The Effect of Unplugged Programming and Visual Programming on Computational Thinking in Children Aged 5 to 7
Keywords:Unplugged programming, computational thinking, smart games, primary education
This research focuses on the development of computational thinking (CT) among one-hundred and eight primary school pupils in the Netherlands aged five to seven years. It compares the use of unplugged programming and visual programming with on-screen output. In addition to the effect of using different programming environments, this research also establishes whether age differences and prior knowledge of programming have an additional influence. By means of a pretest-posttest design, using the validated quantitative instrument TechCheck, possible differences between the development of CT in both experimental groups and a control group could be objectively determined. To this end, pupils from both experimental groups have applied during five programming sessions of forty-five minutes each either unplugged story introduced smart games or used the plugged-in programming environment ScratchJr. Our results show a significant difference in CT development between unplugged programming and visual programming with on-screen output. Moreover, unplugged programming had a more positive effect on the development of CT compared to the control group than visual programming with on-screen output. A moderating effect could be attributed to age differences and prior knowledge of programming. This may provide an additional explanation regarding the identified impact and significant differences found.
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