Skip to main content

Supporting Interactive Storytelling with Block-Based Narrative Programming

  • 942 Accesses

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,volume 13138)


Recent years have seen growing interest in utilizing digital storytelling, where students create short narratives around a topic, as a means of creating motivating problem-solving activities in K-12 education. At the same time, there is increasing awareness of the need to engage students as young as elementary school in complex topics such as physical science and computational thinking. Building on previous research investigating block-based programming activities for storytelling, we present an approach to block-based programming for interactive digital storytelling to engage upper elementary students (ages 9 to 10) in computational thinking and narrative skill development. We describe both the learning environment that combines block-based narrative programming with a rich, interactive visualization engine designed to produce animations of student generated stories, as well as an analysis of students using the system to create narratives. Student generated stories are evaluated from both a story quality perspective as well as from their ability to communicate and demonstrate computational thinking and physical science concepts and practices. We also explore student behaviors during the story creation process and discuss potential improvements for future interventions.


  • Narrative-centered learning
  • Block-based programming

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-92300-6_41
  • Chapter length: 9 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-92300-6
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 1.
Fig. 2.


  1. Robin, B.R.: Digital storytelling: a powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory Into Pract. 47, 220–228 (2008).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  2. Smeda, N., Dakich, E., Sharda, N.: The effectiveness of digital storytelling in the classrooms: a comprehensive study. Smart Learn. Environ. 1(1), 1–21 (2014).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  3. Yang, Y.T.C., Wu, W.C.I.: Digital storytelling for enhancing student academic achievement, critical thinking, and learning motivation: a year-long experimental study. Comput. Educ. 59, 339–352 (2012).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  4. Henriksen, D.: Full STEAM ahead: creativity in excellent STEM teaching practices. STEAM J. 1, 1–9 (2014).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  5. Henriksen, D., Mishra, P., Fisser, P.: Infusing creativity and technology in 21st century education: a systemic view for change. Educ. Technol. Soc. 19, 27–37 (2016)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Tan, M., Lee, S.-S., Hung, D.W.L.: Digital storytelling and the nature of knowledge. Educ. Inf. Technol. 19(3), 623–635 (2013).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  7. Lee, I., et al.: Computational Thinking for Youth in Practice (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Parsazadeh, N., Cheng, P.Y., Wu, T.T., Huang, Y.M.: Integrating computational thinking concept into digital storytelling to improve learners’ motivation and performance. J. Educ. Comput. Res. 59, 470–495 (2021).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  9. Hill, C., Dwyer, H.A., Martinez, T., Harlow, D., Franklin, D.: Floors and flexibility: designing a programming environment for 4th-6th grade classrooms. In: Proceedings of the 46th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE), pp. 546–551 (2015).

  10. Weintrop, D., Hansen, A.K., Harlow, D.B., Franklin, D.: Starting from scratch: outcomes of early computer science learning experiences implications for what comes next. In: Proceedings of the 2018 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research (ICER), pp. 142–150 (2018).

  11. Bruner, J.: Acts of Meaning. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1990)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Avraamidou, L., Osborne, J.: The role of narrative in communicating science. Int. J. Sci. Educ. 31, 1683–1707 (2009).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  13. Robin, B.R.: The power of digital storytelling to support teaching and learning. Digit. Educ. Rev. 17–29 (2016).

  14. Sarica, H.Ç., Usluel, Y.K.: The effect of digital storytelling on visual memory and writing skills. Comput. Educ. 94, 298–309 (2016).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  15. Niemi, H., Multisilta, J.: Digital storytelling promoting twenty-first century skills and student engagement. Technol. Pedagog. Educ. 25, 451–468 (2016).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  16. Franklin, D., et al.: Using upper-elementary student performance to understand conceptual sequencing in a blocks-based curriculum. In: Proceedings of the Conference on Integrating Technology into Computer Science Education, ITiCSE, pp. 231–236 (2017).

  17. Horn, M.S., AlSulaiman, S., Koh, J.: Translating Roberto to Omar: computational literacy, stickerbooks, and cultural forms. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, pp. 120–127 (2013).

  18. Franklin, D., Hill, C., Dwyer, H.A., Hansen, A.K., Iveland, A., Harlow, D.B.: Initialization in scratch: seeking knowledge transfer. In: Proceedings of the 47th ACM Technical Symposium on Computing Science Education, SIGCSE 2016, pp. 217–222 (2016).

  19. Weintrop, D., Wilensky, U.: Using commutative assessments to compare conceptual understanding in blocks-based and text-based programs. In: Proceedings of the 11th Annual International Conference on International Computing Education Research (ICER 2015), pp. 101–110 (2015).

  20. Dwyer, H., Hill, C., Hansen, A., Iveland, A., Franklin, D., Harlow, D.: Fourth grade students reading block-based programs: predictions, visual cues, and affordances. In: Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research (ICER), pp. 111–120 (2015).

  21. Smith, A., et al.: Toward a block-based programming approach to interactive storytelling for upper elementary students. In: Bosser, A.-G., Millard, D.E., Hargood, C. (eds.) ICIDS 2020. LNCS, vol. 12497, pp. 111–119. Springer, Cham (2020).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants DRL-1921495 and DRL-1921503. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andy Smith .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this paper

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this paper

Smith, A. et al. (2021). Supporting Interactive Storytelling with Block-Based Narrative Programming. In: Mitchell, A., Vosmeer, M. (eds) Interactive Storytelling. ICIDS 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 13138. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-92299-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-92300-6

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)