Blocks and Beyond Workshop at VL/HCC: Lessons and Directions for First Programming Environments
Thursday, October 22, 2015, Atlanta, GA
A satellite workshop of the 2015 IEEE Symposium Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC) https://sites.google.com/site/vlhcc2015
Scope and Goals
Blocks programming environments represent program syntax trees as compositions of visual blocks. This family of tools includes Scratch, Code.org’s Blockly lessons, App Inventor, Snap!, Pencil Code, Looking Glass, etc. They have introduced programming and computational thinking to tens of millions, reaching people of all ages and backgrounds.
Despite their popularity, there has been remarkably little research on the usability, effectiveness, and generalizability of affordances of these environments. The goal of this workshop is to begin to distill testable hypotheses from the existing folk knowledge of blocks environments and identify research questions and partnerships that can legitimize, or discount, pieces of this knowledge. It will bring together educators and researchers who work with blocks languages and members of the broader VL/HCC community interested in this area. We seek participants with diverse expertise, including, but not limited to: design of programming environments, instruction with these environments, the learning sciences, data analytics, usability, and more.
The workshop will be a generative discussion that sets the stage for future work and collaboration. It will include participant presentations and demonstrations that frame the discussion, followed by reflection on the state of the field and smaller working-group discussion and brainstorming sessions.
Suggested Topics for Discussion
- Who uses blocks programming environments and why?
- Which features of blocks environments help or hinder users? How do we know? Which of these features are worth incorporating into more traditional IDEs? What helpful features are missing?
- How can blocks environments and associated curricular materials be made more accessible to everyone, especially those with disabilities?
- Can blocks programming appeal to a wider range of interests (e.g., by allowing connections to different types of devices, web services, data sources, etc.)?
- What are the best ways to introduce programming to novices and to support their progression towards mastery? Do these approaches differ for for learners of computing basics and for makers?
- What are the conceptual and practical hurdles encountered by novice users of blocks languages when they face the transition to text languages and traditional programming communities? What can be done to reduce these hurdles?
- How can we best harness online communities to support growth through teaching, motivating, and providing inspiration and feedback?
- What roles should collaboration play in blocks programming? How can environments support that collaboration?
- In these environments, what data can be collected, and how can that data be analyzed to determine answers to questions like those above? How can we use data to answer larger scale questions about early experiences with programming?
- What are the lessons learned (both positive and negative) from creating first programming environments that can be shared with future environment designers?
We invite two kinds of submissions:
- A 1 to 3 page position statement describing an idea or research question related to the design, teaching, or study of blocks programming environments.
- A paper (up to 6 pages) describing previously unpublished results involving the design, study, or pedagogy of blocks programming environments.
All submissions must be made as PDF files to the Easy Chair Blocks and Beyond workshop submission site (https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=blocksbeyond2015). Because this workshop will be discussion-based, rather than a mini-conference, the number of presentation/demonstration slots are limited. Authors for whom presentation or demonstration is essential should indicate this in their submission.
- 24 Jul. 2014: Submissions due.
- 14 Aug. 2015: Author notification.
- 4 Sep. 2015: Camera ready copies due.
- 22 Oct. 2015: Workshop in Atlanta.
- Franklyn Turbak (chair), Wellesley College
- David Bau, Google
- Jeff Gray, University of Alabama
- Caitlin Kelleher, Washington University, St. Louis
- Josh Sheldon, MIT
- Neil Brown, University of Kent
- Dave Culyba, Carnegie Mellon University
- Sayamindu Dasgupta, MIT
- Deborah Fields, Utah State University
- Neil Fraser, Google
- Mark Friedman, Google
- Dan Garcia, University of California, Berkeley
- Benjamin Mako Hill, University of Washington
- Fred Martin, University of Massachusetts Lowell
- Paul Medlock-Walton, MIT
- Yoshiaki Matsuzawa, Aoyama Gakuin University
- Amon Millner, Olin College
- Ralph Morelli, Trinity College
- Brook Osborne, Code.org
- Jonathan Protzenko, Microsoft Research
- Ben Shapiro, Tufts University
- Wolfgang Slany, Graz University of Technology
- Daniel Wendel, MIT