Using Scratch with Primary School Children: An Evaluation of Games Constructed to Gauge Understanding of Programming Concepts

Using Scratch with Primary School Children: An Evaluation of Games Constructed to Gauge Understanding of Programming Concepts

Amanda Wilson (School of Computing, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK), Thomas Hainey (School of Computing, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK) and Thomas M. Connolly (School of Computing, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2013010107


Newer approaches such as games-based learning (GBL) and games based-construction are being adopted to motivate and engage students within the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in Scotland. GBL and games-based construction suffer from a dearth of empirical evidence supporting their validity as teaching and learning approaches. To address this issue this paper will present the findings of observational research at PE level using Scratch as a tool to construct computer games. A list of criteria will be compiled for reviewing the implementation of each participant to gauge programming proficiency. The study will review 29 games from Primary 4 to Primary 7 level and will present the overall results and results for each individual year. This study will contribute to the empirical evidence in games-based construction by providing the results of observational research across different levels of PE and will provide pedagogical guidelines for assessing programming ability using a games-based construction approach.
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Previous Work

Programming for Children

Programming can be taught from an early age (Gibson, 2003; Resnick et al., 2009) and over the years there has been a number of languages developed aimed at the novice user (McNerney, 2004; Kelleher & Pausch, 2005). There have been many projects undertaken to introduce programming to children, though not all necessarily within the classroom. Some have created after school clubs to introduce children to computing (Borghi, De Ambrosis, & Massara, 1991; Gibson, 2003; Kelleher, Pausch, & Kiesler, 2007; Lindh & Holgersson, 2007; Malan & Leitner, 2007; Maloney et al., 2008). Kelleher, Pausch and Kiesler (2007) created a programming environment that would engage girls more in programming by modifying the Alice platform. This was then tested using a between-subjects study for both programming environments to identify which one they enjoyed using more. Results showed that the girls did prefer the modified programming environment; however this study only concentrated on girls. The Toontalk programming environment has a video game-like style with animations within it symbolising programming attributes; e.g. a house in Toontalk represents an object or actor in programming (Kahn, 1996) and has been used in a study with pre-school children (Morgado & Kahn, 2008).

Adventure author is another example of a programming tool designed to make games and is aimed at children aged 10-14 (Robertson & Good, 2005). The tool allows children to create their own interactive story, which other children are then able to play. This is also similar to Storytelling Alice, (Kelleher, Pausch, & Kiesler, 2007), which was used as an approach to encourage girls to develop an interest in computer programming and is based on Alice (a freeware object-oriented educational programming language). The use of electronic toys is another way in which children can be taught about programming, programmable bricks (Wyeth & Purchase, 2000) and Lego toys such as Mindstorms. Using Lego Mindstorms children were taught some basic computer concepts over six months, with lessons structured so that they started off as being teacher-led then eventually allowed pupils to work on their own (Barrios-Aranibar et al., 2006).

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