From surveys to collaborative art: Enabling children to program with online data

June 24, 2013


Sayamindu Dasgupta


Being able to store and access data online enables a wide range of creative possibilities, starting from surveys to collaborative art, from global high-score-lists for games to real-time chat-rooms. While end-user tools in these categories are increasingly becoming available to children, what is still missing is the opportunity for children to program and create such systems. Causes behind this lack of opportunity include, among other things, high barriers to entry due to complex client-server technologies, as well as hard to understand topics such as access control, etc. This paper presents Cloud data-structures – a feature in the online visual language Scratch 2.0 that enables children to programmatically store and retrieve data online. While standard data-structures are stored in memory, for Cloud variants, all operations (and data) on the data-structure are additionally sent to remote servers over the Internet. This has two consequences for a given Scratch 2.0 project: (1) Cloud data-structures are persistent across multiple execution instances, and (2) they are shared between simultaneous instances. This paper describes the motivations behind, and the design of Cloud data-structures, along with case studies describing projects created by children with this system, with a focus on the learning outcomes.

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