Is the use of Makey Makey Helpful to Teach Programming Concepts to Primary Education Students?

Is the use of Makey Makey Helpful to Teach Programming Concepts to Primary Education Students?

Diana Pérez-Marín (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain), Raquel Hijón-Neira (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain), Ainhoa Romero (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain) and Silvia Cruz (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2019040105
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New computer devices such as Makey Makey are proposed for children in primary education to learn computer programming. That way, students can interact with the computer with any conductive material, such as fruits or Play-Doh. The research question is whether playing with fruits as interactive devices can help primary education students learn concepts of computer programming. An experiment has been performed to answer the question with 62 primary education children. The results gathered provide significant evidence that students can learn more without using the fruits. Psychological factors may explain these results.
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Programming has been recognized as one of the significant competences required by students in the 21st century (Grover & Pea, 2013). However, after introductory programming courses, most college students find difficult to decompose problems, develop plans, and, to use programming languages (Chao, 2016).

In the last years, the interest in studying Computer Science has been extended to children (McCartney & Tenenberg, 2014; McCartney, 2015; Heintz et al., 2016) with conferences such as International Conference on Informatics in Schools (ISSEP) or International Computing Education Research (ACM ICER), workshops such as Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education (WiPSCE) and International Projects such as TACCLE 3 (García-Peñalvo, 2016) focused on the topic attracting a great deal of research.

Some authors suggest that teaching programming at childhood could be more effective (Kazakoff et al., 2013; Strawhacker et al., 2015). Moreover, other studies claim that, when learning programming, children acquire the Computational Thinking (CT) (Wing, 2006) required in later stages to solve a variety of problems (García-Peñalvo et al., 2016; Brackmann et al., 2016; Sze et al., 2014)

A common approach to teach programming to children is using Scratch (Resnick et al., 2009; Ouahbi et al., 2015). Scratch can also be used with Makey Makey, which is a platform for improvising tangible user interfaces (Silver et al., 2012). Makey Makey was originally created in 2010 by two MIT students, Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum at MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten. It works using a circuit board, alligator clips, and a USB cable. Makey Makey uses closed loop electrical signals to send the computer either a keyboard stroke or a mouse click signal. The student can connect fruits, Play-Doh or any conductive material to Makey Makey. It can create a tangible user interface that controls any software running on a computer that normally receives input from the keyboard or mouse (Lee et al., 2014; García-Peñalvo et al., 2016). Figure 1 shows how a child interacts with the computer using Play-Doh.

Even though using Makey Makey is relatively easy, only two papers have been found studying its effect in learning. The first paper was written by Lin and Chang (2014), they used Flash and Scratch-based multimedia with a Makey-Makey-based task system to increase the motivation level of kindergarten children with cerebral palsy to perform physical activities. The second paper was written by Rogers et al. (2014) that describes the successful experience of using it with retired people.

Figure 1.

Sample use of Makey Makey


Other approaches to teach programming to children are based on using Lego WeDo or Mindstorms EV3 robots (Sović et al., 2015), making games (Campe & Denner, 2015) and unplugged approaches (Brackmann et al., 2016). However, the effects of using unplugged approaches have not been properly evaluated and are still unclear (Kalelioğlu, 2015).

Using games in classrooms to improve learning has been proposed in the literature (Garvey, 1977; Connolly et al. 2012). Therefore, a possible line to follow could be using fruits or Play-Doh to interact, as in a game, with the programming environment. However, it is still unclear if this insight can be validated with statistically-significant data. Therefore, it is our research question whether playing with fruits as interactive devices could help Primary Education students to learn computer programming concepts.

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