1 Università di Bologna (ITALY)
2 Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN21 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 5952-5961
ISBN: 978-84-09-31267-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2021.1203
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
In a longitudinal study started in 2017, involving an Italian primary school, coding activities were organized, closely interwoven with curricular subjects. Coding was considered as an expressive language rather than a subject on its own, needing a social environment where to share one’s creations. Starting from this, and considering the strong social component that characterizes learning, the online Scratch programming environment was chosen, and each child was provided with a student account. Work was carried out on the online platform, in a weekly school meeting and then students could continue their projects from home.

During the school year 2019-2020, four classes were involved in the project, for a total of 74 students aged 9-11 year old. One grade 5 and the two grade 4 classes were in their third year with Scratch, while another grade 5 class was in its second year. In February , students started creating Scratch projects on a common topic decided with the class teacher, working in groups of 3-4 students, with the aim of presenting their work to their families at the end of the school year.

In March 2020, all Italian schools closed due to the COVID-19 emergency. At that point, working closely with the teachers, it was decided to redesign the activities in order to give students the opportunity to continue with their work.

Coding activities were not compulsory, and students were free to decide to participate, and 59 out of 74 students participated regularly in the meetings and completed their Scratch project.

A weekly on-line meeting was organized for all the involved classes, devoted to the presentation of students’ work, discussions with peers and support for the continuation of the projects, while coding was carried out autonomously by the students. Specific places for sharing and support were created within the Scratch environment, and group work was mostly managed directly by students. Children were constantly monitored in their work and stimulated into a personal metacognitive reflection on their coding strategies.

Even though it worked for most, there were some drawbacks: some students had difficulty accessing the web, or were bound to sharing the computers with siblings or parents, others were not willing to participate. Moreover, families were an important component: some managed to support their children obtaining outstanding results, while others were less present during the activities.

The experience shows that it is feasible to organize online coding activities with students of the last years of primary school, provided that they are adequately structured. Furthermore, Scratch was built in such a way as to foster an active participation beyond class hours, and it reaches this goal when children master the programming language. These activities have proved to be in tune with students’ interests and succeeded in actively involving them.

In online learning, one of the main issues are social interactions: during lockdown students are isolated and they lack relations with peers. Social interactions are at the basis of the present project, giving students the opportunity to be protagonists in creating something together, in a demanding but enjoyable activity.
Social Constructivism, Online Learning, Coding, Peer Interaction.