A cat, a king and a robot: programming with blocks

Introducing computer logic and basic programming concepts in Informatics in Italian secondary schools
Alberto Barbero

In Italian secondary schools, the guidelines for the first year include the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) syllabus to ensure a basic common level of digital competencies. The approach to Informatics in Italian secondary schools is being reshaped after the Reform of 2010. The new framework allows the introduction of computer logic and basic programming concepts beginning in the first and second grades. But what is the best way to introduce computer logic and basic programming concepts to teenage students and which tools should be provided to them in order to capture their interest and attention? Help is provided from “Scratch” a free programming language developed by researchers at M.I.T. MediaLab in Boston. Scratch suits the curriculum that teachers sought because it was specifically created for introducing the basic concepts of problem solving and programming to young and inexperienced students. Scratch, in its free extension “S4A” (Scratch for Arduino) developed by Citilab in Barcelona, also allows the introduction of the basic concepts of Robotics through the use of the open board called Arduino. The Arduino board is important because its use, combined with the power of S4A, allows for easy experimentation managing digital and analogical signals and sensors and actuators connected on the board. Another aid in the achievement of our goal is provided by “App Inventor” a Google tool now managed by the same group at the M.I.T. MediaLab. It easily allows the introduction of Android mobile programming to the students using almost the same approach as Scratch.


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