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Design project programming landscape

Design project programming landscape



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Design project programming landscape (2)

Project:

The project is to create a “programming landscape”, and to investigate the use of the programming landscape as a research tool and as a pedagogical tool.

Background:

Programming in education is a relatively new topic. Some would argue that computer science and software engineering aren’t fields of study in schools, but this isn’t true. However, to create a programming environment (in which the student can program) requires a fairly significant investment in time, labour, money, and expertise. The purpose of my work is to better understand and create more efficient ways to teach programming. To do this, I am interested in three areas: 1) creating programming landscapes, 2) using the programming landscape as a research tool, 3) exploring the best programming environments for students.

My main research question was:

Can we create a programming landscape to study all programming environments, and to make comparisons?

To investigate this question, I created a programming landscape. In the programming landscape, there are a number of software tools for use by the programmer:

A programming language.

A “virtual machine” or an interpreter (the language interpreter gives the computer, which doesn’t have native code, the ability to interpret programming language instructions).

A programming environment (an IDE, a compiler, etc).

An operating system.

There are also a number of other tools that help the programmer:

File management tools

Version control

Debugging tools

Language specific tools

Language extensions/libraries

To do this, I had to:

Create the environment, and create software tools and libraries to operate within that environment.

Create and use a programming language.

Create and use a programming language interpreter.

Create the operating system (using software).

I also had to create an IDE/debugger (which will only work within the programming environment.

To test my research, I had to:

Program.

I also had to compare my results to those of other research. For this, I created a simple test for my research (a test that, unlike many university tests, doesn’t take a lot of effort to create, and that doesn’t depend on students doing a lot of thinking). I used the results of this test in a presentation to my university’s Computing Research Seminar.

My results were interesting, to say the least. I did find that, given the restrictions of my programming landscape, it was impossible to test all of the most important programming environments for students. However, I was able to create some compelling cases for the importance of a computer science programming environment. This research can be applied in the classroom as a tool for teaching programming: I created a “virtual” programming environment where I could simulate a programming language. This allowed me to demonstrate some of the features of my programming environment.

Using a Programming Environment to Teach Programming

I think that I’ve shown some compelling ways of using a programming environment to teach programming. I will be sharing more of these results at the University of Alberta Computing Research Seminar on May 11, 2017. I’d love to hear what you think, and your ideas on teaching programming to students in a more immersive way.

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On Thursday, September 8, 2016, I attended the University of Alberta Computing Research Seminar for the third time. I had decided to give this particular research seminar because I wanted to learn more about my field, computer science, and explore new avenues of research that I hadn’t thought of before.

Attending a Research Seminar

I found the first two times I attended this seminar to be extremely informative, but a little intimidating. At first, I didn’t understand much of what I was seeing, and all of the researchers in the room looked like professors. When I attended my second research seminar, I started to realize that my field was, at the very least, related to, but different than, the two other fields that were at the seminar. This was a major confidence booster.

In addition to the researchers in the seminar, the audience included faculty from the University of Alberta. Each researcher spoke for about 20 minutes, and then they were followed by a short presentation from each of the faculty in attendance. These presentations were similar in nature to the researchers’ presentation, but were shorter, focused, and more specific to the subject they were discussing. At the end of each presentation, there was a round of questions and comments.

Attending a Research Seminar at U of A

The U of A Research Seminar was held in the University of Alberta Science Building (SA Building), which is easily accessible from anywhere on campus. I enjoyed being able to see a lot of the campus from the SA Building. From the room where I presented my seminar, I could see the U of A main entrance and some of the research labs and buildings. I could also see the river, the MacKinnon Building, the Engineering Building, the Library, and the Agriculture Building.

The audience was comprised mostly of faculty and students from the U of A. This seemed to be the norm, as many of the other seminars were also held in the SA Building. However, there were a number of other researchers in attendance, but they were few in number. All of the researchers appeared to be in their late 20’s and early 30’s. This meant that I would not get to know many of them, as I turned 30 this year.

Attending a Research Seminar at U of A

After the seminar, the university administration provided us with free bus transportation to take us back to U of A, where I was staying, or to other locations of interest.

One thing that surprised me was how much one seminar’s topics overlapped with other seminars. For example, the researchers who were discussing microarray experiments also discussed how they used computers to design and test theories. Similarly, the researchers in one group discussed how they used computers to design and test theories about how genes control cells, and then other researchers in the group discussed what types of techniques they used to analyze the results.

I attended five or six seminars before I returned to my old research program in the late 1990’s. One of the reasons I decided to attend another seminar was because I wanted to explore new research opportunities, and I thought this might be an opportunity to do so.

I enjoyed learning about new research techniques. In fact, I learned a lot from the speakers. However, I didn’t learn about many new research opportunities, even though I was open to considering new ones. I felt like the seminar gave me more information about what researchers were doing with computers, which, if nothing else, was better than having no information at all. It gave me a greater sense of what sorts of computer applications were being used in the study of genetics, immunology, and other disciplines.


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