EvoBuild: A Quickstart Toolkit for Programming Agent-Based Models of Evolutionary Processes
Journal of Science Education and Technology Volume 27, Number 2, ISSN 1059-0145
Extensive research has shown that one of the benefits of programming to learn about scientific phenomena is that it facilitates learning about mechanisms underlying the phenomenon. However, using programming activities in classrooms is associated with costs such as requiring additional time to learn to program or students needing prior experience with programming. This paper presents a class of programming environments that we call "quickstart": Environments with a negligible threshold for entry into programming and a modest ceiling. We posit that such environments can provide benefits of programming for learning without incurring associated costs for novice programmers. To make this claim, we present a design-based research study conducted to compare programming models of evolutionary processes with a quickstart toolkit with exploring pre-built models of the same processes. The study was conducted in six seventh grade science classes in two schools. Students in the programming condition used EvoBuild, a quickstart toolkit for programming agent-based models of evolutionary processes, to "build" their NetLogo models. Students in the exploration condition used "pre-built" NetLogo models. We demonstrate that although students came from a range of academic backgrounds without prior programming experience, and all students spent the same number of class periods on the activities including the time students took to learn programming in this environment, EvoBuild students showed greater learning about evolutionary mechanisms. We discuss the implications of this work for design research on programming environments in K-12 science education.
Wagh, A. & Wilensky, U. (2018). EvoBuild: A Quickstart Toolkit for Programming Agent-Based Models of Evolutionary Processes. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 27(2), 131-146.