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On the Road with Codester: Using an Educational App to Teach Computer Science to Grade 1-6 Students

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Conference

2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Computer Programming and Simulation

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count

12

Page Numbers

24.950.1 - 24.950.12

DOI

10.18260/1-2--22883

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/22883

Download Count

126

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Paper Authors

biography

Gili Rusak Siena College

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I am currently an undergraduate student at Siena College taking classes in computer science and mathematics.

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Abstract

Come Code with Codester: An Educational App that Teaches Computer ScienceDespite dramatic changes in technology over the past several years, attracting and educatingyounger students at the elementary school level in the disciplines of computational thinking andcomputer science remains a challenge. Furthermore, only limited use of the developing tabletand smartphone technology has been made to impact the education of K-12 students in thissubject. Our research tackles both of these issues. We created a novel Android application, Codester, which teaches young studentscomputational thinking and principles of programming. Unlike the approaches of otherprograms, Codester allows students to learn in the form of a fun and engaging game and tounderstand important concepts in a quick and easy environment. The game builds on the basicprinciples of logic: users transport a cartoon character called Codester from its original locationto the designated target square by dragging and dropping commands into a “code prompt,” seefigure on next page. Codester’s design relies on commands in the form of arrows and symbols.Through the user studies that we conducted, this was shown to be a very important aspect in thespeed at which students learned to play the game. Our application had rapid results in the improvement and understanding of users. In our1st – 3rd grade study, the students used Codester and within three sessions of a half hour each,they learned new programming concepts. Similarly, in our middle school study, the studentswere able to progress through the game and within only an hour and they, too, learned. Theconcepts that Codester teaches are sequencing, iteration, decision making, and code reuse. Thegame additionally teaches efficiency and introduces several ways to solve the same problem. Therapid pace at which users learned to use the game is unique to our design. Other programs, suchas Scratch, take more time for younger users to learn. Also unique to Codester is its accessibility on mobile devices. Any user who owns anAndroid tablet or smartphone is able to play it from anywhere. Unlike Lego Mindstorms, whichrequires materials, software, and space, Codester is mobile and convenient. The last contribution is the effectiveness of Codester in teaching basic computationalconcepts to its users. Our user studies validated this effectiveness of the program: questionnairesshowed improvements in logic skills and computational skills of students after using Codester.These results especially showed improvements in code reuse concepts and questions involvingfine details. Interviews additionally reflected that students were enthusiastic about the app andmany wanted to continue to play it after the user study had ended.   Figure 1: The application’s user interface.     The user study       

Rusak, G. (2014, June), On the Road with Codester: Using an Educational App to Teach Computer Science to Grade 1-6 Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22883

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