Examining Young Children's Computational Artifacts

Examining Young Children's Computational Artifacts

Apittha Unahalekhaka, Madhu Govind
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7308-2.ch014
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Computational thinking (CT), in line with the constructionist perspective, is often best displayed when children have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills by producing creative coding artifacts. Performance-based or project portfolio assessments of young children's coding artifacts are a rich and useful approach to explore how children develop and apply CT abilities. In this chapter, the authors examine various rubrics and assessment tools used to measure the levels of programming competency, creativity, and purposefulness displayed in students' coding artifacts. The authors then discuss the development of ScratchJr and KIBO project rubrics for researchers and educators, including examples to illustrate how these highly diverse projects provide insight into children's CT abilities. Finally, the authors conclude with implications and practical strategies for using rubrics in both educational and research settings.
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Elisa is in first grade. She wants to create a ScratchJr project where she throws a birthday party in space and invites her classmates to eat a birthday cake with aliens. Elisa has a complex plan to include multiple scenes in her project. Using the paint editor tool on ScratchJr, she customizes her characters: a girl who looks like and represents herself, a rocket, aliens, a birthday cake, and friends. The first scene is at the street in front of her house. Elisa starts her program with the green flag. A voice recording plays, “Please come to my birthday party,” after which a purple rocket flies off into space. As soon as the rocket lands on the moon (second scene), character-Elisa and her friends are greeted by an alien that looks like a jellyfish. This jellyfish brings out a blue gigantic birthday cake that gets bigger every time Elisa taps on the cake. After the cake triples in size, it jumps, makes a pop noise and spins away. The project ends in a bedroom (third scene) where character-Elisa wakes up, realizes her space birthday party is all a dream, and exclaims with a text bubble, “That was a strange dream I had!”

In the kindergarten classroom down the hall, Shiro sits down with his KIBO robotics kit, excited to return to his final project. His teacher had just read aloud the book Pete the Cat: Robo-Pete and tasked the class with a final project to create their own KIBO robot-friend. Shiro wonders, “What will my KIBO look like? I like to play soccer, so I want KIBO to play soccer with me.” He looks at the programming blocks and begins to assemble a program: Begin, Forward, Turn Left, Turn Right, Shake, End. Shiro scans each block carefully using the KIBO robot’s embedded barcode scanner and then runs his program. Shiro’s teacher comes to check on his progress and asks Shiro about his project idea. Shiro explains how his robot-friend is moving around on the soccer field to kick the soccer ball into the goal. Shiro’s teacher comments, “That’s a neat idea! Is there anything you could add to show that KIBO made the goal?” Shiro thinks for a moment and looks over at his blocks. He notices the lightbulb module, and a light goes off in his head. He responds, “I’m going to add a white light at the end to show that KIBO made the goal!” He places the White Light On block between the Shake and End blocks, inserts the lightbulb module into one of KIBO’s ports, and scans his revised program. He exclaims, “I love it! My KIBO scored the winning goal, hooray!”

Millions of computational artifacts like Elisa’s and Shiro’s have been created, remixed, and shared all around the world. Each of these projects is special in its own regard comprising unique sequences of coding blocks, but they all share one thing in common: each project reflects something about the child’s ability to think computationally. In Chapter 1 of this book, Dr. Bers writes, “As children make computational media, they develop computational thinking (CT). This involves more than just problem-solving or logical thinking; it means gaining the concepts, skills, and habits of mind to express themselves through coding.” In this chapter we will explore this notion further by examining how children develop and display their CT abilities through producing creative and personally meaningful projects.

We begin this chapter by presenting existing literature on the assessment of children’s coding projects. We then introduce two rubrics we developed for ScratchJr and KIBO that assess the coding concepts and project design elements displayed in children’s computational artifacts. Next, we discuss some of the similarities and differences between the two rubrics, highlighting the CT opportunities afforded by different interfaces. Finally, we end the chapter with implications and practical strategies for using project rubrics in educational and research settings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

KIBO: A screen-free programmable robotics kit for young children with blocks, sensors, modules, and art platforms.

Event: An action that causes something else to happen.

Parallelism: Multiple codes executed concurrently for a single character.

Computational Artifact: Anything created by a human using a computer.

Project-Based Learning: Student-centered pedagogy in which students acquire knowledge and skills by actively exploring real-world projects and challenges.

ScratchJr: A free block-based programming application for young children.

Syntax: The set of rules, principles and processes of a language that govern the arrangement of words and phrases.

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