“I want my robot to look for food”: Comparing Kindergartner’s programming comprehension using tangible, graphic, and hybrid user interfaces

  • Amanda Strawhacker
  • Marina U. Bers


In recent years, educational robotics has become an increasingly popular research area. However, limited studies have focused on differentiated learning outcomes based on type of programming interface. This study aims to explore how successfully young children master foundational programming concepts based on the robotics user interface (tangible, graphical, hybrid) taught in their curriculum. Thirty-five Kindergarten students participated in a 9-week robotics curriculum using the LEGO WeDo robotics construction kit and the Creative Hybrid Environment for Robotic Programming (CHERP) programming language. A mixed methods data collection approach was employed, including qualitative observational data from the classrooms, as well as quantitative mid- and post-test assessments of students’ programming knowledge using CHERP. The findings show little association between user interface and programming comprehension, although there may be an order-affect when introducing user interfaces. Implications for best practices when introducing programming in early childhood settings are discussed.


User interfaces for education Tangible programming Kindergarten Robotics Early childhood education 



This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF Grant DRL- 111897). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The authors would like to extend many thanks to the wonderful and creative teachers of the East Boston Early Education Center who welcomed us to teach in their classrooms for this study, and to their principal for embracing a new venture into classroom technology. We also thank the members of the Developmental Technologies Research Group who contributed to this research: Ellen Gage, for assisting in the development of the Solve It assessment; Natasha Link, for assisting with data analysis; and the many Tufts graduate and undergraduate students who assisted in the classrooms.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The DevTech Research GroupTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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