Will using Taxonomies help in CS teaching?

Hello Everyone :)

So the article I read this week was supposed to be “Integrating inquiry science and language development for English language learners” but I found “Learning Computer Science Concepts with Scratch” to be more helpful.

In my opinion it was not helpful because while skimming through it, I found it talked about students learning English and how the science language could help better their English and learn it faster. Where as the second article I mentioned talked about the attempt to increase the interest in CS and how there has been a lot of effort into developing tools for young students.

The article discusses on one visual programming environment being Scratch. And they define visual programming environments to be the ease of developing/creating programs in a perspective that is fun and non-threatening. The hopes of an environment such as this is that students will no longer feel anxiety and low self-esteem when encountering CS, this way they will be more open to hopefully purse a degree in CS.

Meerbaum-Salant, Armoni, Ben-Ari are interested in investigating if using Scratch can aid the learning of CS concepts.

The authors mention how girls using Storytelling Alice “demonstrated greater motivation and willingness to spend extra time on the computer, when compared with those using generic Alice.”

And an interesting point I read was: “We de-emphasize aspects of appearance such as the costumes, sounds and visual effects. Instruction on these topics is included as optional tasks at the end of each chapter. This is an attempt to counteract the natural tendency of young people to engage in non-CS activities like drawing and playing music. For example, 21% of the students in the clubhouse used Scratch only for media manipulation [21].”

Side Note: This is something I am battling with because I believe that creativity is one of the major foundations in getting children in CS, but also understand how it can take away from learning, especially from students. I recently talked to an elementary school teacher, who teaches gifted students of 4th and 5th graders, and she shared with me that the one of the main reason the students are excited for code class is because they get to design their characters. This got me thinking and I wondered if in our block language, what if we make it so that they use math, such as geometry, to make their characters and they could use variable descriptions to accessorize them. I talked about this idea with my other research mate, Erica, and will present this idea to the rest of the group this week. The authors made their own CS curriculum with Scratch on middle school students and I found that their approach could be applied to our block making-programming environment!

Their approach was assessed with taxonomies, being a revised Blooms and SOLO. And I think if we include them in our block language rubric, that we will be very successful. The revised taxonomies combined uses two sets of categories to form a taxonomy with three super-categories – Unistructural, Multistructural and Relational – each containing three sub-categories, corresponding to Understanding, Applying, and Creating. This produced a nine- level taxonomy with the highest level of Relational Creating, and the lowest level of Unistructural Understanding.

Some difficulties the authors encountered were teaching initialization, variables and concurrency, so maybe in this part my mates and I can improve or try to find a way to better explain this to them through visuals.
The authors also say: “We can recommend such an integration of taxonomies in order to achieve a research framework that is applicable to the specific needs of CS education research. This combined taxonomy should be further investigated in various, perhaps wider contexts, and possible refinements (such as relaxing its discrete nature) should be examined.” I am hopefull that perhaps using this information and other information we find will help us in the creation of our block language.

This week, I plan to read more in depth on the taxonomies discusses in the article I read and also start learning HTML and familiarzie myself with Blockly’s API. As those will be what we use to actually create our block language.

Meerbaum-Salant, Orni, Michal Armoni, and Mordechai (Moti) Ben-Ari. “Learning Computer Science Concepts with Scratch.” Computer Science Education 23.3 (2013): 239-64. Web. Sept. 2016.

Written on September 19, 2016