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Award Abstract #1502882

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

Division Of Research On Learning
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Initial Amendment Date: July 8, 2015
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Latest Amendment Date: July 6, 2018
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Award Number: 1502882
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: Robert Ochsendorf
DRL Division Of Research On Learning
EHR Direct For Education and Human Resources
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Start Date: July 15, 2015
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End Date: June 30, 2020 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $2,127,636.00
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Investigator(s): Jodi Asbell-Clarke jodi_asbell-clarke@terc.edu (Principal Investigator)
Elizabeth Rowe (Co-Principal Investigator)
Teon Edwards (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: TERC Inc
2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140-1339 (617)873-9600
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NSF Program(s): STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Part,
ITEST-Inov Tech Exp Stu & Teac,
Discovery Research K-12
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Program Reference Code(s): 023Z, 7645, 8244
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Program Element Code(s): 005Y, 7227, 7645


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.


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Shute, V. J., Sun, C., & Asbell-Clarke, J. "Demystifying computational thinking.," Educational Research Review, v.22, 2018, p. 142.

Rowe, Elizabeth and Asbell-Clarke, Jodi and Gasca, Santiago and Cunningham, Kathryn. "Assessing implicit computational thinking in zoombinis gameplay," Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, 2017.   

Rowe, Elizabeth and Asbell-Clarke, Jodi and Cunningham, Kathryn and Gasca, Santiago. "Assessing Implicit Computational Thinking in Zoombinis Gameplay: Pizza Pass, Fleens & Bubblewonder Abyss," Extended Abstracts Publication of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, 2017.   


Please report errors in award information by writing to: awardsearch@nsf.gov.



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