Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 274–283 | Cite as

Review and Discussion of Children’s Conceptions of Computers

Article

Abstract

Today’s children grow up surrounded by computers. They observe them, interact with them and, as a consequence, start forming conceptions of how they work and what they can do. Any constructivist approach to learning requires that we gain an understanding of such preconceived ideas and beliefs in order to use computers as learning tools in an effective and informed manner. In this paper, we present five such conceptions that children reportedly form about computers, based on an interdisciplinary literature review. We then evaluate how persistent these conceptions appear to be over time and in light of new technological developments. Finally, we discuss the relevance and implications of our findings for education in the contexts of conceptual pluralism and conceptual categorisation.

Keywords

Literature review Conceptions Constructivism  Computational devices Computer science education Technology education 

References

  1. Bernstein D, Crowley K (2008) Searching for signs of intelligent life: an investigation of young children’s beliefs about robot intelligence. J Learn Sci 17(2):225–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brunjes S (1977) What is a computer? J Med Syst 1(1):79–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dawson C (2014) Towards a conceptual profile: rethinking conceptual mediation in the light of recent cognitive and neuroscientific findings. Res Sci Educ 44(3):389–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Denham P (1993) Nine- to fourteen-year-old children’s conception of computers using drawings. Behav Inf Technol 12(6):346–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Department for Education, UK (2013) National Curriculum in England: Computing programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2. URL: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239033/PRIMARY_national_curriculum_-_Computing.pdf. Visited on 12 Nov 2015
  6. Diethelm I, Wilken H, Zumbrägel S (2012) An investigation of secondary school students’ conceptions on how the Internet works. In: Proceedings of the 12th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research. ACM, pp. 67–73Google Scholar
  7. Eckerdal A, Thuné M (2005) Novice Java programmers’ conceptions of object and class, and variation theory. In: ACM SIGCSE Bulletin. Vol. 37. 3. ACM, pp. 89–93Google Scholar
  8. Franco C et al (1999) From scientists’ and inventors’ minds to some scientific and technological products: relationships between theories, models, mental models and conceptions. Int J Sci Educ 21(3):277–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hammond M, Rogers P (2007) An investigation of children’s conceptualisation of computers and how they work. Educ Inf Technol 12(1):3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Houkes W, Vermaas PE (2013) Pluralism on artefact categories: a philosophical defence. Rev Philos Psychol 4(3):543–557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hughes M, Brackenridge A, Macleod H (1987) Children’s ideas about computers. In: Rutkowska J, Crook C (eds) Computers, cognition and development: issues for psychology and education. 1st ed. Wiley. Chap. 1, pp. 9–34Google Scholar
  12. Hyson MC, Morris SK (1986) ‘Computers? I love them!’: young children’s concepts and attitudes about computers. Early Child Dev Care 23(1):17–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. ISTE (2007) ISTE Standards: Students. Tech. rep. International Society for Technology in Education. URL: https://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-S_PDF.pdf. Visited on 12 Nov 2015
  14. Jarvis T, Rennie LJ (1996) Understanding technology: the development of a concept. Int J Sci Educ 18(8):977–992CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jervis A (2003) Children’s thinking about computers. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference, Heriot-Watt University, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  16. Jervis A (2005) ‘It’s good for plugging-in a budgie’: children talking about computers. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of GlamorganGoogle Scholar
  17. Jones N et al (2011) Mental models: an interdisciplinary synthesis of theory and methods. Ecol Soc 16(1)Google Scholar
  18. Kolikant YB-D (2001) Gardeners and cinema tickets: high school students’ preconceptions of concurrency. Comput Sci Educ 11(3):221–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Levy ST, Mioduser D (2008) Does it ‘want’ or ‘was it programmed to..’? Kindergarten children’s explanations of an autonomous robot’s adaptive functioning. Int J Technol Des Educ 18(4):337–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Malt BC, Sloman SA (2007) Artifact categorization: The good, the bad, and the ugly. In: Creations of the mind: Theories of artifacts and their representation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp 85–123Google Scholar
  21. Mawby R et al (1984) Structured interviews on children’s conceptions of computers. Tech. rep. 9. Bank Street College of EducationGoogle Scholar
  22. Mortimer EF (1995) Conceptual change or conceptual profile change? Sci Educ 4(3):267–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mumtaz S (2002) Children’s conceptions of information and communications technology. Educ Inf Technol 7(2):155–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Oleson KE et al (2010) Developmental human factors: children’s mental models of computers. In: Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. Vol. 54. 19. SAGE Publications, pp. 1450–1453Google Scholar
  25. Papastergiou M (2005) Students’ mental models of the internet and their didactical exploitation in informatics education. Educ Inf Technol 10(4):341–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pea RD (1986) Language-independent conceptual ‘bugs’ in novice programming. J Educ Comput Res 2(1):25–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Proudfoot D (2011) Anthropomorphism and AI: Turing’s much misunderstood imitation game. Artif Intell 175(5–6):950–957CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sanders I, Galpin V, Götschi T (2006) Mental models of recursion revisited. SIGCSE Bull. 38(3):138–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scaife M, van Duuren M (1995) Do computers have brains? What children believe about intelligent artifacts. Br J Devl Psychol 13(4):367–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Simon B et al (2006) Commonsense computing: what students know before we teach (episode 1: sorting). In: Proceedings of the second international workshop on Computing education research. ACM, pp. 29–40Google Scholar
  31. Sorva J (2013) Notional machines and introductory programming education. ACM Transactions on Computing Education 13(2)Google Scholar
  32. Thuné M, Eckerdal A (2010) Students’ conceptions of computer programming. Tech. rep. 2010-021. Uppsala University, Computational ScienceGoogle Scholar
  33. Tucker A et al (2003) A Model curriculum for K–12 computer science: final report of the ACM K–12 Task Force Curriculum Committee. ACM. URL: http://www.csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/CurrFiles/K-12ModelCurr2ndEd.pdf. Visited on 12 Nov 2015
  34. Turkle S (2005) The second self: computers and the human spirit. 20th anniversary edn. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  35. van Duuren M, Scaife M (1995) How do children represent intelligent technology? Eur J Psychol Educ 10(3):289–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. van Duuren M, Scaife M (1996) ‘Because a robot’s brain hasn’t got a brain, it just controls itself’—Children’s attributions of brain related behaviour to intelligent artifacts. Eur J Psychol Educ 11(4):365–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. van Duuren M, Dossett B, Robinson D (1998) Gauging children’s understanding of artificially intelligent objects: a presentation of ‘counterfactuals’. Int J Behav Dev 22(4):871–889CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Weiskopf DA (2009) The plurality of concepts. Synthese 169(1):145–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wolfe LR (1968) Computer concepts possessed by seventh-grade children. Arith Teach 15(1):35–39Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computer Science DepartmentHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations