Thursday, April 05, 2018

CFP Alert: Special issue of Information and Learning Science on "Youth and Computational Thinking"

The Journal of Information and Learning Sciences is currently undergoing a major revamp, and in this vein has a number of super exciting special issues coming up. Here is the CFP, cut and paste from the journal website, for an upcoming issue on youth, computational thinking and digital/computer literacy movements. The deadline is coming up soon (May 14).

Learning to Code, Coding to Learn: Youth and Computational Thinking
Special issue call for papers from Information and Learning Sciences

A special issue of Information and Learning Sciences

Professor Jeannette Wing's provocative and influential article entitled "Computational Thinking" appeared in the March 2006 issue of Communications of the ACM; in the twelve years since, educators, computer scientists, policy makers, and technologists have been working to define this conceptual space, measure it, and assess the role that computer science can and should play in the education of young people. While Wing is by no means the first person to notice that computer science can play an important role in developing problem solving capacities in youth across the curriculum (see: Papert, 1980; Clements and Gullo, 1984; Harel and Papert, 1990; diSessa, 2001, to name just a few), her call to arms fueled increasing research attention and policy interest (e.g. Aho, 2012; Cooper and Cunningham, 2010; Guzdial, 2008; Wing, 2008).

Since that time, the Computer Science Education (CSE) movement has gained considerable momentum, led by a coalition of scholars, non-profits, and industry partners. Coding interfaces such as MIT's Scratch platform, Gamestar Mechanic, Kodu, and a host of others (Anton and Berland, 2014; Resnick, Maloney, Monroy-Hernandez, et al., 2009) have opened new possibilities for youth to develop their own interactive games.  The “Computer Science for All” Initiative begun during the Obama Administration suggests that the United States is not far behind France, the UK, and other nations in mandating coding for children beginning in the elementary grades. Programs and initiatives in the US context that contribute to these efforts include, Hour of Code, and the work of organizations including BlackGirlsCode, GirlsWhoCode, iRemix, Code Savvy, Globaloria, KidsCodeJeunesse, and others.

Scholars in formal and informal learning have been working to make computer programming more accessible to young people. According to a recent survey, coding is already a part of the formal curriculum of 16 countries in Europe (Balanskat & Engelhardt, 2014). Curricula in game design, such as those developed by Constructionist scholars and instructional design experts Yasmin Kafai, Idit Harel and their colleagues (e.g., Kafai, Peppler and Chapman, 2009; Fields, Searle, Kafai et al, 2012; Reynolds & Harel, 2011; Reynolds, 2016) have engaged thousands of young people across several US states in formal, intensive in-school introductory CS education coursework. Public and school libraries also present a context and opportunity to engage children in playful introductions to coding through drop-in making activities (Martin, 2015; Prato, 2017).

These initiatives, and the growing base of research evidence, offer support that the incorporation of computer science concepts in learning programs is an idea whose time has come. Computational Thinking, or CT, can be defined as "the process of recognising aspects of computation in the world that surrounds us, and applying tools and techniques from Computer Science to understand and reason about both natural and artificial systems and processes" (Royal Society, 2012 p. 29). We argue in this call for our special issue that Computational Thinking is a generative space residing between the learning sciences and information sciences, drawing on concepts of cognition and development (e.g., motivation, self-regulation), the system sciences (e.g., algorithmic representation, design of data structures), and areas of shared or interdisciplinary concern and interest (e.g., digital literacy, problem solving).

The guest editors are seeking high-quality, innovative articles to address conceptual, empirical, and theoretical issues in the broad area of computational thinking and youth: the who, what, where and why of learning to code. Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):
•    Critical, conceptual, epistemic explorations of code and coding
•    Relationship between computational thinking and literacy or literacies
•    Informal spaces for coding education, including libraries, museums, maker spaces
•    Design and architecture of learning platforms for coding
•    Innovative coding curriculum and pedagogy
•    Emergent and designed communities for learning computing skills and concepts
•    Learner assessment approaches and techniques
•    Effect of coding instruction on youth skills and behaviours
•    Equity, gender, status and identity issues in coding and computation environments

Eric Meyers, University of British Columbia

Hong Huang, University of South Florida

Submissions should comply with the journal author guidelines that are here. Submissions should be made through ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at

Initial submission due: 14 May 2018
First round decisions made: 30 July 2018
Revised manuscripts due: 10 September 2018
Final decisions made: 15 October 2018
Anticipated publication date:  Issue 2, March/April 2019


  • Aho, A. V. (2012). Computation and computational thinking. The Computer Journal, 55(7), 832–835.
  • Anton, G., & Berland, M. (2014). Studio K: a game development environment designed for gains in computational thinking (abstract only). In Proceedings of the 45rd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. New York: ACM Press.
  • Barr, V., & Stephenson, C. (2011). Bringing computational thinking to K-12: What is involved and what is the role of the computer science education community? ACM Inroads, 2(1), 48–54.
  • Berland, M., & Lee, V. R. (2011). Collaborative strategic board games as a site for distributed computational thinking. International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 1(2), 65.
  • Clements, D. H., & Gullo, D. F. (1984). Effects of computer programming on young children’s cognition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(6), 1051–1058.
  • Cooper, S., & Cunningham, S. (2010). Teaching computer science in context. ACM Inroads, 1(1), 5–8.
  • diSessa, A. A. (2001). Changing minds: Computers, learning and literacy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Fields, D. A., Searle, K. A., Kafai, Y. B., & Min, H. S. (2012). Debuggems to assess student learning in e-textiles. In Proceedings of the 43rd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. New York: ACM Press.
  • Guzdial, M. (2008). Education: Paving the way for computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 51(8), 25–27.
  • Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1990). Software design as a learning environment. Interactive Learning Environments, 1(1), 1–32.
  • Kafai, Y. B, Peppler, K. A, & Chapman, R. N. (2009). The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and creativity in youth communities. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Martin, C. (2015). Connected learning, libraries, and connecting youth interest. Journal of Research on Young Adults and Libraries. connected-learning-librarians-and-connecting-youth-interest/
  • Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.
  • Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Monroy-Hernández, A., Rusk, N., Eastmond, E., Brennan, K., Silverman, B. (2009). Scratch: programming for all. Communications of the ACM, 52(11), 60–67.
  • Reynolds, R., & Harel Caperton, I. (2011). Contrasts in student engagement, meaning-making, dislikes, and challenges in a discovery-based program of game design learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(2), 267-289.
  • Reynolds, R. (2016).  Relationships among tasks, collaborative inquiry processes, inquiry resolutions, and knowledge outcomes in adolescents during guided discovery-based game design in school. Journal of Information Science: Special Issue on Searching as Learning. 42(1), 35-58.
  • Royal Society (2012). Shut down or restart: The way forward for computing in UK schools.
  • Prato, S. C. (2017). Beyond the computer age: A best practices intro for implementing library coding programs. Children & Libraries, 15(1), 19-21.
  • Wing, J. M. (2008). Computational thinking and thinking about computing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 366(1881), 3717–3725.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Heads up: TIFF Kids Industry Forum (+ Film Festival) Coming Soon!

Hi All - It's nearly time for this year's TIFF Kids Film Festival. As always, this year's festival includes a number of digital media and games-related attractions, foremost among which is the DigiPlaySpace and AppArcade. Here's the promo text for the festival's associated Industry Forum, which includes presentations, workshops and a number of fun networking events. Please distribute far and wide. Hope to see some of you there. 
Registration is now open for the 2017 TIFF Kids International Film Festival and Industry Forum. Passes offer exclusive access to Festival screenings, our two-day professional development Industry Forum, networking opportunities, workshops, roundtable discussions and our award-winning digiPlaySpace. We have two pass types available to help you customize your Festival experience.
Find out more about our pass benefits and how to register here:
At our upcoming TIFF Kids Industry Forum, hear talks by representatives from Amazon Studios, eOne, Québecor Contenu, Sinking Ship Entertainment, SoulPancake Productions, Telefilm Canada, and TVO!
Highlights include:
• A special edition of Breakfast at TIFF exploring the landscape of theatrical features produced in Canada
• Sesame Workshop discusses their research methodology and production practices
• An examination into the complex world of viral sensations, online influencers, and youth activists
Speakers will be announced on March 20, along with the full lineup on April 1!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Connected Creations and Wi-Fi Enabled Imaginations (Presentation Slides)

Last month, I had the immense pleasure of giving the keynote talk at the Digital Literacy and Multimodal Practices of Young Children (DigiLitEY) DigiLitEy Conference, a COST Project Meeting, which was held in Prague, Czech Republic. I know that the slides will soon be shared on the organization's website, but I also wanted to post them here so that they might reach a broader audience. See below (and/or on Slideshare). Thanks again to Jackie Marsh for inviting me, and for introducing me to this amazing association of early childhood researchers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Cool Conference/CFP Alert: Children's Media and Texts in a Mediatized World

Cut and paste from the original CFP, circulated this week on the Exploring Childhood Studies mailing list. Note: Deadline for 200 word abstracts is Dec. 1, 2016.

Call for Papers:
Children's Media and Texts in a Mediatized World

Conference at Aarhus University, Centre for Children's Literature
30 May – 1 June 2017

Children and young people live in a mediatized world in which literature, other visual and verbal texts, media and platforms converge and coalesce. Established notions of producers and users, target groups, genres and literary forms and experiences are thereby challenged.

Users and readers are ascribed with new forms of agency, while at the same time children confront an increased commercialization and demands for standardized schooling and academic achievements.

At this conference we wish to examine these challenges, bringing together scholars from children's literature studies, media studies and adjoining fields. For instance, children’s literature, in its many manifestations, must be seen as tightly interwoven with the broad spectre media cultures in which children and young people engage. 

Children’s literature and media must be understood in the light of contemporary developments, which enable new, cross-media publishing forms, as well as new modes of interaction and engagement between writers and readers, users and producers. Children and young people are in many cases producers and co-producers of media content themselves, and they often seem to cross traditional borders between digital and analogue media and texts in their everyday practices. 

These developments bring about analytical, theoretical, methodological and empirical challenges which will be addressed at this conference.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
  • Children’s and young people's everyday life with (digital) media
  • Children's literature in a new media landscape
  • Children and young people as consumers and producers of texts and media
  • Children's media and texts in family life and schools
Confirmed keynote speakers:
  • Rebekah Willett, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Ute Dettmar, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt
  • Björn Sjöblom, Stockholms Universitet
  • Philip Nel, Kansas State University
Deadline for abstracts (max. 300 words) and a 100-word biography: 1 December 2016
to Sarah Mygind,

Notification of acceptance: 15 December

Conference organizers: Nina Christensen ( and Stine Liv Johansen (

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Penguins, Hype and MMOGs for Kids: Online First in Games and Culture Journal

I am very happy to announce the publication of my latest article, entitled "Penguins, Hype, and MMOGs for Kids: A Critical Reexamination of the 2008 “Boom” in Children’s Virtual Worlds Development," in Games and Culture Journal (now available via Online First, print issue forthcoming). The article revisits and reanalyzes some of the data that I collected for my dissertation research on children's MMOGs. Here's the abstract:
According to various media and academic sources, the virtual worlds landscape underwent a profound transformation in 2008, with the arrival of numerous new titles designed and targeted specifically to young children. Although a growing body of research has explored some of the titles involved in this shift, little remains known of its overall scope and contents. This article provides a mapping of the initial “boom” in children’s virtual worlds development and identifies a number of significant patterns within the ensuing children’s virtual worlds landscape. The argument is made that while the reported boom in children’s virtual worlds has been exaggerated, a number of important shifts for online gaming culture did unfold during this period, some of which challenge accepted definitions of “virtual world” and “multiplayer online game.” The implications of these findings are discussed in light of contemporary developments and trends within children’s digital culture and within online gaming more broadly.
You can check out the article on the journal website, and/or access it through various library databases. Warning: A journal subscription is indeed required in order to access the full article.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Grimes and Feenberg Workshop: Rationalizing Play, March 1st at the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology

Workshop: Rationalizing Play: A Critical Theory of Digital Gaming

Tuesday March 1 6:00 - 9:00 PM
SARA GRIMES Faculty of Information (iSchool), University of Toronto
Special guest Andrew Feenberg, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University

McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology
39A Queens Park Crescent E. – Parking available off 121 St. Joseph St. Toronto

In this workshop we will present and discuss a new framework for the study of games as sites of social rationalization based on Feenberg’s critical theory of technology. We will begin by making the case for a consideration of games (non-digital and digital) as systems of social rationality, akin to other modern systems such as capitalist markets and bureaucratic organizations. We will then present a conceptualization of play as a process through which the player focuses attention away from the undifferentiated action of everyday life toward a differentiated sphere of playful activity. This approach reveals how the experience of play changes as it becomes rationalized through the technological mediation, specifically computerization, and widespread standardization that occurs as games become largescale social practices. We will review our theory of the rationalization of play, ludification (Grimes & Feenberg, 2009), and outline the key components or processes found in socially rationalized games. Workshop participants will be invited to discuss different applications of ludification as an analytic framework, explore with us its limitations, as well as consider alternate or oppositional tendencies found within digital game technologies and culture.

This workshop is open to all within and outside academia. You are encouraged to register online:

Updated March 4: Here are my slides from Tuesday's workshop: