Programmable Little Red
Duration: 2020.10 - 2021.03
Fangqing He (Co-lead)
Daisy Chen (Instruction Designer)
Yumih Chang (Visual Designer)
Mingnan Du (Visual Designer)
Key Words and Phrases:
Applied Computing -> Interactive Learning Environments
I'm mainly in charge of the design of physical Interaction with Micro:Bit and Scratch, workshop design and qualitative data collection & analysis.
Numerous studies have established digital storytelling as an effective method for engaging students in Computational Thinking (CT). To further maximize the effectiveness of digital storytelling in developing the CT of grade school students, we proposed building upon the digital narrative by means of an immersive environment and the inclusion of interactive tasks. A 4-day workshop was developed and hosted to assess the proposed learning system with 6 children aged 11-12 years old. Students found the proposed learning system more engaging and were able to better solve authentic problems using CT. The research yielded a co-authored extended abstract and poster accepted at the 17th ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research (ICER 2021): https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3446871.3469797
Over a 4-day span, we organized a workshop to implement and assess our proposed learning system at an international school located in Shanghai, China. For the purposes of the workshop, the story of Little Red Riding Hood was selected to be expanded upon and Scratch was chosen as the programming language.
During the workshop, participants were guided in a first-round walkthrough of a completed immersive and interactive rendition of the Little Red Riding Hood Story in order for them to gain a clear understanding of the possibilities and expectations for the outcome of the workshop. Participants were led in brainstorming sessions to develop alternate storylines and were given lessons to familiarize them with Scratch and its extension for interaction. The participants’ unique additions to the storyline along with introduced CS and physical sensing concepts were tied together to develop interactive tasks which called for the practical application of what they learned.
Alignment of Learning System and Computational Thinking Phases
Storyline Design & Physical Interaction
Designing the immersive and interactive features of the digital story required a close study of the storyline. Characters and locations were identified, as were key events which were documented in the form of a storyboard. The below figure demonstrates the overall storyline design including the interactive scenes and possible new plots students might propose.
Demonstration of the Storyboard
The first interactive webcam task prompts Little Red’s character, controlled by the students, to select a fruit to bring to her sick grandmother. Little Red can choose from an apple, pear, or grapes and the student interacts with the scene by hovering their hand over the props. The webcam recognizes the students’ choices and the story on the screen can move forward. From this activity, students learn the concept of conditional statements in a real-world usage scenario and sprites-based motion detection techniques via camera to allow choice-making interactions between humans and machines. The rest of the two interactions are audio-based interaction called for a dialogue between the students, participating in the role of Little Red, and the Wolf using sound detection in Scratch, and the micro:bit interaction where students need to physically touch the furniture prop in order to activate the micro: bit sensor and trigger the selection in the digital story.
Demonstration of Physical Interactions
The workshop was hosted in a conventional classroom space. The simplest and most effective method for transforming the space was to project the digital story onto the walls. As we dissected the story of Little Red Riding Hood to identify important events, three locations were identified: Little Red’s House, The Woods, and Grandma’s house. As the story moved linearly through these three locations, it was decided that each location would be assigned a wall to project the story onto and in that way, students would move progressively around the room as the story progressed.
Demonstration of Classroom Setup
Data Collection & Data Analysis
Six students, 3 boys, and 3 girls, aged 10-11 participated in the workshop, of which 5 out of 6 had some form of previous experience with CS education or robotics experiences, and one of them has no experience in programming. Except for one student who didn’t attend the workshop due to personal reasons on the last day, 5 students participated in the whole workshop.
Observational data included students’ behaviors while experiencing the story, discussing storyline development, and implementing new scenes.
We also collected students’ final scratch files of their built scenes, which can be combined with the observational data to shed light on how much students learned from the workshop and to what extent can they apply that CT in solving complicated problems.
We conducted a semi-structured interview on the last day of the workshop for students to reflect on their experiences.
The study focuses on students’ level of engagement in learning programming and their ability to apply CT in analyzing and solving authentic problems. We used thematic analysis to color-code the script and grouped it into themes.
Our themes include Abstraction: Problem formulation, Automation: Solution expression, Analyses: Solution execution and evaluation, Engagement. Students showed their empathy and their ability to ease into real-world applications through tinkering. The immersive storytelling environments motivated them to express their solution with Scratch. All participants expressed their satisfaction with the learning experience in different CT phases, indicating that the design of the learning model maintained the level of engagement of students through the different sessions of the workshop.
Conclusion & Future Work
The learning system provides learners with interactive and immersive digital storytelling experiences. In the workshop conducted with grade school students using this learning system, we observed the improvement of students’ engagement level in learning Scratch-based programming. Students delivered positive feedback in the interview on the last day of the workshop, mentioning that the experience of this workshop even changed their perception of CS education and the application of sensory technologies in real life. Based on these findings, we conclude that there are potentials to apply the proposed learning system in CS education as an approach to raise student engagement.
Two limitations of the current learning system are the variations of the story and the scalability. Learners at different ages with different prior programming knowledge have multiple preferences over the stories. Besides, since the workshop only tests this learning system with small class size, the learning experience could change when extending this format to a larger group of people. The future investigation includes developing this learning system into a learning toolkit that is more portable and accessible to a broader range of audiences. Another potential direction is to integrate methods of cultivating learners’ solution evaluation ability into the learning system in the future.