Supporting Early Learning of Computational Thinking Using Mixed Reality Technology

Supporting Early Learning of Computational Thinking Using Mixed Reality Technology


This project will introduce young children to computational thinking, which involves breaking down complex problems into manageable pieces, identifying steps and sequences to solve the problem, and generalizing a solution to solve similar problems. Problem-solving skills are foundational and cut across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) domains and disciplines. The project will research and develop an innovative mixed reality (MR) learning environment combining visual displays and a robot with programmable movement. Children in grades K-2 will program the robot to solve path-finding problems. Hints and obstacles in each problem scenario will be presented on a computer tablet. The project environment will be designed mainly for one-on-one use wirelessly and flexibly in either formal or informal settings. Participating children and teachers will be recruited through partnerships with schools in communities that have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM. The project design will be grounded in research on embodied cognition, culturally responsive teaching, child development, and human-computer interaction, to develop experiential, inclusive, and playful learning experiences. Three main research questions include 1) what design elements are critical for an effective MR environment? 2) how do children’s positive affect and understanding of sequences and symbols evolve as they participate in the task over time? and 3) what do teachers need to succeed as facilitators? To promote computational thinking skills, children will be engaged in path-finding tasks that will require them to guide a robot to arrive at a destination through the right path. The design of the learning environment and the research will be interwoven in an iterative cycle of design, testing, and development. in addition to traditional data collection methods, sensors will be employed for collection of children’s own movement data. The effectiveness of the environment on learners' understanding and positive affect will be examined by comparing the intervention group with a control group. Teachers will be involved from the start to incorporate their practical insights and feedback into designs, and the project team will implement teacher workshops in years 2 and 3 to better understand their needs. The project will disseminate project research findings and resources widely to researchers, designers, and educators. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.



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2021 - 2021


Indiana University Bloomington, IN

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