Dwyer, H., Hill, C., Hansen, A., Iveland, A., Franklin, D., & Harlow, D. (2015). Fourth Grade Students Reading Block-Based Programs: Predictions, Visual Cues, and Affordances. In Proceedings of the eleventh annual International Conference on International Computing Education Research (pp. 111-119). New York: ACM.


Type: Taxonomy Development

Purpose: "Here, we focus on how students used visual cues when reading programs in our block-based programming environment, LaPlaya, a variant of Scratch. Specifically we identified the visual cues students noticed and acted upon. These included not only those that were intended by designers (perceptible affordances), but also those that were not intended by designers (false affordances)." (p. 111).

Findings: "Through a detailed content analysis of 13 focus groups with fourth graders we created an initial taxonomy of visual cues in our programming environment and explored how students used these cues to make predictions about provided code, and the types of affordances such cues offered students" (p. 111). The taxonomy included blocks, scripts, stage and interface as visual clues and what students were predicting for each type of clues (block, single script, multiple script, or output). "Students in our focus groups recognized that blocks and scripts were important tools in predicting what would happen in a visual block-based program. They read provided scripts to inform their predictions; and nearly always, they recognized that the scripts held information... However, students did not use scripts as the only tool or even as their first tool. Students attempted to use information on the stage (e.g., placement of sprites), to imagine what the characters could do based on sprite characteristics (e.g., a bat image flies horizontally), and visual information related to blocks (e.g., whether it contained a dropdown menu)" (p. 118).

Recommendations: "There are many components to a single program that could be analyzed (e.g. single blocks, single scripts, single scripts with multiple sprites, multiple scripts across multiple sprites, etc.). Young students like those in this study may be better able to discern, interpret, and read individual aspects of a visual blocked-based program but not all. Young students reading these programs may need explicit instruction about how the different attributes work independently and together alongside the development of their own programs" (p. 118).


Sample Size: 26

Participant Type: Students