Programming in Elementary Schools

Teaching programming to early elementary school students. Programming is seldom taught earlier than middle school, and when it is, it is done using a simplified language such as Logo. The Alice programming language, which includes advanced concepts of object-oriented programming, is designed to teach children, but it is generally used to introduce programming to middle school, high school, or even college students.

A research project in the School looked at whether Alice and Scratch, another programming language targeted toward children, can be used to teach programming at the early elementary school level. A graduate student developed and taught an Alice-based course to 3rd and 4th graders at All Saints Catholic School in Bangor, helped by her advisor and a senior. A follow-on course was taught by the second student, then herself a graduate student, and a similar course using Scratch was taught by the first student to the same age group during the same time period. Data gathered from these projects allowed us to begin to understand whether children of this age can successfully learn to program using languages such as these. We are also interested in examining gender differences at this age with respect to learning to program.

This project is a project of the Maine Software Agents/Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MaineSAIL).