UNPLUGGED LANGUAGE-NEUTRAL CARD GAMES AS AN INCLUSIVE INSTRUMENT TO DEVELOP COMPUTATIONAL THINKING SKILLS
It has been recently recognized that computational thinking and problem solving are fundamental cross-disciplinary skills that can be effectively developed by facing programming challenges. Cloud-based visual programming platforms and playful massive open online courses have lowered access barriers and supported worldwide computer literacy campaigns targeting not only IT-gifted pupils, but neophytes of any age regardless of their aptitudes and dreams.
Giving to everyone the opportunity to think like a programmer has become a priority for many governments, inducing for the first time education ministries to officially invite schools to leverage freely available online resources in order to speedup the process and achieve early resuts without waiting for a full fledged reform of curricula.
In this scenario, digital divide risks to cause serious discrimination due to the lack of suitable Internet access infrastructures and compution equipment, to the adverse socio-economic conditions, to the cultural background, and to the language barriers.
This paper presents a new method that makes use of special playing cards inspired to the building blocks of visual programming tools to enable unplugged coding experiences. Cards are made language-neutral by making use of evocative symbols in place of words. The same cards can be used to create many different games belonging to two main categories: board games and spatial games. Two target groups have been chosen to test the inclusiveness and the engagement capabilities of the proposed method: primary schools affected by digital divide issues, and multicultural groups of asylum seekers and refugees. The paper presents the proposed methodology and reports the results of the first field trials.