Computational algorithmic thinking (CAT) is the ability to design, implement, and assess the implementation of algorithms to solve a range of problems. It involves identifying and understanding a problem, articulating an algorithm or set of algorithms in the form of a solution to the problem, implementing that solution in such a way that the solution solves the problem, and evaluating the solution based on some set of criteria. CAT is an important scaffolded on-ramp as students develop more advanced computational thinking capabilities and apply computational thinking to solve problems that are more constrained and require greater expertise. Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT) is both a longitudinal between-subjects research project and a free enrichment program supporting and guiding African-American middle school girls over three years as they iteratively design a set of complex games for social change. This article explores Scholars’ reflections about the difficulties they faced while using CAT capabilities as they engaged in collaborative game design for social change over those three years. We particularly focus on how these difficulties changed over the course of three years as well as new difficulties that emerged from year to year as Scholars become more expert game designers and computational algorithmic thinkers.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anderson, John R. (2000). Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications: Fifth Edition. New York: Worth Publishing.
Anderson, John R; James G Greeno; Paul J. Kline; and David M. Neves (1981). Acquisition of problem-solving skills. Cognitive skills and their acquisition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Bandura, Albert (1994). Self-efficacy. Encyclopedia of psychology, 2nd ed., vol. 3. New York: Wiley, pp. 368–369.
Barron, Brigid (2003). When smart groups fail. Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 12, pp. 307–359.
Barnes, Tiffany; Heather Richter; Amanda Chaffin; Alex Godwin; Eve Powell; Tiffany Ralph; Paige Matthews; and Hyun Jordan (2007). Game2Learn: A study of games as tools for learning introductory programming. In I. Russel, S. Haller, J.D. Dougherty, and S. Rodger (eds): SIGCSE ‘07. Proceedings of the 38th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education. New York: ACM, pp. 121–125.
Barron, Brigid; Daniel L Schwartz; Nancy J. Vye; Allison Moore; Anthony Petrosino; Linda Zech; John D. Bransford. and The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1998). Doing with understanding: Lessons from research on problem- and project-based learning. Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 7, nos. 3&4, pp. 271–311.
Bayer, Ann (1990). Collaborative-apprenticeship learning: Language and thinking across the curriculum, K-12. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.
Brathwaite, Brenda (2009). “Interview on Women, Games and Design”. Downloaded from Applied Game Design blog, http://bbrathwaite.wordpress.com/2009/01/07/interview-on-womengames-and-design/.
Bransford, John D.; Ann L. Brown; and Rodney R. Cocking (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Bundy, A. 2007 Computational thinking is pervasive. Journal of Scientific and Practical Computing, vol. 1, pp. 67–69.
Collins, Alan; John S. Brown; and Susan E. Newman. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. Resnick (ed): Knowing, learning, and instruction: essays in honor of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 453–494.
DiCiccio, Albert C. (1988). Social Constructionism and Collaborative Learning: Recommendations for Teaching Writing. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication 1988.
DiSalvo, Betsy J; Mark Guzdial; Tom Mcklin; Charles Meadows; Kenneth Perry; Corey Steward; and Amy Bruckman (2009). Glitch Game Testers: African American Med Breaking Open the Console. In T. Krzywinska, H. Kennedy, and B. Atkins (eds): Proceedings of the Digital Games Research Association 2009 International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory, West London, UK, 1- 4 September 2009, pp. 1–6.
Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York, NY: Audioworks.
Dweck, Carol S; Gregory M. Walton; and Geoffrey L. Cohen (2014). Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and Skills that Promote Long-Term Learning. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Feltovich, Paul; J; Rand J. Spiro; Richard L. Coulson; and Joan Feltovich (1996). Collaboration within and among minds: Mastering complexity, individually and in groups. In T. Koschmann (ed): CSCL: Theory and practice of an emerging paradigm. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 25–44.
Fullerton, Tracy; Chris Swain; Stephen Hoffman (2004). Game Design Workshop: designing, prototyping and playtesting games. San Francisco, CA: CMP Books.
Gregory, Stacie LeSure (2015). African American Female Engineering Students’ Persistence in Stereotype-threatening Environments: A Critical Race Theory Perspective. Ph.D. dissertation. Utah State University: Dept. of Engineering and Technology Education.
Hatley, Leshell; and Alicia Washington (2011). Youth APPLab: One Response to Preliminary Analysis of Computer Science Education for Students of Color. In H. Arabnia, V. Clincy, A. Bahrami and A. M. G. Solo (eds): FECS 2011: Proceedings of the 2011 International Conference on Frontiers in Education: Computer Science and Computer Engineering, Las Vegas, NV, 18-21 July 2011. USA: CSREA Press, pp. 173–180.
International Society for Technology in Education – National Education Technology Standards (2007). NETS for Students 2007, downloaded from http://www.iste.org/standards/netsfor-students/nets-student-standards-2007.aspx.
Kafai, Yasmin B. (2006). Playing and Making Games for Learning: Instructionist and Constructivist Perspectives for Game Studies. Games and Culture, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 36–39.
Kafai, Yasmin B.; and Mitchel Resnick (1996). Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking and Learning in a Digital World. New York: Routledge.
Kolodner, Janet L. (2002). Facilitating the Learning of Design Practices: Lessons Learned from an Inquiry into Science Education. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 9–40.
Koschmann, Timothy; Ann C. Kelson; Paul J. Feltovich; and Howard S. Barrows (1996). Computer-supported problem-based learning: A principled approach to the use of computers in collaborative learning. In T. Koschmann (ed): CSCL: Theory and practice of an emerging paradigm, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. pp. 83–124.
Lave, Jean; and Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Maloney, John; Leo Burd; Yasmin Kafai; Natalie Rusk; Brian Silverman; and Mitchel Resnick (2004). Scratch: A Sneak Preview. In ICCCC ‘04: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creating, Connecting, and Collaborating through Computing. Kyoto, Japan, 29-30 January 2004. Washington, DC: IEEE Computer Society, pp. 104–109.
Research Council (2011). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Nersessian, Nancy J. (2008) Creating Scientific Concepts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Owensby, Jakita N. (2006). Exploring the Development and Transfer of Case Use Skills in Middle-School Project-Based Inquiry Classrooms. Ph.D. dissertation, Georgia Institute of Technology: College of Computing. Proquest (1115125971).
Palincsar, Annemarie; and Ann Brown (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction. vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 117–175.
Papert, Seymour. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.
Plutzik, Nate (2010). “So, Only White Men Can Be Game Designers?” Downloaded from the NPR All Tech Considered blog, http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2010/03/if_youre_not_white_and_male_yo.html.
Polya, George (1973). How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method, 2nd Edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Puntembekar, Sadhana; and Janet L Kolodner (1998). The Design Diary: Development of a Tool to Support Students Learning Science By Design. In A. Bruckman, M. Guzdial, J. Kolodner and A. Ram (eds): ICLS 98: Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences ‘98, Atlanta, GA, 16-19 December 1998. Atlanta: ISLS, pp. 230–236.
Repenning, Alexander; and Andri Ioannidou (2008). Broadening Participation through Scalable Game Design. In J. D. Doughtery, S. Rodger, S. Fitzgerald and M. Guzdial (eds): SIGCSE ‘08: Proceedings of the 39th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education. Portland, OR, 12-15 March 2008. New York: ACM, pp. 305–309.
Repenning, Alexander; David Webb; and Andri Ioannidou (2010). Scalable Game Design and the Development of a Checklist for Getting Computational Thinking into Public Schools. In G. Lewandowski, S. Wolfman, T. Cortina and E. Walker (eds): SIGCSE ‘10: Proceedings of the 41st ACM technical symposium on Computer science education, Milwaukee WI, 10-13 March 2010. New York: ACM, pp. 265–269.
Resnick, Mitchel; Natalie Rusk; and Stina Cooke (1998). Computer Clubhouse: Technological fluency in the inner city. High Technology and Low-Income Communities. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 263–285.
Rode, Jennifer A; Anne Weibert; Andrea Marshall; Konstantin Aal; Thomas von Rekowski; Houda El Mimouni; and Jennifer Booker (2015). From computational thinking to computational making. In K. Mase, M. Langheinrich, D. Gatica-Perez, H. Gellersen, T. Choudhury and K. Yatani (eds): UbiComp ‘15: Adjunct Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, Osaka, Japan, 7–11 Steptember 2015. New York: ACM, pp. 239–250.
Roschelle, Jeremy (1992). Learning by collaborating: Convergent conceptual change. Journal of the Learning Sciences. vol. 2, no. 3, 1992. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 235–276.
Schneider, G. Michael and Judith L. Gersting (2010). Invitation to Computer Science, 5th Edition. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning, pp. 4–16.
Stickel, Oliver; Dominik Hormung; Konstantin Aal; Markus Rohde; and Volker Wulf (2015). 3D Printing with Marginalized Children—An Exploration in a Palestinian Refugee Camp. In N. Boulus-Rodje, G. Ellingsen, T. Bratteteig, M. Aanestad and P. Bjorn (eds): ECSCW 2015: Proceedings of the 14th European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 19–23 September, 2015 Oslo, Norway. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, pp. 83–102.
Thomas, Jakita O. (2008). Scaffolding Complex Cognitive Skill Development: Exploring the Development and Transfer of Case Use Skills In Middle-School Project-Based Inquiry Classrooms. Saarbrucken, Germany: VDM Publishing.
Thomas, Jakita O. (2014). Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT): Development of a complex cognitive capability in African-American middle-school girls. In J. D. Dougherty, K. Nagel, A. Decker, and K. Eiselt (eds): SIGCSE ‘14: Proceedings of the 45th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education, Atlanta, GA, 5–8 March 2014. New York: ACM, pp. 709–710.
Thomas, Jakita O; Rachelle Minor; and O. Carlette Odemwingie; (2016). Exploring African-American Middle School Girls’ Perceptions of Computational Algorithmic Thinking and of Themselves as Game Designers. Transforming Learning, Empowering Learners: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences. In C. Looi, J. Polman U. Cress and P. Reimann (eds): ICLS ‘16: Proceeding of the 12th International Conference of the Learning Sciences Volume 1., Singapore, 20–24 June 2016. Singapore: International Society of the Learning Sciences, pp. 960–962.
Thomas, Jakita O; O. Carlette Odemwingie; Andrea Richmond; Quimeka Saunders; and Malika Watler (2015). Understanding the Difficulties African-American Middle School Girls Face While Enacting Computational Algorithmic Thinking in the Context of Game Design. Journal of Computer Science and Information Technology (JCSIT). vol. 3, no. 1, June 2015, pp. 15–33.
Vygotsky, Lev S. (1978) Mind and society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wells, Gordon; and Gen L. Chang-Wells (1992). Constructing knowledge together. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Wenger-Trayner, Etienne; and Beverly Wenger-Trayner. (2015). Communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice. Accessed 10 February 2016.
Werner, Linda; Shannon Campe; and Jill Denner (2005). Middle school girls + games programming = Information technology fluency. In R. Friedman (ed): SIGITE ‘05: Proceedings of the 6th conference on Information technology education, Newark, NJ, 20-22 October 2005. New York: ACM, pp. 301–305.
Werner, Linda; Jill Denner; Michelle Bliesner; and Pat Rex. (2009). Can middle-schoolers use Storytelling Alice to make games? Results of a pilot study. In L. Werner, J. Denner, M. Bliesner and P. Rex (eds): FDG ‘09: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, Orlando, FL, 26-30 April 2009. New York: ACM, pp. 207–214.
Wing, Jeanette M. (2006). Computational Thinking. CACM Viewpoint, March 2006, pp. 33–35.
Wing, Jeannette M. (2008). Computational thinking and thinking about computing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, vol. 366, no. 1881, April 2008, pp. 3717–3725.
Wing, Jeanette M. (2010). “Computational Thinking”. Presented at the Centre for Computational Systems and Biology, Trento, Italy, December 2010.
Yadav, Aman; Ninger Zhou; Chris Mayfield; Susanne Hambrusch; and John T. Korb (2011). Introducing computational thinking in education courses. In A. Yadav, N. Zhou, C. Mayfield, S. Hambrusch and J. Korb (eds.): SIGCSE ‘11: Proceedings of 42nd ACM technical symposium on Computer science education, Dallas, TX, 9–12 March 2011. New York: ACM, pp. 465–470.
We are grateful for the generous support of the National Science Foundation (DRK-12 1150098).
About this article
Cite this article
Thomas, J.O., Rankin, Y., Minor, R. et al. Exploring the Difficulties African-American Middle School Girls Face Enacting Computational Algorithmic Thinking over three Years while Designing Games for Social Change. Comput Supported Coop Work 26, 389–421 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-017-9292-y