Change display time — Currently: Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) (Event time)

An Embarrassment of Riches — Computational Environments to Use in Classrooms Tomorrow

Colorado Convention Center, Mile High Ballroom 1EF

Explore and create: Deep-dive Creation lab
Preregistration Required
Save to My Favorites


Constructing Modern Knowledge
Constructing Modern Knowledge founder Gary Stager is co-author of “Invent To Learn – Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom” and author of “Twenty Things to Do with a Computer + 50.” In addition to being a popular keynote speaker at some of the world’s most prestigious education conferences, Gary Stager is recognized for his pioneering leadership and outspoken edtech advocacy, especially for programming, physical computing, and learning-by-doing. Dr. Stager led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools and played a major role in the early days of online education. This will be his 35th ISTE/NECC as a presenter.

Session description

Get an introduction to a variety of emerging software environments that democratize computer programming experiences for a diverse population of students and serve as a basis for knowledge construction in a variety of subject areas and intellectual domains. Exciting new computational environments engage in project-based computational fluency development.

Purpose & objective

This workshop will introduce hands-on learning with a variety of text and block-based programming environments that not only support computer science across the curriculum, but allow learners of all ages to create and control their world in exciting new ways.

The software environments introduced and used have many similarities, but offer different slightly different applications and on- ramps to powerful ideas.

These include:
TurtleArt - A brilliant environment for introducing computing to children and teachers by using block-based instructions to create beautiful images.

Scratch - New and improved global phenomena for messing about powerful ideas, remixing culture, problem solving, and collaboration
with new physical computing functionality. Those familiar with Scratch will learn to teach it more effectively and be introduced to functionality you may not know exists.

Snap! - The "big sister" to Scratch bringing world-class computer science functionality to an accessible block-based programming environment.
microBlocks - Complex Internet of Things and physical computing projects are made possible by this ingenious programming environment, the result of a global software development collaboration.

Beetleblocks - Imagine if Scratch could program and design in 3D and then print the three dimensional object you designed mathematically.

Turtlestitch - Snap! that outputs to an embroidery machine making mathematics wearable and attractive.

Microsoft MakeCode - easily program handheld arcade games, micro:bits, and other microcontroller development boards in this browser-based block environment

Wolfram Language - Revolutionary software powering Wolfram Alpha and Mathematica that students can use to be mathematicians and scientists in ways previously unimaginable

Lynx, a text-based, cloud-based programming environment that is the natural next step for kids that are ready to move on from using blocks or pictures to code but might not be quite ready to use more complex, professional programming languages like Python or JavaScript.
and that's not all...

Most importantly, each of these software environments builds upon a half-century of Logo tradition, research, and wisdom.

More [+]


10 minutes
Introduce each of the emerging software environments and explore their individual and overlapping affordances and constraints.
60 minutes
Support participants in project-work with each of the environments
20 minutes
Questions, reflection, resources sharing, and next steps explored

More [+]

Supporting research

Kafai, Y. B., & Resnick, M. (1996). Constructionism in practice: designing, thinking, and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, second edition (2 ed.): Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
Papert, S. (1993). The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. NY: Basic Books.
Papert, S., & Solomon, C. (1972). Twenty Things to Do with a Computer. Educational Technology, 12(4), 9-18.
Papert, S. (2000). What's the Big Idea? Toward a Pedagogical Theory of Idea Power. IBM Systems Journal, 39(3&4), 720-729.
Papert, S. (1999). Introduction: What is Logo and Who Needs It? In LCSI (Ed.), Logo Philosophy and Implementation (pp. v-xvi). Montreal, Quebec: LCSI.
Resnick, M., Bruckman, A., & Martin, F. (2000). Constructional Design: Creating New Construction Kits for Kids. In A. Druin,
Hendler, James (Ed.), Robots for Kids: Exploring New Technologies for Learning. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.
Stager, G. (2019). Program Your Own Gameboy. Retrieved from

More [+]

Session specifications

Computer science & computational thinking
Grade level:
Skill level:
Principals/head teachers, Professional developers, Teachers
Attendee devices:
Devices required
Attendee device specification:
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials:
Web access
Subject area:
Computer science, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards:
For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.