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Teaching Computer Science Concepts Through Robotics to Elementary School Children
Studying computer science (CS) in elementary schools has gained more and more popularity during recent years. However, students at such an early age face difficulties when first engaging with CS. Robotics has been proposed as a medium for teaching CS to young students, because it reifies concepts in a tangible object and because of the excitement of working with robots. We asked: What CS concepts can elementary-school students learn and understand from the participation in a robotics-based CS course?
Students from four second-grade classes (ages 7-8) were taught CS concepts using Thymio educational robot and its graphical software development environment. The syllabus was based on existing learning materials that were adapted to the cognitive level of the students.
A taxonomy of six levels was created to characterize the learning outcomes of the course. The students' abilities were investigated using four questionnaires that were based on the taxonomy. In addition, field observations of the lessons were recorded.
The analysis showed that the students were very engaged with the robotics activities and were highly motivated. They did learn basic CS concepts, although they found it difficult to create and run their own programs. There was a gap between the students' abilities regarding advanced concepts as reflected in the classroom activities and their performance on the questionnaires that they answered without the robot.
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