Graphical/Tangible Input and Output for Kids Coding

There has been the global trend of coding education in younger age. “Don’t just buy a new video game, make one.” stated President Obama, the first US president who writes codes and keeps promoting coding education for young children. UK government has developed a comprehensive ICT curriculum including computer programming for 5-14 years old. Catching up this popular trend, Hong Kong government has advised schools to allocate 30% of time of Computer Literacy subject to programming concepts at junior secondary level in its initiatives of Digital 21 Strategy in 2014. As follow, the “Hour of Code” movement has engaged more than 40 organizations in Hong Kong, to promote the value of coding among children. More recently, Let’s Code, collaborating with Cyberport and OGCIO, hosted the “Youth Coding Jam 1000” activity which set the new world record of youth coding, by involving 1000 young children to code collaboratively in Minecraft.

 

I am now serving as the external advisor of Let's Code, an NGO in Hong Kong to promote kids coding education. My team has developed a set of tools, mixing different modalities of input and output for teaching children computer programming.

 

Of interest are the advantages and disadvantages of graphical and tangible interfaces for teaching coding to children, we conducted four kids coding workshops to study how different input and output methods in coding affected  the problem-solving process and class dynamics. Results revealed that graphical input could keep children focused on problem solving better than tangible input, but it was less provocative for class discussion. Tangible output supported better schema construction and casual reasoning and promoted more active class engagement than graphical output but offered less affordance for analogical comparison among problems. We also derived insights for designing new tools for kids coding and teaching computational thinking to children, leveraging the advantages and eliminating the disadvantages of the different modalities. .

 

Co-authors: Xiaojuan Ma, Gary Ka Wai Wong, John Man Ho Huen.

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Interviewed by aTV program