Scaffolding Programming Explorations - WICO Summer 2019 3.1

At the WICO summer camp we’re experimenting with ways of introducing computational concepts to campers in a playful, open-ended and collaborative fashion.


This takes a bit of a different approach than traditional tinkering activities like playing with light and shadow, balls and ramps or electrical circuits. In these activities all of the materials are visible and learners usually have had some experience with the ideas.


For programming and physical computing it’s a little more tricky because the technologies are new and it’s not initially clear what options are on the table. For this reason we’re trying out ways of scaffolding the experience with more guided introductions.

At the first day of camp we started with beetleblocks. This is a very low-threshold introduction to programming that allowed campers to quickly make a digital design into a sticker or temporary tattoo.

It additionally got the group familiar with the style of dragging and dropping blocks, the idea that there are categories of blocks with different options inside and the concept of creating a sequence in a repeat loop.


On the second day of camp we moved to micro:bit, the programming tool that we’d be working with for the rest of the week.

We like to practice close observation of the tools and materials as a way to get started, so we spent the initial time of the day drawing/labeling the Micro:bit in our journals.


Then we got started programming in MakeCode, but focused simply on the LED array screen and the onboard inputs (buttons, compass and accelerometer).

Although this provided a lower threshold entry point to get familiar with the board, the group quickly began making discoveries, creating unique animations and designs and testing out ideas. Its been fun to iterate on this idea as facilitators and learning designers over the course of the camp and think about the best ways to introduce computational tinkering to learners.