Zoombinis: The Full Development Implementation Research Study of a Computational Thinking Game for Upper Elementary and Middle School Learners

This project leverages an existing game by embedding tools for studying patterns of students' decision-making and problem solving in the environment. This allows researchers to understand how students learn about computational thinking within a tool that bridges informal and formal learning settings to engage a wide variety of students. The project will also develop tools and resources for classroom teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502882
Funding Period: 
Wednesday, July 15, 2015 to Saturday, June 30, 2018
Full Description: 

The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis implementation research study examines the development of computational thinking for upper elementary and middle grades students. Computational thinking is the set of ideas and practices considered vital for computer science skills and has been attracting increased attention over the past several years in K-12 education. This project leverages an existing game by embedding tools for studying patterns of students' decision-making and problem solving in the environment. This allows researchers to understand how students learn about computational thinking within a tool that bridges informal and formal learning settings to engage a wide variety of students. The project will also develop tools and resources for classroom teachers. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The research examines three questions. First, what strategies do players develop during Zoombinis gameplay that may provide evidence of implicit computational thinking? Second, how can teachers leverage implicit knowledge of computational thinking developed in Zoombinis to improve formal (explicit) learning? Third, how can a large-scale commercial game be used for broad and equitable improvement of computational thinking? The research uses and develops educational data mining techniques to assess students' learning in conjunction with pre-post computational thinking assessments (external to the game), teacher interviews, classroom observations, and case studies of classroom use. The goal is to understand both students' learning of computational thinking and how to bridge the formal and informal learning via classroom implementation of the Zoombinis game.