Computational Literacies Lab

Drawing on course readings and additional literature, frame a learning goal relevant to K-12 CS or interdisciplinary applications of computing. Your review should locate the learning goal in relation to Kafai, Proctor, and Lui's {{< pr kafai_2019_theory_dialogue >}} cognitive/situated/critical framework, and possibly other frameworks such as diSessa's {{< pr disessa_2001_changing >}} account of computational literacy, Vakil's {{< pr vakil_2018_ethics >}} justice-oriented CS education, and/or frameworks from other disciplines. Your literature review should explain why this learning goal is important and summarize prior related work.


Your literature review should consist of a 500-word synthesis and 10-20 references, each annotated with a few sentences summarizing how the reference could be useuful to you. The synthesis should answer the following questions:

Please submit one literature review per group by email to Assignments are due by midnight the day before class--in this case, by Monday, February 15.

Assessment Criteria

You will receive individualized feedback and a holistic grade for this assignment, based on the following criteria:


Model literature review

This is a model for the [literature review]({{< ref "courses/studio/assignments/literature_review/" >}}) assignment. Note that I did not annotate the references, though this is part of the assignment.

Crtical Material Intelligence

This project explores critical material intelligence as a form of sociopolitically-oriented computational practice. diSessa (2001) defined literacy as material intelligence and distinguished between cognitive material intelligence and social material intelligence. In both cases, people's understandings and actions are bound up in an external representational medium which enables and shapes how they think and act. Kafai, Proctor, and Lui (2019) describe cognitive, situated, and critical forms of computaitonal thinking, distinguished by unit of analysis (individual, social group, and society) and by distinct ways of interacting with computational media. Motivated by calls for critical engagement with the effects of computing (e.g. Vakil (2018); Vakil (2020)), this project explores how critical computational thinking might make use of computers for thinking and doing. Most previous exploration of critical computing has focused on identity development (e.g. Shaw & Kafai (2020); Vakil (2020)). Here, I want to zoom in on the specific nature of observable critical practices. Following Proctor (2020), I define criticality as becoming aware of, and seeking strategies to change, how contexts of situated practice are themselves situated, by infrastructural technology and by broader cultural discourses. I will draw on Goodman's co-operative action framework (Goodman, 2020) for theory and methods regarding what to pay attention to and how to study it.

I am interested in cultivating a close relationship between computational practice and the stuff of reality (utilizing some of the dynamics of a microworld (Papert, 1980)). Minecraft seems like a promising context for this research, as it is a digital world which is already the context of rich authentic youth activity, while also being highly-scriptable. I hope to help bootstrap a youth culture in which collaboratively changing the conditions of reality is part of everyday activity. There have been numerous projects exploring criticality with attention to material infrastructure, as well as numerous educational studies using Minecraft, but none that I cound find using Minecraft toward critical ends. Gutiérrez, Becker, Espinoza, Cortes, Cortez, Lizárraga, Rivero, Villegas, & Yin (2019) document how youth challenge the contextual framing of video games, using this as a model of reframing "real world" oppression. Proctor and Blikstein's (2019) critical discourse models with interactive storytelling similarly encourage youth to write, share, critique, and discuss interactive stories with simulate social realities. Lynch (2019) proposes subscreenic literacies as a way of extending English/Language Arts (ELA) education to consider the computational processes "below the screen." Lee and Garcia (2014) extend longstanding ELA critical commitment into comptuational and multimodal composition. Perhaps most directly, Ryoo, Tanksley, Estrada, and Margolis (2020) document how high-school CS students use computating to challenge marginalization and opporession within their high schools. Meanwhile, the existing literature on Minecraft centers conventional cognitive learning goals aligned with computer science, as well as sociocultural learning. Ellison, Evans, and Pike (2016) explore learning in Minecraft from the perspective of teachers and parents seeking to understand and support children. Dezuanni (2018) considers youth Minecraft play from the perspective of media literacy, arguing that Minecraft's materiality is inadequately captured by traditional theories of media literacy. He analyzes Minecraft activity using socio-material and performative literacy theories, which could nicely-complement my own focus on computation.


Gutiérrez, K. D., Becker, B. L. C., Espinoza, M. L., Cortes, K. L., Cortez, A., Lizárraga, J. R., Rivero, E., Villegas, K., & Yin, P. (2019). Youth as historical actors in the production of possible futures. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1–18.

Lynch, T. L. (2019). Electrical Evocations: Computer Science, the Teaching of Literature, and the Future of English Education. English Education, 24.

Shaw, M., & Kafai, Y. (2020, June 20). Charting the Identity Turn in K-12 Computer Science Education: Developing More Inclusive Learning Pathways for Identity. International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Nashville, US. (Conference cancelled).

diSessa, A. A. (2001). Changing minds: Computers, learning, and literacy. Mit Press.

Kafai, Y., Proctor, C., & Lui, D. (2019). From theory bias to theory dialogue: Embracing cognitive, situated and critical framings of computational thinking for K-12 CS education. Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research.

Proctor, C., & Blikstein, P. (2019). Unfold Studio: Supporting critical literacies of text & code. Information and Learning Science, 1(2).

Proctor, C. (2020). Supporting Critical Computational Literacies Through Interactive Storytelling. [Doctoral dissertation]. Stanford University.

Ryoo, J. J., Tanksley, T., Estrada, C., & Margolis, J. (2020). Take space, make space: How students use computer science to disrupt and resist marginalization in schools. Computer Science Education, 30(3), 337–361.

Lee, C. H., & Garcia, A. D. (2014). “I Want Them to Feel the Fear…”: Critical Computational Literacy as the New Multimodal Composition. In R. E. Ferdig & K. E. Pytash (Eds.), Exploring Multimodal Composition and Digital Writing (pp. 364–378). Information Science Reference.

Ellison, T. L. (2016). Minecraft, Teachers, Parents, and Learning: What They Need to Know and Understand. School Community Journal, 26(2), 25–43.

Vakil, S. (2018). Ethics, Identity, and Political Vision: Toward a Justice-Centered Approach to Equity in Computer Science Education. Harvard Educational Review, 88(1), 26–52.

Vakil, S. (2020). “I’ve Always Been Scared That Someday I’m Going to Sell Out”: Exploring the relationship between Political Identity and Learning in Computer Science Education. Cognition and Instruction, 38(2), 87–115.