Exploring Control in Early Computing Education
In the paper we reflect on how our design research approach in the current development allows us to study the increasing cognitive complexity of different levels of control which pupils conduct when they program Emil, a virtual character on the screen. In our earlier work we outlined conceptual framework for primary programming, which recognised three different levels of control: (a) direct manipulation, (b) direct control and (c) computational control (i.e. programming) an actor. In the present research we managed to get deeper into the complexity of control by identifying four instead of three of its levels. Based on our close collaboration with three design schools we have also found that it is more productive to project and analyse learning progression of pupils connected with control within two-dimensional grid, where the first dimension is control itself and the second explores the way how the control is represented. Along this dimension we have identified five distinct levels of representation: (a) none, (b) as internal record, (c) as external record, (d) as internal plan for future behaviour, and finally (e) as external plan for future behaviour. In our paper we explain the grid of control by presenting selected tasks from different environments of Emil, our new approach to educational programming for Year 3 pupils.
KeywordsPrimary programming Program as record Program as plan Levels of control Control/representation grid of cognitive demand
The authors would like to thank Indicia, non-for-profit organisation funding our project, all the teachers and pupils from our design schools for their invaluable contributions to the design and development of Emil intervention, and Celia Hoyles, Richard Noss and James Clayson for exciting discussions about the issue of control in educational programming.
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