Keele University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 3837-3846
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
At present there is an issue attracting students to, and retaining them on, introductory programming courses [1]. This is because traditional methods of teaching fail to excite students and as programming is perceived to be a solitary and difficult activity [2]. Such factors are alarming considering societies reliance upon technological goods. After all, it is not just PCs and PDAs that need to be programmed, but also washing machines, microwaves and a host of other ‘essential items’. This dependence has resulted in a growth in demand for talented programmers [3]. At the moment, however, Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) are unable to produce sufficient numbers of capable graduates required to meet this need.

In part this research investigates current methods of teaching programming to novices. The Mapping Study methodology has been used in order to gain an overview of existing literature and the content of 402 academic papers has been examined. This allowed identification of the most popular journals, conferences and reported topics related to the teaching of introductory programming. Analysis of the publication year of included papers has also been undertaken.

Following this a Systematic Literature Review (SLR) has been performed. The SLR investigates the effectiveness of using robots as teaching tools in order to teach programming. Such a topic was chosen as the findings of the Mapping Study highlighted the potential for further research into the use of robotic technology in an introductory programming setting. 34 papers were collected during the SLR. Of these 74% report the use of robots to be effective. The SLR also highlights how there is the potential for a greater use of simulated robots in the teaching of introductory programming and that such a method can have cost and convenience advantages (over using physical robots).

This research to date provides a platform upon which future research activities can be built. The next stage of the project will involve the creation of innovative software, which is underpinned by education theory, and utilises the concept of simulated robotic agents as teaching tools. A description of the software and how it will help novice programmers will be discussed. Inventive methods of evaluation that will be used to test the effectiveness of the software will also be described.

It is predicted that the development of such educational software will help to make programming more appealing, more accessible and more enjoyable for novice students. The software will help to foster learning as students will see their algorithms being acted out. Moreover, it will be designed to demonstrate that programming need not be a lonely or overly demanding experience. It is anticipated that the software will help to overcome current barriers that impact upon the successful learning of programming and will enhance student’s first experiences with the subject. By improving this initial encounter with programming it increases the likelihood that student motivation and retention (both in terms of interest and student numbers) will be positively impacted.

[1] Bergin, J., et al. (2006) The First Programming Course. In ITICSE ’06. pp. 301-302. ACM.

[2] Esteves, M., et al. (2008) Using Second Life in Programming’s Communities of Practice. In CRIWG 2008. pp. 99-106. Springer.

[3] Robins, A., et al. (2003) Learning and Teaching Programming. Comp. Sci. Ed. 13 (2) : 137-72.
Programming, Novice, Beginner, Introductory, Amateur, Teaching, Learning, Computing, Robots, Robot Simulator, Educational Software.