Pirate plunder: game-based computational thinking using scratch blocks

ROSE, Simon, HABGOOD, Jacob and JAY, Tim (2018). Pirate plunder: game-based computational thinking using scratch blocks. In: Proceedings of the 12th European Conference on Games Based Learning. Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, 556-564.

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Policy makers worldwide argue that children should be taught how technology works, and that the ‘computational thinking’ skills developed through programming are useful in a wider context. This is causing an increased focus on computer science in primary and secondary education. Block-based programming tools, like Scratch, have become ubiquitous in primary education (5 to 11-years-old) throughout the UK. However, Scratch users often struggle to detect and correct ‘code smells’ (bad programming practices) such as duplicated blocks and large scripts, which can lead to programs that are difficult to understand. These ‘smells’ are caused by a lack of abstraction and decomposition in programs; skills that play a key role in computational thinking. In Scratch, repeats (loops), custom blocks (procedures) and clones (instances) can be used to correct these smells. Yet, custom blocks and clones are rarely taught to children under 11-years-old. We describe the design of a novel educational block-based programming game, Pirate Plunder, which aims to teach these skills to children aged 9-11. Players use Scratch blocks to navigate around a grid, collect items and interact with obstacles. Blocks are explained in ‘tutorials’; the player then completes a series of ‘challenges’ before attempting the next tutorial. A set of Scratch blocks, including repeats, custom blocks and clones, are introduced in a linear difficulty progression. There are two versions of Pirate Plunder; one that uses a debugging-first approach, where the player is given a program that is incomplete or incorrect, and one where each level begins with an empty program. The game design has been developed through iterative playtesting. The observations made during this process have influenced key design decisions such as Scratch integration, difficulty progression and reward system. In future, we will evaluate Pirate Plunder against a traditional Scratch curriculum and compare the debugging-first and non-debugging versions in a series of studies.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: ISSN: 2049-0992 12th European Conference on Games Based Learning, 4 - 5 October 2018, Sophia Antipolis, France
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Communication and Computing Research Centre
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Faculty of Science, Technology and Arts > Department of Computing
Page Range: 556-564
Depositing User: Simon Rose
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2018 10:21
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 07:06
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/21715

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