Several studies have reported that adaptivity and personalization in educational computer games facilitate reaching their full educational potential. However, there is little effort to develop adaptive educational computer games for promoting students' computational thinking (CT). In this study, an adaptive computer game is introduced, called AutoThinking, that not only promotes both CT skills and conceptual knowledge, but also provides adaptivity in both game-play and learning processes. To evaluate the possible effects of the game, an experimental study was carried out with 79 students in an elementary school in Estonia. AutoThinking and a conventional technology-enhanced learning approach were used for teaching CT to the experimental and control group, respectively. Our results reveal that AutoThinking improved students’ CT skills and conceptual knowledge better than the conventional approach. It was also found that students with a low and high level of prior knowledge made higher improvement in knowledge gain using the adaptive game compared to the traditional approach, especially those students with lower prior knowledge. Finally, our findings show that the adaptive game could also improve students' learning attitude toward CT better than the conventional approach, especially those students with higher prior learning attitudes.
One of the main skills that future generations must develop is Computational Thinking (CT). CT, a cutting-edge term defined by Wing (2006), is regarded as a cognitive ability that enables people to develop computational solutions for a current problem by applying computer sciences’ reasoning processes. Application of CT has gone even beyond STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) domains, and according to several research, CT plays crucial roles in other disciplines as well, for example, medicine, digital humanities, computational finance, archaeology, economics, and so forth (National Research Council, 2010; Selby & Woollard, 2013; Wing, 2014). Multiple studies have reported that CT’s integration into curricula would benefit both cognitive and non-cognitive aspects of learning (e.g., Brown, Sentance, Crick, & Humphreys, 2014, pp. 1–22; Haddad & Kalaani, 2015; Malva, Hooshyar, Yang, & Pedaste, 2020; Repenning et al., 2015, p. 11; Roman-Gonz ´ alez, ´ P´erez-Gonz´ alez, & Jim´enez-Fernandez, ´ 2017). Therefore, several countries all over the world have made reformation of educational programs on different educational levels in order to integrate CT into their official curricula (e.g., Brown et al., 2014, pp. 1–22; Carlborg, Tyren, Heath, & Eriksson, 2019; DR, 2018; Perkovi´c, Settle, Hwang, & Jones, 2010; Wing, 2011)