Zoombinis Research

The Full Development Implementation Research Study of a Computational Thinking Game for Upper Elementary and Middle School Learners

Lead Staff:
Jodi Asbell-Clarke
Elizabeth Rowe
Teon Edwards
Project Staff:
Erin Bardar
Santiago Gasca


Computational thinking is the set of ideas and practices considered vital for computer science skills and has been attracting increased attention over the past several years in K-12 education. The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis implementation research study examined the development of computational thinking for upper elementary and middle grades students.

This project leveraged the existing Zoombinis game by embedding tools for studying patterns of students’ decision-making and problem-solving in the environment. This allowed researchers to understand how students learn about computational thinking within a tool that bridged informal and formal learning settings to engage a wide variety of students.

The project also developed tools and resources for classroom teachers. The goal was to understand both students’ learning of computational thinking and how to bridge formal and informal learning via classroom implementation of the Zoombinis game.


Bridging from Zoombinis to Computational Thinking from videohall.com on Vimeo.


Research on Computational Thinking & the Game Zoombinis from videohall.com on Vimeo.

Research Activity

The research examined three questions.

  1. What strategies do players develop during Zoombinis gameplay that may provide evidence of implicit computational thinking?
  2. How can teachers leverage implicit knowledge of computational thinking developed in Zoombinis to improve formal (explicit) learning?
  3. How can a large-scale commercial game be used for the broad and equitable improvement of computational thinking?

The research used and developed educational data mining techniques to assess students’ learning in conjunction with pre-post computational thinking assessments (external to the game), teacher interviews, classroom observations, and case studies of classroom use.


Almeda, M., Rowe, E., Asbell-Clarke, J., Bardar, E., & Gasca, S. (2019, October). Teachers Leveraging Game-Based Implicit STEM Learning in Classrooms. Poster to be presented at the Technology, Mind, and Society conference, Washington D.C. Almeda, M., Rowe, E., Asbell-Clarke, J., Baker, R., Scruggs, R., Bardar, E., & Gasca, S. (2019, October). Modeling Implicit Computational Thinking in Zoombini’s Mudball Wall Gameplay. Paper to be presented at the Technology, Mind, and Society conference, Washington D.C. Rowe, E., Asbell-Clarke, J., & Baker, R. (2019, April) Game-based measures of implicit learning. Structured poster session organized by Y.J. Kim, Game-Based Assessment: How Has the Field Matured over the Past 10 years? AERA Annual Meeting, Toronto.

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Asbell-Clarke, J., Rowe, E., Bardar, E., & Gasca, S. (2018, August). Zoombinis: Bridging Implicit to Explicit Computational Thinking. Working paper presented at the 1st Connected Learning Summit, Cambridge, MA.

Rowe, E., Asbell-Clarke, J., Baker, R., Gasca, S., Bardar, E., & Scruggs, R. (2018, April). Labeling Implicit Computational Thinking in Pizza Pass Gameplay. Late-breaking work presented at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 18), Montreal.

Shute, V. J., Sun, C., & Asbell-Clarke, J. “Demystifying computational thinking.,” Educational Research Review

Rowe, Elizabeth and Asbell-Clarke, Jodi and Gasca, Santiago and Cunningham, Kathryn. “Assessing implicit computational thinking in zoombinis gameplay,” Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, 2017. doi:10.1145/3102071.3106352 Citation details

Rowe, Elizabeth and Asbell-Clarke, Jodi and Cunningham, Kathryn and Gasca, Santiago. “Assessing Implicit Computational Thinking in Zoombinis Gameplay: Pizza Pass, Fleens & Bubblewonder Abyss,” Extended Abstracts Publication of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, 2017. doi:10.1145/3130859.3131294 Citation details