Learning to communicate computationally with Flip: a bi-modal programming language for game creation

Howland, Kate and Good, Judith (2015) Learning to communicate computationally with Flip: a bi-modal programming language for game creation. Computers & Education, 80. pp. 224-240. ISSN 0360-1315

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Abstract

Teaching basic computational concepts and skills to school children is currently a curricular focus in many countries. Running parallel to this trend are advances in programming environments and teaching methods which aim to make computer science more accessible, and more motivating. In this paper, we describe the design and evaluation of Flip, a programming language that aims to help 11-15 year olds develop computational skills through creating their own 3D role-playing games. Flip has two main components: 1) a visual language (based on an interlocking blocks design common to many current visual languages), and 2) a dynamically updating natural language version of the script under creation. This programming-language/natural-language pairing is a unique feature of Flip, designed to allow learners to draw upon their familiarity with natural language to “decode the code”. Flip aims to support young people in developing an understanding of computational concepts as well as the skills to use and communicate these concepts effectively. This paper investigates the extent to which Flip can be used by young people to create working scripts, and examines improvements in their expression of computational rules and concepts after using the tool. We provide an overview of the design and implementation of Flip before describing an evaluation study carried out with 12-13 year olds in a naturalistic setting. Over the course of 8 weeks, the majority of students were able to use Flip to write small programs to bring about interactive behaviours in the games they created. Furthermore, there was a significant improvement in their computational communication after using Flip (as measured by a pre/post-test). An additional finding was that girls wrote more, and more complex, scripts than did boys, and there was a trend for girls to show greater learning gains relative to the boys.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA0076 Computer software
Depositing User: Kate Howland
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2014 07:42
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2014 10:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/50548

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Flip: A concurrent bi-modal programming language for computational thinkingG0307EPSRC-ENGINEERING & PHYSICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCILEP/G006989/1