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Learning to Code, Coding to Learn: Youth and Computational Thinking


Special issue call for papers from Information and Learning Science

A special issue of Information and Learning Science

Professor Jeannette Wing's provocative and influential article entitled "Computational Thinking" appeared in the March 2006 issue of Communications of the ACM; in the twelve years since, educators, computer scientists, policy makers, and technologists have been working to define this conceptual space, measure it, and assess the role that computer science can and should play in the education of young people. While Wing is by no means the first person to notice that computer science can play an important role in developing problem solving capacities in youth across the curriculum (see: Papert, 1980; Clements and Gullo, 1984; Harel and Papert, 1990; diSessa, 2001, to name just a few), her call to arms fueled increasing research attention and policy interest (e.g. Aho, 2012; Cooper and Cunningham, 2010; Guzdial, 2008; Wing, 2008). 

Since that time, the Computer Science Education (CSE) movement has gained considerable momentum, led by a coalition of scholars, non-profits, and industry partners. Coding interfaces such as MIT's Scratch platform, Gamestar Mechanic, Kodu, and a host of others (Anton and Berland, 2014; Resnick, Maloney, Monroy-Hernandez, et al., 2009) have opened new possibilities for youth to develop their own interactive games.  The “Computer Science for All” Initiative begun during the Obama Administration suggests that the United States is not far behind France, the UK, and other nations in mandating coding for children beginning in the elementary grades. Programs and initiatives in the US context that contribute to these efforts include Code.org, Hour of Code, and the work of organizations including BlackGirlsCode, GirlsWhoCode, iRemix, Code Savvy, Globaloria, KidsCodeJeunesse, and others.

Scholars in formal and informal learning have been working to make computer programming more accessible to young people. According to a recent survey, coding is already a part of the formal curriculum of 16 countries in Europe (Balanskat & Engelhardt, 2014). Curricula in game design, such as those developed by Constructionist scholars and instructional design experts Yasmin Kafai, Idit Harel and their colleagues (e.g., Kafai, Peppler and Chapman, 2009; Fields, Searle, Kafai et al, 2012; Reynolds & Harel, 2011; Reynolds, 2016) have engaged thousands of young people across several US states in formal, intensive in-school introductory CS education coursework. Public and school libraries also present a context and opportunity to engage children in playful introductions to coding through drop-in making activities (Martin, 2015; Prato, 2017).

These initiatives, and the growing base of research evidence, offer support that the incorporation of computer science concepts in learning programs is an idea whose time has come. Computational Thinking, or CT, can be defined as "the process of recognising aspects of computation in the world that surrounds us, and applying tools and techniques from Computer Science to understand and reason about both natural and artificial systems and processes" (Royal Society, 2012 p. 29). We argue in this call for our special issue that Computational Thinking is a generative space residing between the learning sciences and information sciences, drawing on concepts of cognition and development (e.g., motivation, self-regulation), the system sciences (e.g., algorithmic representation, design of data structures), and areas of shared or interdisciplinary concern and interest (e.g., digital literacy, problem solving).

The guest editors are seeking high-quality, innovative articles to address conceptual, empirical, and theoretical issues in the broad area of computational thinking and youth: the who, what, where and why of learning to code. Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):
•    Critical, conceptual, epistemic explorations of code and coding
•    Relationship between computational thinking and literacy or literacies
•    Informal spaces for coding education, including libraries, museums, maker spaces
•    Design and architecture of learning platforms for coding
•    Innovative coding curriculum and pedagogy
•    Emergent and designed communities for learning computing skills and concepts
•    Learner assessment approaches and techniques
•    Effect of coding instruction on youth skills and behaviours
•    Equity, gender, status and identity issues in coding and computation environments


GUEST EDITORS:
Eric Meyers, University of British Columbia
eric.meyers@ubc.ca

Hong Huang, University of South Florida
honghuang@usf.edu

Submissions should comply with the journal author guidelines that are here. Submissions should be made through ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ils


DEADLINES
Initial submission due: 15 August 2018
First round decisions made: 31 September 2018 (or shortly after)
Revised manuscripts due: 15 November 2018
Final decisions confirmed (revised manuscripts approved): 30 November 2018
Anticipated publication date:  Issue 2, March/April 2019

REFERENCES

  • Aho, A. V. (2012). Computation and computational thinking. The Computer Journal, 55(7), 832–835.
  • Anton, G., & Berland, M. (2014). Studio K: a game development environment designed for gains in computational thinking (abstract only). In Proceedings of the 45rd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. New York: ACM Press.
  • Barr, V., & Stephenson, C. (2011). Bringing computational thinking to K-12: What is involved and what is the role of the computer science education community? ACM Inroads, 2(1), 48–54.
  • Berland, M., & Lee, V. R. (2011). Collaborative strategic board games as a site for distributed computational thinking. International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 1(2), 65.
  • Clements, D. H., & Gullo, D. F. (1984). Effects of computer programming on young children’s cognition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(6), 1051–1058.
  • Cooper, S., & Cunningham, S. (2010). Teaching computer science in context. ACM Inroads, 1(1), 5–8.
  • diSessa, A. A. (2001). Changing minds: Computers, learning and literacy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Fields, D. A., Searle, K. A., Kafai, Y. B., & Min, H. S. (2012). Debuggems to assess student learning in e-textiles. In Proceedings of the 43rd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. New York: ACM Press.
  • Guzdial, M. (2008). Education: Paving the way for computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 51(8), 25–27.
  • Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1990). Software design as a learning environment. Interactive Learning Environments, 1(1), 1–32.
  • Kafai, Y. B, Peppler, K. A, & Chapman, R. N. (2009). The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and creativity in youth communities. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Martin, C. (2015). Connected learning, libraries, and connecting youth interest. Journal of Research on Young Adults and Libraries. http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2015/03/ connected-learning-librarians-and-connecting-youth-interest/
  • Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.
  • Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Monroy-Hernández, A., Rusk, N., Eastmond, E., Brennan, K., Silverman, B. (2009). Scratch: programming for all. Communications of the ACM, 52(11), 60–67.
  • Reynolds, R., & Harel Caperton, I. (2011). Contrasts in student engagement, meaning-making, dislikes, and challenges in a discovery-based program of game design learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(2), 267-289.
  • Reynolds, R. (2016).  Relationships among tasks, collaborative inquiry processes, inquiry resolutions, and knowledge outcomes in adolescents during guided discovery-based game design in school. Journal of Information Science: Special Issue on Searching as Learning. 42(1), 35-58.
  • Royal Society (2012). Shut down or restart: The way forward for computing in UK schools. http://royalsociety.org/education/policy/computing-in-schools/report/
  • Prato, S. C. (2017). Beyond the computer age: A best practices intro for implementing library coding programs. Children & Libraries, 15(1), 19-21.
  • Wing, J. M. (2008). Computational thinking and thinking about computing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 366(1881), 3717–3725.