An Annotated Bibliography for Stagecast Creator

An Annotated Bibliography for Stagecast Creator

[CACM July'00 Personal Tools]

David Canfield Smith
"Building Personal Tools by Programming"
In Communications of the ACM, 43(8), August 2000, pp. 92-95.
  How the Creator paradigm could be used to program other applications, such as a personal computer desktop.

[CACM March'00 Novice Programming]

David C. Smith, Allen Cypher and Larry Tesler
"Novice Programming Comes of Age"
In Communications of the ACM, 43(3), March 2000, pp. 75-81.
  An overview of Stagecast Creator as a programming by demonstration system.

[Children's Technology Programming for Children]

David C. Smith and Allen Cypher
"Making Programming Easier for Children"
In Druin A., ed. The Design of Children's Technology, Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, 1998.
  A description of Stagecast Creator as a programming environment for children. The chapter includes a comparison of a train set implemented in a textual programming language (the HyperTalk scripting language), with the same train set implemented in Creator.
[CHI'97 Degrees of Comprehension]
Cyndi Rader, Cathy Brand and Clayton Lewis
"Degrees of Comprehension: Children's Understanding of a Visual Programming Environment"
In Proceedings of CHI, 1997 (Atlanta, March 22-27). ACM, New York, 1997, pp. 351-358.

This paper was influential in the development of the tutorial for Stagecast Creator. It "considers the instructional requirements for children learning to program in a visual environment". The authors show that without proper instruction, children (aged 7-10) may fail to grasp important programming concepts. "Regardless of how well the interface is designed, we expect that users will need additional support to learn to perform complex tasks within this environment." Stagecast therefore developed a detailed tutorial that is built into the Creator program. The tutorial explicitly teaches important concepts that were investigated in this paper, such as rule ordering and variables.

The authors also recommend that the system enable users to easily test whether all the conditions are met for a rule to fire. The Test button in Creator does just this. We also addressed their suggestions to make rule selection and character order visible.


[Computers and Education'96 Collaboration and Discourse]

Geoffrey Underwood, Jean Underwood, Karen Pheasey and David Gilmore
"Collaboration and Discourse While Programming the KidSim Microworld Simulation"
In Computers and Education, 26, 1996, pp. 143-151.

This study addresses the questions 1) How can we assess the effectiveness of group work with classroom computers? and 2) How does group discussion predict performance while small groups of children work at a programming exercise? "The clear result from this study is that when children work in groups around a computer their discussions are task-oriented."

The study showed that children enjoyed using KidSim, and that they were able to successfully create their own simulations.

"[The children] enjoyed using KidSim, declared disappointment when a session came to an end, and at the end of each session asked when they could use it again. The variety of simulated worlds created by our groups on Day 3 is evidence that the program also allowed free rein to the imaginations. Groups were not only interested in the worlds that they had created themselves, and in showing them to us, but they also showed interest in learning about the worlds created by the other groups of children and about how other groups had achieved various effects."

"On Day 3 the children were encouraged to design their own simulated worlds and to create characters with their personal rules, and a wide variety of simulations emerged. The groups produced elaborate aquariums with different kinds of fish each with their own properties, gardens, military battlegrounds, ninjas and aliens, soccer pitches, and PacMan-type mazes."

The study also showed that children did not properly understand the difference between making a simulation and an animation. The Creator tutorial does not teach this explicitly —all of its examples use Creator appropriately to create simulations, but there is no explicit discussion of the difference between simulations and animations. Gerald Balzano at the University of California, San Diego has also noted this problem. He is working on a teaching approach that will address this issue.


[Interactions September'96 Programming for Children]

David C. Smith, Allen Cypher and Kurt Schmucker.
"Making Programming Easier for Children"
Interactions, ACM, 3(5), Sept.-Oct. 1996, pp.58-67.
  A shorter version of the chapter in the Druin book described above.

[CHI'95 KidSim ]

Allen Cypher and David C. Smith
"KidSim: End User Programming of Simulations"
In Proceedings of CHI, 1995 (Denver, May 7 - 11). ACM, New York, 1995, pp. 27-34. [Paper Session at CHI]
  A description of the main features of KidSim from an interface designer's point of view, and of the various user tests that were conducted and how they influenced the design of the system.

[Imagina'95 KidSim ]

David C. Smith and Allen Cypher
"KidSim: Child Constructible Simulations"
In Proceedings of the Imagina '95 Conference, Monte-Carlo, February 1995, pp. 87-99.
  A description of the main features of KidSim that includes an extended example of creating an ocean simulation.

[Interact'95 An evaluation of KidSim]

David J Gilmore, Karen Pheasey, Jean Underwood & Geoffrey Underwood
"Learning graphical programming: An evaluation of KidSim"
In Nordby, K., Helmersen, P.H., Gilmore, D.J. & Arnesen, S. A. (Eds). Human-Computer Interaction: Interact'95. London: Chapman & Hall, pp. 145-150.
  This paper, which studied an early version of KidSim, was the first to call attention to the "animation problem". Without proper instruction, children do not understand that KidSim enables them to create simulations, rather than animations. To overcome this problem, the paper offers three design changes, which have all been incorporated into later versions of the program. The paper also mentions KidSim's lack of debugging support, and extensive debugging features have since been added to the program. However, the concept of "animation vs. simulation" is still a problem with Creator, and we feel that it needs to be taught explicitly to students. Dr. Gerald Balzano at the University of California, San Diego, is developing course material for teaching Creator to students that addresses this issue.

"We studied 56 children, generally working in groups of 2-3, using KidSim for between 2-12 hours, over a period of between 2 days and 3 weeks. The results show that children of this age can readily learn to master the programming environment, and that they greatly enjoy using the system. Indeed, in most cases it clearly fired their imaginations. However, questions remain about the level of programming abstractions that they were able to understand."


[CACM July'94 KidSim ]

David C. Smith, Allen Cypher and James Spohrer
"KidSim: Programming Agents Without a Programming Language"
In Communications of the ACM, 37(7), July 1994, pp. 54 - 67.
  An explanation of KidSim for a general audience, focussing on KidSim as a system for programming software agents.

[Boulder sTc ]

Clayton Lewis, Cathy Brand, Heidi Carlone, Carlos Garcia, Page Pulver, Cecil Robinson, Cyndi Rader
"Science Theatre/Teatro de Ciencias"
University of Colorado, Boulder
  "Elementary school science traditionally consists of observation. KidSim allows students to go beyond observing to theorizing and creating their own models to illustrate "how" and "why" rather than stopping at "what." Modeling systems allow students to explore phenomena not readily seen through direct observation and challenge them in ways ordinary exploration cannot. KidSim substitutes graphical rewrite rules for programs written in traditional programming language and thus allows young students and students with limited English proficiency to create computer models. "

"Students from grades 3-12 are capable of creating viable models. Younger students can use the system to draw and make rules. Teachers can also create models to seed discussion or for students to modify."

"This software allows students to be scientists in a new way. They can now model aspects of the physical world beyond demonstrations or drawings. The software allows for self-regulated learning. Students choose what they want to model and can create "professional" and "adult" products. KidSim provides a hook for kids to think independently, to create and to problem-solve."


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