Review of a problems-first approach to first year undergraduate programming
Gary J. Hill
(Head of Department, Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton, Northampton, NN2 6JB, UK)
This paper, predominantly discusses the teaching of programming and problem solving to undergraduate first year computing students, using robots/robot simulators and visual programming to emulate the robot tasks. The needs to focus initial programming education on problem solving, prior to the teaching of programming syntax and software design methodology is also considered. The main vehicle for this approach is a robot/robot simulation programmed in Java, followed by the programming of a visual representation/simulation to develop programming skills. Problem solving is not trivial (Beaumont & Fox, 2003) and is an important skill, central to computing and engineering. The paper aims to summarise the authors earlier research on a problems-first approach to programming (Hill & Turner, 2011, 2014 to further emphasise the importance of problem solving, problem-based learning/project-based learning and the benefits of both physical and visual solutions.
The importance of linking the problem-solving robot activity and the programming assignment, whilst maintaining the visual nature of the problem, will be discussed, together with the comparison of this work with similar work reported by other authors relating to teaching programming using robots (Williams, 2003, Burbaitė et al., 2013).
The approaches discussed have been disseminated to colleagues, not only within the author’s University, but also in Europe and internationally (Kariyawasam, Turner & Hill, 2012, Hill & Turner, 2011, 2014) . Development funding support has also been received from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) – Information & Computer Sciences (ICS) Development Fund (2015a) and the HEA-ICS/Microsoft Innovative Teaching Fund (2015b).
Gary is also on the International Programme committee (http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/CEISEE_ProgComm.html) and was a panel member of the discussion of Software Engineering Education and Industry
Enhancing computing student employability skills through partnership working in STEM outreach.
Scott Turner, Associate Professor, Department of Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton, Northampton, NN2 6JB, UK
Student volunteering is growing in the UK and elsewhere, and there is an ongoing debate about whether it is really “self-evidently a ‘good thing’” or there is a greater need for reflection to determine whether this statement is true (Holdsworth and Quinn, 2010). This paper presents a personal reflection of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) volunteering as a potential route to increasing Computing student’s employability.
This paper looks at an approach at the University of Northampton that involves:
- · Linking but not combining a local STEM volunteering scheme to the National STEM Volunteers (STEMNet 2015)
- · Creation of a STEM Steering Group that has representation across all parts of the university.
Three brief case studies of computing student volunteers at different stages will be presented and culminate with a personal reflection based on observations over a ten year period.
Scott is also on the International Programme committee (http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/CEISEE_ProgComm.html) and was a session chair for a paper session.
All views are the authors, and may not reflect the views of any organisation the author is connected with in any way.