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How programming games and UI contribute to the development of computational thinking abilities in kids

Computational thinking is generally regarded as a set of problem-solving skills and strategies that involve breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components, identifying patterns and relationships, and using algorithms to design and implement solutions (Wing, 2006).

The way a computational mind looks at a problem is more efficient because it involves processes like logical reasoning, analytical thinking, and pattern recognition. These abilities help the mind to look at the problem from a perspective from which it can be understood as a whole and in pieces. Such a mind can divide a problem into different sections and devise a solution for each of them individually. Further, it can apply those solutions individually or simultaneously, but the emphasis is on focusing on one part of the problem at a time.

A step-by-step approach provides a better-designed solution with each of its components given enough attention. This allows computational abilities to use the following techniques to draw results:

  • Decomposition: Analyzing the problem to break it up into smaller parts.
  • Pattern Recognition: Observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data.
  • Abstraction: Identifying the underlying principles that generate perceived patterns.
  • Algorithm Design: Developing step-by-step instructions for solving the problem

Computational thinking develops in a person at a very early stage of life. Jeannette M. Wing, a leading scientist and researcher in the field of computational thinking, believes that the development of these skills results from consistent and progressive problem-solving activities that challenge the brain to find quicker and more efficient solutions. A mind can indulge in such activities through various means in his life.

In this paper, we’ll look at the many computer science applications and software that have been developed and designed for kids to develop computational thinking. We’ll also look at the relevance of the UI of these programs and how it affects the efficiency of these learning processes.

Relevance of Computational Thinking in the 21st Century

The World Economic Forum regards computational thinking as one of the top skills needed for jobs in the future (World Economic Forum, 2018).

Due to technological advancements in recent decades, our lives have been deeply affected. Our way of life demands that we arrive at solutions quickly. Kids are exposed to technology at an early age. They have to rely on computers for learning, entertainment, and other activities.

Children must understand how to operate in an environment highly influenced by technology and its related lifestyle.
Although computational thinking is a fundamental idea in most branches of computer science, it has received a lot of attention recently as a skill that needs to be learned and developed far more than it currently is.
A wide range of fields, including mathematics, science, and engineering, can benefit from the use of computational thinking, which is not only restricted to programming.

According to research, computational thinking abilities are essential for success in the twenty-first century. For instance, computational thinking is crucial for professions in the STEM sectors of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and is becoming more and more significant in other industries like finance, healthcare, and education (Grover & Pea, 2013). Understanding problems and their subproblems that can be computed is made easier by computational thinking. It assists thinkers in identifying the appropriate resources and techniques for tackling particular issues as well as investigating the shortcomings of specific approaches.

Computational thinking has been boldly labeled as “21st century literacy” since it allows non-computer scientists to benefit from a computational approach to problem-solving (Cuny et al., 2010).

Computational thinking has had an impact on almost every field, including both the sciences and the humanities. There are numerous examples of this influence in various disciplines, including machine learning’s influence on the application of probabilistic graphical models in statistics, which significantly improved pattern recognition for large data sets (Machine Learning Department, 2008); computational thinking’s advancement of human genome sequencing in biology (Fisher & Henzinger, 2007); and even computational thinking’s influence in disciplines like economics, such as online bidding, ad placement, and price prediction.

A report on the future employment skills required by 2020 was released by the Institute for the Future in 2011 (Institute for the Future, 2011). The study identifies six “drivers of change,” including global connectivity, smart devices and systems, a computational environment, new media ecology, superstructure organizations, and longevity. The research also lists eleven talents that are absolutely crucial. Computational thinking, which the IFTF defines as the ability to conceive, create abstractions from data sets, and computationally model problems, is included on this list.

How can kids develop computational thinking skills?

A viable strategy for teaching kids computational thinking is through programming education. Children can improve their ability to solve problems, use logic, and think creatively by learning to program. Furthermore, teaching kids how to program might give them the knowledge they need to become producers rather than merely consumers of technology.

According to research, programming instruction can help youngsters develop academically and cognitively. For instance, a research by Resnick et al. (2009) discovered that kids who took part in a programming workshop had appreciable improvements in their creativity and problem-solving abilities when compared to a control group. Similar to this, a 2014 study by Bers et al. discovered that youngsters who learned to program using Scratch displayed gains in their capacity for mathematical reasoning and teamwork.

Children can practice computational thinking in the following ways:

  1. Coding is an excellent technique for youngsters to improve their computational thinking abilities. Kids gain an understanding of how to utilize logic and algorithms to solve issues by learning to code. Kids also gain the crucial computational Thinking skill of how to divide large problems into smaller, more manageable components.
  2. Playing games encourages logical thought and problem-solving can also aid in the development of computational thinking in young children. Games like chess, sudoku, and minecraft can aid in the logical and strategic thinking development of young people.
  3. Visual programming languages can be used to educate computational thinking in a fun and interesting way. Visual programming languages for kids include Scratch and Blockly. These programming languages let kids drag and drop code blocks to build programmes, which can help children learn about iteration, conditional statements, and sequencing.
  4. Joining robotics clubs is a fantastic approach for youngsters to build computational thinking abilities. Kids learn how to utilize logic and algorithms to solve issues by creating and programming robots. In order to design and construct their robots, they also acquire critical and creative thinking skills.
  5. Real-world problem solving: Helping children address real-world issues can aid in the development of computational thinking abilities. Kids could be encouraged, for instance, to create an app that addresses an issue in their neighborhood or a programme that facilitates a chore in their everyday life. Kids can benefit from this by learning to recognise and deconstruct difficult issues as well as to come up with original solutions.

Some fundamental ideas from computer science are included in computational thinking. Nonetheless, it is a skill that is greatly advantageous to many industries and is not only relevant to computer science and technology fields (Hunt, 2012). This is because it encourages students to study computational models for problems that are typically unconnected to computer science and helps them identify what can and cannot be solved. The abilities acquired and cultivated through computational thinking will be useful to students regardless of the job path they ultimately take.

Success of programming games in teaching computational Thinking

Parents and educators alike are becoming more and more enamored with coding games as a fun and interactive way for kids to learn programming concepts. But these games offer advantages that go beyond only teaching coding. These can be quite helpful in fostering computational thinking, which is the capacity to apply a set of rules and a series of actions to solve a problem.

According to an exploratory study by Kazakoff and Sullivan, introducing young toddlers to basic programming with Lightbot Jr. enhanced their capacity to order stories. This is a noteworthy conclusion because it implies that studying programming can have a favorable effect on tasks that are not computational. Lister (2011) showed that beginners who played programming games may advance from trial and error to effective tracing and eventually to understanding code by reading it, showing the development of algorithmic thinking abilities.

Yet it’s crucial to remember that computational thinking cannot simply be developed by playing coding games. Grover cautions against putting too much emphasis on the instruments and more on the ideas they represent. While coding languages like Scratch, MIT’s App Inventor, Kodu, and Alice make it simple for students to create functional programmes, the level of conceptual understanding obtained utilizing these resources can be called into question. Education should instead focus on teaching students how to build solutions, explain why some answers are superior, deconstruct problems, and create algorithms.

Finally, playing coding games might be a useful method for honing computational thinking abilities. It’s crucial to keep in mind that the principles underlying the tools rather than just the tools themselves should be the main focus. Coding games can give kids an engaging and interactive environment to learn how to program and hone their computational thinking abilities. This is possible with a well-designed user interface and accessibility that is appropriate for their age.


The MIT Media Lab created Scratch, a visual programming language that lets kids make interactive stories, games, and animations. Children as young as 8 years old can use Scratch because it is made to be user-friendly and accessible. Children can easily develop programs using the drag-and-drop interface of Scratch without having to write any code.

The foundation of Scratch is constructionism, a learning paradigm that emphasizes the value of experiential, hands-on learning (Papert, 1991).

UI and its importance behind the efficiency of these games

In the same study conducted by Kazakoff and Sullivan, it was found that some participants struggled with aspects of Lightbot Jr., despite the game being designed for children ages 4 to 7. This lack of understanding may have resulted in participants not developing programming skills as expected during the intervention.

Grover (2013) found that elementary school students who used programming languages such as Scratch, MIT’s App Inventor, Kodu, and Alice were able to construct working programs and apps quickly, although the degree of conceptual knowledge obtained through these tools was questioned. However, it was suggested that by utilizing UI designs that encourage the development of computational thinking skills, students can achieve a deeper understanding of programming concepts.

User interface (UI) design is critical in developing computational thinking skills through coding games. When designing UI for coding games, it is important to consider several factors to ensure that the game effectively facilitates the development of computational thinking skills.

One important consideration is the need for a clear and intuitive interface. Users should be able to quickly and easily understand the game mechanics and how to perform actions within the game. This includes clear instructions, consistent visual cues, and easy-to-navigate menus. Studies have shown that novice programmers benefit from clear visual representations of programming concepts and symbols (Lister et al., 2006). This principle also applies to UI design in coding games.

Another consideration is the level of challenge presented by the game. While it is important to provide a clear interface, the game should also provide sufficient challenge to engage users and foster the development of computational thinking skills. This can be achieved by gradually increasing the complexity of tasks and concepts presented in the game and providing opportunities for users to experiment with their solutions to problems.

UI design plays a critical role in developing computational thinking skills through coding games. Clear and intuitive interfaces, challenging tasks, effective feedback mechanisms, and alignment with broader computational thinking concepts can all contribute to the effectiveness of coding games in promoting the development of these important skills. As such, careful attention should be paid to UI design when developing code for educational purposes.

ICode and its advancements

Icode understands that it is important to consider the role of UI design in promoting the transfer of skills and concepts learned within coding games to other contexts. UI design should be aligned with broader concepts and skills related to computational thinking, such as algorithmic thinking, problem-solving, and abstraction. This can be achieved by providing opportunities for users to apply their skills and knowledge in other contexts, such as real-world programming projects or simulations. This is why hosts and participates in several coding tournaments, events, and olympics to provide its students with an opportunity to apply their learning.

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