Fostering Computational Thinking in Primary Education
: Exploring Participatory Design in Audiovisual Educational Resources

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


A key challenge for introducing computational thinking (CT) in primary education is the perceived difficulty and limited engagement of learners with the topic. The emerging domain of CT research still presents gaps in the understanding of how learning strategies can be engaging and how educational resources, including the use of audiovisual content, can change the perceived difficulty of CT.
This thesis explores how audiovisual educational resources affect learning computational thinking among primary school students and how audiovisual educational resources produced with participatory design engage novice learners. The research follows a retrospective, exploratory, multi-case study approach, using reflexive thematic analysis. It analyses three cases of teaching CT to primary school students using audiovisual educational resources produced with participatory design. The cases were implemented between 2009 and 2019 by the ministries of education of Buenos Aires City and Argentina.
This thesis articulates the ChAMAR model for teaching CT with a simple and entertaining approach. "ChAMAR", which stands for "Children-centred Audiovisual Metaphoric Abductive Reasoning”, introduces a novel learning strategy that utilises audiovisual educational resources grounded in multimodality. Through a participatory design mechanism, ChAMAR embodies CT in a fiction story, simplifying complex concepts with the storytelling. ChAMAR presents three novel constructs expanding CT education theory. First, Embodiment of Knowledge and Joy proposes that entertaining audiovisual educational resources augment CT capacities. Second, Phantasia Tangeres suggests that certain forms of expressing knowledge in a visual manner can create emotional engagement. Finally, Extension of Belief introduces the idea that the audiovisual representation of a fiction story creates a perception of extended reality that activates learning. Crucially, the findings challenge previous literature arguing that programming is the gateway to learn CT, instead this thesis suggests that introducing CT concepts through the videos is the gateway to learn programming. Thus, the thesis extends education theory with a new strategy based on audiovisual educational resources to support the introduction of CT.
This thesis makes five high level practice contributions for the introduction of CT curriculum in primary education: 1) a novel approach for a digitally recorded CT teaching and learning solution, 2) a didactic approach for simple representations of CT concepts, 3) an engaging technique that activates learning, based on the entertaining approach of the audiovisual educational resources, 4) a method for CT learning, integrating the use of videos to introduce CT knowledge before moving to programming activities, and 5) a new approach to produce CT educational resources through participatory design, which rises engagement and develops CT knowledge, increasing engagement on CT learning.
Date of Award29 Feb 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorClaire Bailey-Ross (Supervisor) & Brett Stevens (Supervisor)

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