Code-Memory Diagram Animation Software Tool: Towards On-line Use

M. Dixon (UK)


Teaching Computer Programming Web


Teaching programming is regarded as problematic. Static media (such as lecture slides, books, and handouts) are not capable of expressing the dynamic (temporal) aspects of computer programming concepts and techniques. Code-memory diagrams (drawn on paper or white board), show the changes that individual lines of code make to memory over time. Personal experience suggests that their use in lectures and tutorials can allow deeper and more rapid understanding. However, they are error prone and time consuming. Therefore, a purpose built software tool that animates code-memory diagrams could significantly increase the lecturer's ability to enhance student learning. This may be further enhanced by providing online access. However, unsupervised web use is difficult to monitor, so the tool needed to be formally evaluated in a controlled environment (classroom) first. This paper describes a project to develop and evaluate such a tool. It showed that the software helped enhance student learning, by providing an explicit detailed visual model of programming concepts, and a common point of reference that supported the interactive student-lecturer `scaffolding' process. This suggests that web use could augment lecturer-student contact, but not replace it.

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