Empowering young people with computational thinking skills has been recognized as crucial to helping them understand the physical and social worlds they inhabit. On the one hand, in Switzerland, different initiatives have been taken to address this issue in secondary education and, on the other hand, teachers still need support for implementing innovative and relevant approaches into their teaching practices. In addition, the development of a Computer Science/Informatics school curriculum is impeded by insufficient empirical evidence.

PACT (Playing and Computational Thinking) is a joint project (UNIFR, HEIG-VD and gymnasium teachers) funder by the Hasler Foundation. PACT is aiming at offering secondary school teachers in computer sciences, the opportunity to get this support through innovative resources dedicated to game-based learning and teachers professional development grounded on design-based research. UNIFR-LIP and HEIG-VD collaborate for the design, the development, the implementation, the analysis and the dissemination of game-based programming education. Three categories of research questions are addressed. They focus on the strategies implemented by players. We assess (1) acceptability of the resources produced by the project: Do the students develop strategies demonstrating that they are engaged in addressing the computational challenge offered by the game? (2) Usability: Do they face difficulties? Which difficulties? And (3) Usefulness: Do they overcome difficulties? Do they manage to diminish the number of errors made? Do the strategies implemented demonstrate that the student/player has developed knowledge related to computational thinking? An original methodology based on playing analytics, a sub-field of learning analytics, enables to address these research questions.
The expected outcomes are (1) innovative teaching resources for computational education (games and learning scenarios), (2) frameworks for innovative teaching scenarios supported by strong research results, (3) experienced teachers ready for acting as computing ambassadors and teachers trainers and (4) empirical evidences on the relevance of a game-based learning approach for computational thinking development.

The project will officially starts the 1st of September but we already had our first meeting at the LIP.
Members of the PACT project: Eric Sanchez (UNIFR-LIP), Dominique Jaccard (HEIG-VD), Jarle Hulaas (HEIG-VD), Maud Plumettaz-Sieber (UNIFR-LIP), Christian Brodard (Collège de Gambach), Laurent Bardy  (Collège St Michel), Laurence Fidanza (Collège du Sud), Cédric Donner (Collège du Sud), Andre Maurer (GYB), Samuel Vannay (LCC).

Contact: maud.sieber@unifr.ch