Blocks programming, in which program syntax trees are represented as visual blocks, is popular in programming environments targeted at beginner programmers and casual programmers. The goal of this workshop is to bring together language designers, educators, and researchers to (1) discuss the state of the art of these environments, (2) assess the usability and effectiveness of these environments and their associated pedagogies, and (3) brainstorm about future directions. This workshop will not be a mini-conference. The focus will instead be on engaging participants in discussions. There will be three kinds of sessions:

  • Discussion sessions organized around a keynote and some short talks/panels.
  • Demo/poster sessions in which participants describe recent work related to blocks languages or other introductory programming environments.
  • A “campfire talk” in which developers of blocks environments share stories about their current systems and future plans, with feedback from all workshop participants.

Anyone who wants to join the discussions is welcome to participate in the workshop.

Accepted Papers

Title
A Blocks-Based Approach to Internet of Things in MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Abstractionless Programming in App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Accessibility and Block-based Languages: Challenges and Opportunities
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Beyond "I'm done": Encouraging deeper exploration of challenging computational concepts
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Broadening Participation in Computer Science through Block Programming
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Building an Accessible Block Environment
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
CloudDB in MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Coding while Making: using Blocks Language in a Physical Computing Setting
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Custom Blocks in StarLogo Nova: A Template-Based Approach to Abstraction for Improved Ease of Use and Expressive Power
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
DevTech Lab - KIBO and ScratchJr Demo
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Educational Robotics with a Twist
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Enhancing and Evaluating Collaborative Blocks Programming in App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Implementers’ Campfire: Whole group discussions
BLOCKS+

JSON Interoperability in MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Language Workbench Support for Block-Based DSLs
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Mental Models, Metaphors and Misconceptions
BLOCKS+
Multi-Device Grace
BLOCKS+
Panel: Block Abstractions for Artificial Intelligence
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Playground Demo/Poster Session
BLOCKS+

Rapid Prototyping for Blocks-based Languages and Environments
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Real-time Collaboration and Undo in StarLogo Nova: Technical Approach and Considerations for UX Design
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Real-time Collaboration in NetsBlox
BLOCKS+
Reducing the Barriers for Computational Action: How Blocks-Based Programming Can Support Digital Empowerment
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Research Tools for MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Rethinking OOP in Snap!
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Scratch 3.0 Design Notes
BLOCKS+
The Example Guru: Suggesting Examples to Novice Blocks Programmers in an Artifact-Based Context Increases Use of New Blocks
BLOCKS+
Pre-print
Themed Session 1: Break-out discussions
BLOCKS+

Themed Session 1: Whole Group Discussion
BLOCKS+

Themed Session 2: Breakout discussions and demos/posters
BLOCKS+

Themed Session 2: Whole-group discussions
BLOCKS+

Themed Session 3: Break-out discussions and demos/posters
BLOCKS+

Themed Session 4: Break-out discussions and demos/posters
BLOCKS+

Thinking Outside the Blocks
BLOCKS+
Two New Block Features in GP
BLOCKS+
TypeScript: From JavaScript to Blockly and Back
BLOCKS+
Pre-print

Call for Participation

Blocks programming, in which program syntax trees are represented as visual blocks, has become popular in programming environments targeted at beginner programmers as well as casual programmers (artists, scientists, hobbyists, etc.). Tens of millions of people have used blocks programming environments like Scratch, App Inventor, Blockly, Snap!, StarLogo Nova, Pencil Code, Alice/Looking Glass, AgentSheets/AgentCubes, and Code.org’s curricula.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together language designers, educators, and researchers to (1) discuss the state of the art of these environments, (2) assess the usability and effectiveness of these environments and their associated pedagogies, and (3) brainstorm about future directions for these environments. We seek participants with diverse expertise, including, but not limited to: design of programming environments, instruction with these environments, human factors, the learning sciences, and learning analytics.

This workshop will not be a mini-conference. The focus will be on engaging participants to discuss the current state and future directions of blocks languages and other programming environments targeted at beginners and casual programmers.

Call for Proposals

Anyone who wants to join the discussions is welcome to participate in the workshop. But we encourage more active participation in the form of (1) giving shorts talks that spark discussion; (2) participating in panel discussions of a relevant topic; and (3) presenting demos and/or posters. These forms of participation require proposal submissions by the submission deadline (Friday 17th of August, 2018) that will be reviewed by the program committee:

  • Talk proposals (max 2 pages) should describe a position, open problem, exciting feature/system, promising line of work, or impactful research result. Talks will be chosen based on relevance, clarity, and their likelihood for generating good discussions. Talk proposals not chosen for presentation will automatically be considered for demos/posters.

  • Panel proposals (max 2 pages) should involve at least three people who wish to present perspectives on a topic related to blocks languages. Panels will be chosen based on relevance, clarity, and their likelihood for generating good discussions.

  • Demo/poster proposals (max 2 pages) should describe a system, design, pedagogy, analysis, experiment, result, etc. involving recent work related to blocks languages or other introductory programming environments.

There will be an opportunity to revise accepted proposals to address feedback from the PC.

Publication

All revised accepted proposals will be linked from the BLOCKS+ web page on the SPLASH website. There will be no other form of publication.

Presenters will also have the option to link slides, posters, and other materials relevant to their presentations from the BLOCKS+ web page.

Topics

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to):

  • How usable and effective are blocks environments for teaching programming? For democratizing programming and enabling computational makers? How do we know?

  • In what ways have blocks languages succeeded or failed at fulfilling the promise of visual languages to enhance the ability of humans to express computation?

  • What tools are there for creating new blocks languages, especially domain-specific ones? What tools allow users to extend existing blocks languages?

  • How does the two-dimensional nature of blocks programming workspaces affect the way people create, modify, navigate, and search through their code?

  • How can blocks languages better support dynamic semantics and pragmatics, particularly with features for liveness, debugging, and understanding the dynamic execution of programs?

  • What are effective mechanisms for multiple people to collaborate on a single blocks program when they (1) are co-located or (2) are working together remotely?

  • What are effective pedagogical strategies to use with blocks languages, both in traditional classroom settings and in informal and open-ended learning environments?

  • What are the most effective ways to provide help to blocks programmers, especially in settings outside the classroom?

  • How can online communities associated with these environments be leveraged to support users?

  • How can blocks environments and associated curricular materials be made more accessible to everyone, especially those with visual and motor impairments?

  • In what ways do blocks environments help or hinder those who use them as a stepping stone to traditional text-based languages? What are good ways to support the transition between blocks languages and text-based languages? How important is this?

  • What lessons from the blocks programming community are worth sharing with other language designers? Are there features of blocks languages that should be incorporated into IDEs for traditional programming environments? What features of modern IDEs are lacking in blocks languages?

  • For these environments, what data can be collected, and how can that data be analyzed to determine answers to questions like those above? How can we use such data to answer larger scale questions about early experiences with programming?

Submission Instructions

Even though BLOCKS+ proceedings will not be published by the ACM, for consistency with other SPLASH workshops, BLOCKS+ proposal submissions should use the double-column SIGPLAN acmart style: http://www.sigplan.org/Resources/Author/. The provided double-column template is available for Latex and Word. Some notes:

  • proposal authors should not be anonymous
  • Do include an abstract
  • You do not need to include CCS concepts. But do include appopriate keywords.
  • For the main content of your proposal, use whatever sectioning makes sense.
  • References/citations/acknowledgments are only necessary if they make sense in the context of your proposal.
  • change the \acmConference definition to \acmConference[BLOCKS+]{ACM SPLASH BLOCKS+ 2018 Workshop}{November 04, 2018}{Boston, MA, USA}
  • proposals should be no more than 2 pages.

A PDF of the proposal should be submitted to the BLOCKS+ hotcrp site: https://blocksplus18.hotcrp.com/.

The submission deadline is the end of day on Fri. Aug. 17, Anywhere on Earth time (= 8am EDT on Sat. Aug. 18). But this is not a hard deadline. If you are interested in submitting a proposal, but will have trouble making the deadline (or have missed the deadline), please email the BLOCKS+ chairs.

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Conference Day
Sun 4 Nov

Displayed time zone: Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey change

08:20 - 08:30
08:30 - 09:00
Introductory SessionBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
08:30
30m
Talk
Mental Models, Metaphors and Misconceptions
BLOCKS+
09:00 - 10:00
Limits People Reach & How to Get Past ThemBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
09:00
5m
Talk
Coding while Making: using Blocks Language in a Physical Computing Setting
BLOCKS+
Karen H. JinUniversity of New Hampshire
Pre-print
09:05
5m
Talk
Abstractionless Programming in App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Audrey SeoWellesley College
Pre-print
09:10
5m
Talk
Beyond "I'm done": Encouraging deeper exploration of challenging computational concepts
BLOCKS+
Paulina HaduongHarvard Graduate School of Education, Karen BrennanHarvard Graduate School of Education
Pre-print
09:15
5m
Talk
The Example Guru: Suggesting Examples to Novice Blocks Programmers in an Artifact-Based Context Increases Use of New Blocks
BLOCKS+
Michelle IchincoUniversity of Massachusetts Lowell, Caitlin KelleherWashington University in St. Louis
Pre-print
09:20
5m
Talk
Research Tools for MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Evan W PattonMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Mark ShermanCERT, Michael TissenbaumUniversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Pre-print
09:25
15m
Other
Themed Session 1: Whole Group Discussion
BLOCKS+

09:40
20m
Other
Themed Session 1: Break-out discussions
BLOCKS+

10:30 - 11:00
Panel: Block Abstractions for AIBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
10:30
30m
Talk
Panel: Block Abstractions for Artificial Intelligence
BLOCKS+
A: Evan W PattonMassachusetts Institute of Technology, A: Stefania DrugaMassachusetts Institute of Technology, A: Jessica Van BrummelenMassachusetts Institute of Technology, P: Joe MazzoneTeacher at Davies Career and Technical High School, P: Xavier Puig FernandezMIT-CSAIL
Pre-print
11:00 - 12:00
Empowerment & Broadening ParticipationBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
11:00
10m
Talk
Broadening Participation in Computer Science through Block Programming
BLOCKS+
Beryl HoffmanElms College, Ralph MorelliTrinity College, Jennifer RosatoCollege of St. Scholastica
Pre-print
11:10
10m
Talk
Reducing the Barriers for Computational Action: How Blocks-Based Programming Can Support Digital Empowerment
BLOCKS+
Mike TissenbaumUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champain, Josh SheldonMIT App Inventor, Hal AbelsonMIT
Pre-print
11:20
8m
Other
Themed Session 2: Whole-group discussions
BLOCKS+

11:28
3m
Talk
Educational Robotics with a Twist
BLOCKS+
Hamid ZareGraduate Student, Miklos MarotiAssociate Professor, Akos LedecziVanderbilt University
Pre-print
11:31
3m
Talk
A Blocks-Based Approach to Internet of Things in MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Wen XiHong Kong Polytechnic University, Evan W PattonMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Pre-print
11:34
3m
Talk
DevTech Lab - KIBO and ScratchJr Demo
BLOCKS+
Catherine CowellTufts University, Hannah RiehlTufts University, Marina Umaschi BersTufts University
Pre-print
11:37
3m
Talk
CloudDB in MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
11:40
20m
Other
Themed Session 2: Breakout discussions and demos/posters
BLOCKS+

13:10 - 14:10
Keynote: ShapiroBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
13:10
60m
Talk
Thinking Outside the Blocks
BLOCKS+
Ben ShapiroUniversity of Colorado, Boulder
14:10 - 15:00
Accessibility & Language Construction ToolsBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
14:10
10m
Talk
Building an Accessible Block Environment
BLOCKS+
Emmanuel SchanzerBrown University, Sina BahramPrime Access Consulting, Shriram KrishnamurthiBrown University, USA
Pre-print
14:20
5m
Talk
Language Workbench Support for Block-Based DSLs
BLOCKS+
Mauricio Verano MerinoTechnische Universiteit Eindhoven, Tijs van der StormCWI & University of Groningen
Pre-print
14:25
5m
Talk
Rapid Prototyping for Blocks-based Languages and Environments
BLOCKS+
Josh CaldwellCode.org, Josh LoryCode.org
Pre-print
14:30
5m
Talk
TypeScript: From JavaScript to Blockly and Back
BLOCKS+
Thomas BallMicrosoft Research, Peli de HalleuxMicrosoft Research, Sam El-HusseiniMicrosoft, Richard KnollMicrosoft, Michal MoskalMicrosoft Research
Pre-print
14:35
25m
Other
Themed Session 3: Break-out discussions and demos/posters
BLOCKS+

15:30 - 16:15
Collaborative ProgrammingBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
15:30
5m
Talk
Enhancing and Evaluating Collaborative Blocks Programming in App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Alissa TinneyWellesley College, Xinhui XuWellesley College
Pre-print
15:35
5m
Talk
Real-time Collaboration and Undo in StarLogo Nova: Technical Approach and Considerations for UX Design
BLOCKS+
Denis LiMIT Scheller Teacher Education Program, Lisa StumpMIT Scheller Teacher Education Program, Daniel WendelMIT Scheller Teacher Education Program
Pre-print
15:40
5m
Talk
Real-time Collaboration in NetsBlox
BLOCKS+
Akos LedecziVanderbilt University
15:45
5m
Talk
Multi-Device Grace
BLOCKS+
Ben Selwyn-Smith, Craig AnslowVictoria University of Wellington, Michael HomerVictoria University of Wellington
15:50
25m
Other
Themed Session 4: Break-out discussions and demos/posters
BLOCKS+

16:15 - 17:00
Implementers’ CampfireBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
16:15
5m
Talk
Rethinking OOP in Snap!
BLOCKS+
Jens MönigSAP SE, Brian HarveyUniversity of California, Berkeley, Jadga HügleSAP SE
Pre-print
16:20
5m
Talk
Custom Blocks in StarLogo Nova: A Template-Based Approach to Abstraction for Improved Ease of Use and Expressive Power
BLOCKS+
Hyeonsu KangMIT Scheller Teacher Education Program, David WuMIT, Daniel WendelMIT Scheller Teacher Education Program
Pre-print
16:25
5m
Talk
Two New Block Features in GP
BLOCKS+
16:30
5m
Talk
JSON Interoperability in MIT App Inventor
BLOCKS+
Evan W PattonMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Danny TangMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Pre-print
16:35
5m
Talk
Scratch 3.0 Design Notes
BLOCKS+
16:40
20m
Other
Implementers’ Campfire: Whole group discussions
BLOCKS+

17:00 - 17:05
17:05 - 17:45
Playground Poster/DemoBLOCKS+ at Beacon Hill
17:05
40m
Other
Playground Demo/Poster Session
BLOCKS+

Not scheduled yet

Not scheduled yet
Talk
Accessibility and Block-based Languages: Challenges and Opportunities
BLOCKS+
Stephanie LudiUniversity of North Texas
Pre-print