The Effects of a Visual Execution Environment and Makey Makey on Primary School Children Learning Introductory Programming Concepts
The interest of children in learning to program computers has increased dramatically in recent years with the adaptation of new programming languages such as Scratch or game-based approaches. That being so, it is still unclear how best to teach programming concepts to young children. There is a gap in the literature on how to introduce basic programming concepts to children at the primary school level, while taking factors such as the grade level and approach used into account. This paper explores the best approach for introducing basic programming concepts to school children in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades as well as the effects of the approaches on students’ learning gains (per concept). The concepts addressed here are those used in a traditional Introduction to Programming course, such as programs, memory and variables, inputs and outputs, conditionals and loops. The paper presents the resulting improvements achieved by the 4th, 5th and 6th graders in a multigroup pretest-posttest design, with a control group (the use of a blackboard as an unplugged approach) and two experimental groups (the use of a visual execution environment (VEE) with a mouse and the use of the VEE with Makey Makey). We present the results exploring the interaction between the grade and approach factors for the 144 children (9-12 years old) enrolled in primary education. The results provide statistically significant data indicating how the children succeeded in learning basic programming concepts according to their grade, the type of approach used, and the programming concept under study.
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