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Journal Article

An Exploration of the Role of Visual Programming Tools in the Development of Young Children’s Computational Thinking  pp297-309

Simon P. Rose, M. P. Jacob Habgood, Tim Jay

© Aug 2017 Volume 15 Issue 4, Editor: Elizabeth Boyle and Thomas Connolly, pp281 - 366

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Programming tools are being used in education to teach computer science to children as young as 5 years old. This research aims to explore young children’s approaches to programming in two tools with contrasting programming interfaces, ScratchJr and Lightbot, and considers the impact of programming approaches on developing computational thinking. A study was conducted using two versions of a Lightbot‑style game, either using a ScratchJr‑like or Lightbot style programming interface. A test of non‑verbal reasoning was used to perform a matched assignment of 40, 6 and 7‑year‑olds to the two conditions. Each child then played their version of the game for 30 minutes. The results showed that both groups had similar overall performance, but as expected, the children using the ScratchJr‑like interface performed more program manipulation or ‘tinkering’. The most interesting finding was that non‑verbal reasoning was a predictor of program manipulation, but only for the ScratchJr‑like condition. Children approached the ScratchJr‑like program differently depending on prior ability. More research is required to establish how children use programming tools and how these approaches influence computational thinking.


Keywords: Visual programming, Education, Computational thinking, K-12, Lightbot, Scratch


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Journal Issue

Volume 15 Issue 4 / Aug 2017  pp281‑366

Editor: Elizabeth Boyle, Thomas Connolly

View Contents Download PDF (free)



Keywords: Sign Language; American Sign Language; Recognition System; Kinect; Expert System; Game-Based Learning; Knowledge Engineering, Visual programming, Education, Computational thinking, K-12, Lightbot, Scratch, Microgames, learning, gender, culture, Multiple intelligences; Game preferences; Game mechanics; Evidence-based; Game design; Learning games, Collaboration, problem solving, online assessment, log stream data, measurement, e-learning, Educational Video Games; TAM (Technology Acceptance Model); Higher Education; Behavioural intention; Age


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