Coding as a Playground

When engaging children in a computer science learning experience, we welcome play. Through play we can impact all areas of human development: cognitive, socio-emotional, language, moral, physical and even spiritual. The coding playground, in contrast with the coding playpen, promotes opportunities for open-ended exploration, creation of personally meaningful projects, imagination, problem solving, conflict resolution and collaboration. The coding playground engages children in six behaviors that we can also find in the regular playground: content creation, creativity, choices of conduct, communication, collaboration and community building. These six behaviors are further explored in the Positive Technological Development (PTD) framework.

PTD Framework

The Positive Technological Development (PTD) framework was developed by Prof. Marina Umaschi Bers and can be found in her five books: Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom (Bers, 2008), Designing Digital Experiences for Positive Youth Development: From Playpen to Playground (Bers, 2012), Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom (Bers, 2017), Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom, Second Edition (Bers, 2020), Beyond Coding: How Children Learn Human Values through Programming (Bers, 2022).

The PTD framework guides the development, implementation and evaluation of educational programs that use new technologies to promote learning as an aspect of positive youth development. The PTD framework is a natural extension of the computer literacy and the technological fluency movements that have influenced the world of education but adds psychosocial and ethical components to the cognitive ones. From a theoretical perspective, PTD is an interdisciplinary approach that integrates ideas from the fields of computer-mediated communication, computer-supported collaborative learning, and the Constructionist theory of learning, and views them in light of research in applied development science and positive youth development.

As a theoretical framework, PTD proposes six positive behaviors (six C’s) that should be supported by educational programs that use new educational technologies, such as KIBO robotics and ScratchJr. These are: content creation, creativity, communication, collaboration, community building and choices of conduct.

Some of the Cs support behaviors that enrich the intrapersonal domain (content creation, creativity, and choices of conduct); others address the interpersonal domain and look at social aspects (communication, collaboration, and community building). These behaviors are associated with developmental assets that have been described by decades of research on positive youth development.

PTD provides a framework for understanding how technology can be designed and used to promote positive behaviors and how, in turn, those behaviors can promote developmental assets. The diagram below shows how the C’s are connected and examples of how they can be put in practice in a classroom setting.

Bers, M. (2020). Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom.


PTD Observational Assessments

PTD Rubric for Assessing Children

The Positive Technological Development (PTD) Rubric is an observational rubric to assess PTD behaviors of children. The rubric is intended to be used in a variety of settings where children are engaging with technology. This rubric reflects child’s behaviors over the course of a single lesson period and is designed to be completed by either a teacher, researcher, or administrator for multiple children at one time. 

Download Positive Technological Development (PTD) Rubric for Assessing Children

PTD Engagement Checklist for Assessing Environments & Facilitators

The Positive Technological Environment (PTE) Checklist is an observational checklist designed for research use in a variety of settings where children are engaging with technology. This checklist evaluates the factors in the Coding Playground that promote children’s behaviors of PTD. This rubric evaluates both the teacher’s behaviors and the classroom environment while children are working within the space.

Download Positive Technological Environment (PTE) Rubric for Assessing Environments & Facilitators

PTD in Practice

The six C’s of the PTD framework can be put into practice in many different ways. Our PTD in Practice page features videos exploring the various ways in which Collaboration, Communication, Community Building, Content Creation, Creativity, and Choices of Conduct can emerge in the classroom.

See Videos of PTD in Practice

PTD Cards

The PTD cards are designed to be used for interactive evaluation of a technological tool using the PTD framework and the six C’s. They can be printed back to back, cut out, and used in the classroom with children, or among educators. For best printing results, print double sided in color.

Download PTD Cards for Printing

PTD Activity Planning Sheet

The PTD Activity Planning Sheet allows you to consider all the aspects of the PTD framework and the six C’s as you plan a hands-on activity with your learners. The editable includes a high-level planning sheet to structure each aspect of your activity, a table to consider how each of the six C’s will be featured in your activity, and a list of PTD resources to guide your thinking.

Download Editable PTD Activity Planning Sheet