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Empowering learners with tools in CS education: Physical computing in secondary schools

Mareen Przybylla and Ralf Romeike


In computer science, computer systems are both, objects of investigation and tools that enable creative learning and design. Tools for learning have a long tradition in computer science education. Already in the late 1960s, Papert developed a concept which had an immense impact on the development of informal education in the following years: his theory of constructionism understands learning as a creative process of knowledge construction that is most effective when learners create something purposeful that they can try out, show around, discuss, analyse and receive praise for. By now, there are numerous learning and programming environments that are based on the constructionist ideas. Modern tools offer opportunities for students to learn in motivating ways and gain impressive results in programming games, animations, implementing 3D models or developing interactive objects. This article gives an overview of computer science education research related to tools and media to be used in educational settings. We analyse different types of tools with a special focus on the categorization and development of tools for student adequate physical computing activities in the classroom. Research around the development and evaluation of tools and learning resources in the domain of physical computing is illustrated with the example of “My Interactive Garden”, a constructionist learning and programming environment. It is explained how the results from empirical studies are integrated in the continuous development of the learning material.


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Received: 2017-10-16
Revised: 2018-1-19
Accepted: 2018-2-5
Published Online: 2018-3-22
Published in Print: 2018-4-25

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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