Caitlin Kelleher, Washington University in St. Louis
Looking Glass: Supporting Learning from Peer Programs

Abstract: Computer programming has become a fundamental tool that enables progress across a broad range of disciplines including basic science, communications, and medicine. Yet, Computer Science is failing to attract the number of students necessary to sustain progress both within the discipline and in those disciplines supported by computer science. Some recent research has focused on creating programming environments that introduce young students to computer programming in a motivating context. One of these systems, Storytelling Alice, motivates middle school children, particularly girls, to learn programming in order to build animated stories. In a formal study, we found that 51% of Storytelling Alice users versus 17% of Generic Alice users snuck extra time to keep programming. While a motivating context for learning computer programming is necessary to increase the number of young students who learn to program, it is not sufficient. For many pre-high school students, formal opportunities to learn computer science simply do not exist. We are currently working on a new system called Looking Glass which maintains storytelling as a motivating context and focuses on developing user interface support that enables middle school aged children to easily and effectively teach themselves using programs created by peers. Looking Glass will incorporate tools that enable users to identify sections of peer written programs that interest them and then follow automatically generated tutorials to learn how to create the selected sections of those programs in their own context. In this talk, I will describe our proposed framework for supporting users in learning from peer-created programs and present a prototype that enables novice users to identify and adapt code from peer programs.

About the Speaker: Caitlin Kelleher is currently an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Virginia Tech and her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University with Professor Randy Pausch. Her research focuses on programming environments that both motivate and support non-programmers in learning to program.

About NPUC 2009: Software development and design has evolved from an arcane art practiced with exotic, obscure tools into a multi-billion dollar industry based on even more exotic and obscure tools. Given the advances that have been made in user interface technology and design processes, shouldn't we be able to create a better user experience for design and development?

At NPUC 2009, IBM Research - Almaden brought together innovators in academia and industry who are leading the way to a more natural, accessible, and social design and software development process . They explored how to help improve the productivity of current programmers and make creating software more accessible to a larger and more diverse population than ever before.

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