Plenary:

PROGRAMMING FOR THE NATIVES: WHAT IS IT? WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE KIDS?

Ackermann E.

Programming is many things to many people, and not everyone agrees on its potential for human learning. This is especially true at a time when ever younger children are increasingly "expert" gamers, tweeters, information-seekers, and digital bricoleurs. Often self-taught, or at least grabbing much of what they know outside the classroom, today's youngsters (also referred to as digital natives) indeed surprise, and on occasion surpass us, with their clever uses of all things digital. Question is: how much of this "expertise" is doomed sufficient by experts in the field? This paper looks at programming as an opportunity to address issues of agency, control, and interaction styles, as played out in the creative and critical uses of "smart" tools by curious minds. The focus is on views and uses of "programming" as a means for; 1) making things do things (instruct them to follow and execute orders); 2) "animating" things (endow them with a mind of its own, teach them to "look out for themselves"); and 3) poking things (modulate how things act or interact by tweaking some parameters in their environment). I present settings where youngsters are asked to give and execute orders, take over control and let go of it. I draw lessons for the design and evaluation of programmable play kits for young children.programmable play kits for young children.

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