Archive for November 16, 2009

Can direct manipulation lower the barriers to computer programming and promote transfer of training?

Chris Hundhausen has a really important paper in the latest issue of ACM TOCHI: Can direct manipulation lower the barriers to computer programming and promote transfer of training?.

We’ve known for a couple decades now that programmers read and understand visual programs no better than textual programs — Thomas Green, Marian Petre, and Tom Moher settled that question a long time ago.  However, everybody experiences that starting with a visual programming language is easier than a textual language.  But does it transfer?  If you want students to eventually program in text, does starting out with Alice or Squeak or Etoys hurt? Given Chris found: “We found that the direct manipulation interface promoted significantly better initial programming outcomes, positive transfer to the textual interface, and significant differences in programming processes. Our results show that direct manipulation interfaces can provide novices with a ‘way in’ to traditional textual programming.”  I think that this is big news for computing educators.

November 16, 2009 at 5:28 pm 4 comments


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