In computer science education at school, computational thinking has been an emerging topic over the last decade. Even though, computational thinking is interpreted and integrated in classrooms in different ways, an identification process about what computational thinking is about has been in progress among computer science school-teachers and computer science education researchers since Wing's initial paper on the characteristics of computational thinking. On the other hand, the constructionist learning theory by Papert, based on constructivism and Piaget, has a long tradition in computer science education for describing the students' learning process by hands-on activities. Our contribution, in this paper, is to present a new mapping tool which can be used to review classroom activities in terms of both computational thinking and constructionist learning. For the tool, we have reused existing definitions of computer science concepts and computational thinking concepts and combined these with our new constructionism matrix. The matrix's most notable feature is its scale of learners' autonomy. This scale represents the degree of choices learners have at each stage of development of their artefact. To develop the scale definitions, we trialed the mapping tool, coding twenty-one popular international computing activities for pupils aged 5 to 11 (K-5). From our trial, we have shown that we can use the mapping tool, with a moderate to high degree of reliability across coders, to analyse classroom activities with regard to computational thinking and constructionism, however, further validation is needed to establish its usefulness. Despite a small number of activities (n = 21) being analysed with our mapping tool, our preliminary results showed several interesting findings. Firstly, that learner autonomy was low for defining the problem and developing their own design. Secondly that the activity type (such as lesson plan rather than online activity) or artefact created (such as physical artefact rather than onscreen activity or unplugged activity), rather than the computational thinking or computer science concept being taught was related to learner autonomy. This provides some tentative evidence, which may seem obvious, that the learning context rather than the learning content is related to degree of constructionism of an activity and that computational thinking per se may not be related to constructionism. However, further work is needed on a larger number of activities to verify and validate this suggestion.
Coding and computational thinking have recently become compulsory skills in many school systems globally. Teaching these new skills presents a challenge for many teachers. A notable example of professional development designed using Constructionist principles to address this challenge is ScratchEd. Upon reflecting on her experiences designing and running ScratchEd, Karen Brennan identified five tensions faced by professional development providers, and proposed that these tensions could be used for scrutinising and critiquing professional development. In this paper we analyse, through the lens of Brennan's tensions, the process we have followed to design, evaluate and improve professional development. We argue that while we have experienced the same tensions, the extent to which we assess learning is a new tension that extends those identified by Brennan. There are strong reasons to assess teachers' knowledge, however, quantitative measures of learning could be at odds with Constructionism: as Papert argued in Mindstorms, constructionist educators should study their learning environments as anthropologists. Consequently, we have called this new tension the tension between anthropology and assessment.
Notwithstanding the hype surrounding the enthusiasm and rush that characterises the employment of robotics in formal educational contexts, their use is described as nothing less than fragmented. In the circumstances that processes of adoption and application of digital tools are clearly outpacing their accommodation and enactment in formal educational settings, a teacher-training framework for the integration of robotics in primary schools is being proposed.
Anticipated to be editable in context by teachers, a mediating tool whose actions are defined by the Activity Theory is presented to provide a framework for activities, aims, learning outcomes and suggestive complementing hardware. Thematically built around a constructionist approach, and having a long-standing tradition in early childhood education, it should simultaneously enhance the student and teacher learning experience towards robotics in a meaningful manner.
We present some results of an ongoing research project where university engineering students were asked to construct videogames involving the use of physical systems models. The objective is to help them identify and understand the elements and concepts involved in the modelling process. That is, we use game design as a constructionist approach for promoting a modelling activity and the learning of the elements involved. In this paper, we focus on the case studies of two students, in their last year of studies, who built a videogame where they had to model liquid water behaviour while working within the restrictions of the game engine. By analysing students' written work and group discussions, we observed that students, through this videogame-building task, were able to deepen and refine how they conceive the process of mathematical modelling, in a fun and engaging way in which they were receptive and open to experimentation, and learned from other students, as well as from making mistakes.
This paper represents a first attempt at constructing a language for describing the potential learning value of computers as a learning material. A lack of precision in describing the value computers add to the learning process has paradoxically made it easy for people to elevate the significance of using computers in pedestrian ways while simultaneously marginalizing higher-order uses such as Logo programming. Colleagues are invited to extend or challenge this paper's hypotheses.
In the early 1980s Seymour Papert was dissatisfied with Robert Taylor's metaphors for the use of the computer in education. Taylor wrote about the computer as a tool, tutor or tutee (Taylor, 1980) while Papert described the computer as ``mudpie'' (Papert, 1980a; Papert, 1984) and then later more generally as material (Papert and Franz, 1987). The tool metaphor dominates most discourse regarding the use of computers in education. Educators and policy-makers alike use it to describe nearly every application of ``technology''. It would be impossible to list all of the examples of ``computer as tool'' in common usage or even scholarship.
This work attempts to define the continuum that lies between the use of computers to reinforce traditional practice and the powerful ideas Papert writes of in Mindstorms (Papert, 1980b). While Papert's subsequent work provides examples of the construction of powerful ideas he fails to identify less powerful uses of computers. This may be the result of simple omission or a desire to appear polite. In either case all manner of computer-based activities have been granted equivalence by an education community lacking a precise metric for assessing value. When combined with the liberal and often inaccurate use of terms like constructivist we are left with a culture of intellectual relativism in which the loudest voice sets the standard.
Dichotomies like conservative/liberal, traditional/progressive, Democratic/Republican are inadequate for describing educational philosophy and its resulting translation into practice. Papert's instructionism vs. constructionism seems a more precise way of describing one's learning theory and the practice that follows.
It seems impossible to invent an empirical metric for measuring the efficacy of computer use in the context of education. There are simply too many variables involved in a complex system such as education. The nature of learning is even more difficult to quantify in anything but a reductionist fashion. Therefore, I propose the creation of a continuum that spans the gulf between traditional education routines possibly enhanced by the use of a computer and the sort of powerful idea construction only possible with the purposeful use of the computer. The subjectivity of the examples are acknowledge, but are intended to generate discussion.
Compelling examples of children, computers and powerful ideas will be presented at Eurologo.