The Impact of User Interface on Young Children’s Computational Thinking

Alex Pugnali, Amanda Sullivan, Marina Umashi Bers
Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice  •  Volume 16  •  2017  •  pp. 171-193
Aim/Purpose: Over the past few years, new approaches to introducing young children to computational thinking have grown in popularity. This paper examines the role that user interfaces have on children’s mastery of computational thinking concepts and positive interpersonal behaviors.

Background: There is a growing pressure to begin teaching computational thinking at a young age. This study explores the affordances of two very different programming interfaces for teaching computational thinking: a graphical coding application on the iPad (ScratchJr) and tangible programmable robotics kit (KIBO).

Methodology : This study used a mixed-method approach to explore the learning experiences that young children have with tangible and graphical coding interfaces. A sample of children ages four to seven (N = 28) participated.

Findings: Results suggest that type of user interface does have an impact on children’s learning, but is only one of many factors that affect positive academic and socio-emotional experiences. Tangible and graphical interfaces each have qualities that foster different types of learning
robotics, coding, early childhood, user interfaces, collaboration, computational thinking
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