Alternative Pathways Into Computer Science: Investigation of Narrative-Bound Interactive Learning Environments for Teaching Girls Programming

April 1, 2005

Computer science (understanding how information technologies work) is a gatekeeper to full participation in technology, research and development. For girls to have a hand in the directions technology takes in the future they need to develop skills and conceptual knowledge about what underpins information technology, namely programming. In this session, researchers will demonstrate features of an interactive learning environment developed for a two-year experimental study that is investigating the role of narrative in enabling high school girls to learn key programming concepts and skills.

The interactive learning environment, known as Soft Ice, is a drag and drop software tool that enables users to choreograph ice-skating performances by combining and modifying various move elements, such as jumps and turns, into executable, cohesive skating programs.

Drawing on formative findings from two trials of the interactive tool with middle and high school students, the session will discuss how the affordances of object-oriented programming can be maximized through a metaphor that does not window dress or sugar coat, but that provides a meaningful context for the investigation of core programming skills and processes (i.e., reading, using, modifying, and implementing aspects of code) advocated by the Advanced Placement Computer Science curriculum.


Dorothy Bennett
Margaret Honey
Cornelia Brunner
Terri Meade