Evaluating children performance with graphical and tangible robot programming tools

Research paper by Theodosios Sapounidis, Stavros Demetriadis, Ioannis Stamelos

Indexed on: 01 May '14Published on: 01 May '14Published in: Personal and Ubiquitous Computing


This paper presents a cross-age study exploring children’s performance on robot introductory programming activities with one tangible and one isomorphic graphical system. Both subsystems are parts of an innovative system, namely the PROTEAS kit. The tangible subsystem consists of cube-shaped blocks that represent simple and more advanced programming structures. Users may interconnect the cubic-shaped commands and so create the robot programming code. The graphical subsystem presents onscreen an isomorphic to the tangible programming space. Children (N = 109) of five different aged groups were let to interact in pairs with the two operationally equivalent programming subsystems with the scope to program a NXT Lego robot. Three variables associated with children performance upon tasks and four variables related with performance during free interaction were studied. Data analysis based on computer logs and video recordings showed that children produced fewer errors, made more effective debugging and younger children in particular needed less time to accomplish the robot programming tasks with the tangible subsystem. Moreover, during free interaction, elder children were more engaged, created more complicated programs and explored different commands and parameters more actively in the tangible case. Finally, interpretation of the findings is provided and the advantages of tangible user interfaces in children’s introductory programming are discussed.