way, the carousel learning activity can also be implemented in a classroom set-
ting with a teacher and 2-4 students as tutors or experts. Students need to bring
their own device (BYOD) and have to download and install the app Pocket Code
(available for Android and iOS). As students can create their own embroidery
designs with Pocket Code, CS teachers and handicrafts (textile and technical
design) teachers can work together to exploit the full potential of Pocket Code
and to meet the students different interests.
The setup and operation of a makerspace for schools are often connoted with
considerable effort and require higher financial resources. However, instead of
buying special, expensive manufacturing equipment, schools and teachers should
think of how they can help their students to develop a Maker-Mindset in the
context of a rapidly changing digital society and should look at the possibilities
given on site.
In August 2020, the MAKER DAYS for kids will take place again at TU Graz.
Due to the Covid-19-regulations, the project head applied some adaptations
to the concept. The number of participants was limited to a maximum of 36
participants per day. This year, there will be a small version of the hAPPy-Lab
where participants can apply for a basic course (app design) or submit their own
project ideas, which are approved by peers and tutors.
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... In this way, individual ideas are implemented and innovatively realized, for example, in the form of projects. Therefore, another critical aspect is creating safe and open learning environments in schools and considering that students have different prior knowledge in programming and computer science, or have different approaches in tinkering [8]. ...
... The main methods used during the exploratory workshops included on-site observation notes, questionnaires, interviews with focus groups, and analysis of the students' designs [9]. Figure 1 shows impressions of school workshops. Furthermore, during the "Maker Days for Kids" events in 2019 and 2020 at Graz University of Technology, the Catrobat apps were used for the purpose of introducing students to the basics of programming while creating a gaming app and for creating patterns [8]. ...
... boards [19]). Makerspaces can be publicly accessible creative spaces at fixed locations, temporary "pop-up" events like the "Maker Days for Kids" events in Austria and Germany [22], or mobile versions (e.g., "Workshop in a Box" Smaller versions of this concept can be integrated into classrooms [13]. ...
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Several biases and thresholds challenge the reach of girls in technology-related activities. For this contribution we collected and structured existing research and good practices on how to reach girls within projects in the field educational robotics, makerspaces, coding and STEM in general. The contribution presents general guidelines for future activities with a potential higher rate of participating girls in makerspace settings.
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The maker movement in education is linked to better, more authentic learning that can help students develop 21st century competencies. Maker experiences, like any experiential learning, can be limited by decontextualized, recipe-style labs and fail to deliver on the promise of engaged learners ready to learn on demand and solve the ill-defined problems of the 21st century. Our multiphase research program on maker culture in education held a series of exploratory workshops and social events to discover the competencies required to turn experiential learning with technology into maker experiences that meet 21st century needs.
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The blocks programming community has been preoccupied with identifying syntactic obstacles that keep novices from learning to program. Unfortunately, this focus is now holding back research from systematically investigating various technological affordances that can make programming more accessible. Employing approaches from program analysis, program visualization, and real-time interfaces can push blocks programming beyond syntax towards the support of semantics and even pragmatics. Syntactic support could be compared to checking spelling and grammar in word processing. Spell checking is relatively simple to implement and immediately useful, but provides essentially no support to create meaningful text. Over the last 25 years, I have worked to empower students to create their own games, simulations, and robots. In this time I have explored, combined, and evaluated a number of programming paradigms. Every paradigm including data flow, programming by example, and programming through analogies brings its own set of affordances and obstacles. Twenty years ago, AgentSheets combined four key affordances of blocks programming, and since then has evolved into a highly accessible Computational Thinking Tool. This article describes the journey to overcome first syntactic, then semantic, and most recently pragmatic, obstacles in computer science education.
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Recent trends in gaming diversification have shown that women are both an increasingly significant pool of consumers and game producers, and regular victims of misogynistic harassment. Such observations stress the importance of investigating the complex relationships of women and gaming. In this paper, we draw upon perspectives from Feminist HCI to extend the current knowledge of issues in gaming that are specific to women. We present results from a mixed-methods study with 327 participants who are students and alumnae of a women's college. Our findings shed light on the complex relationships of women with games, with other gamers, and with gaming culture and industry. The results also indicate that in some cases gender-related negative experiences of gaming have lasting impact on the participation and self-confidence of young women. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for the design of games, game development education, and for the study of gaming.
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Various aspects of computational thinking, which builds on the power and limits of computing processes, whether they are executed by a human or by a machine, are discussed. Computational methods and models are helping to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behavior, by drawing on concepts fundamental to computer science (CS). Computational thinking (CT) is using abstraction and decomposition when attacking a large complex task or designing a large complex systems. CT is the way of thinking in terms of prevention, protection, and recovery from worst-case scenarios through redundancy, damage containment, and error correction. CT is using heuristic reasoning to discover a solution and using massive amount of data to speed up computation. CT is a futuristic vision to guide computer science educators, researchers, and practitioners to change society's image of the computer science field.
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Research points at various factors for the low and even decreasing proportion of women in the IT sector in developed countries, e.g., psychological causes, social factors, or structural conditions. These possible explanations all have one thing in common: they recognize adolescence as the essential confidence-building phase in girls. Girls aged 12 to 15 years old seem to lose interest in computer science (CS). Providing mentors and female role models are two key elements to counteract gender stereotypes in CS. "RemoteMentor", a joint Austrian research project brought these two approaches together and expanded them in the form of "remote tutoring": female students aged 14 to 15 received one-on-one human support through smartphones for their coding project during their regular CS and arts lessons. The aim of the one year investigation was to analyse gender aspects in the tutoring process and the output of the collaborative coding project. This was done with group discussions , the evaluation of the online tutoring units and an analysis of the final games in regard to the applied Computational Thinking concepts. Results showed that the project was a promising approach to support and motivate at least a certain group of female students in coding.
Conference Paper
Girls have long been dismissed and trivialized by the game industry. The Girls' Game Movement of the 1990s aimed to create games specifically for girls, but ultimately struggled to reach consensus on whether to make games catering to the feminine content that girls expressed interest in, or whether to challenge gender stereotypes and guide the ways that girls engage with games. Other research-based programs and interventions to engage girls in game design have faced similar difficulties, attempting to find balance between respecting girls' values and empowering them as designers. This paper offers a review of these programs, highlighting similarities in findings about what girls value in games and design, and synthesizing shared challenges and struggles. Analyzing past programs can be invaluable to contemporary educators, scholars, and designers looking to engage girls with game design and technology.
The Maker Movement is a community of hobbyists, tinkerers, engineers, hackers, and artists who creatively design and build projects for both playful and useful ends. There is growing interest among educators in bringing making into K-12 education to enhance opportunities to engage in the practices of engineering, specifically, and STEM more broadly. This article describes three elements of the Maker Movement, and associated research needs, necessary to understand its promise for education: 1) digital tools, including rapid prototyping tools and low-cost microcontroller platforms, that characterize many making projects; 2) community infrastructure, including online resources and in-person spaces and events; and 3) the maker mindset, aesthetic principles, and habits of mind that are commonplace within the community. It further outlines how the practices of making align with research on beneficial learning environments.