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Literate Programming for Authorship of Interactive Textbooks for Programming-centric Courses

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

COED: Issues Impacting Students Learning How to Program

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Bryan A. Jones Mississippi State University

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Bryan A. Jones received the B.S.E.E. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Rice University, Houston, TX, in 1995 and 2002, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Clemson University, Clemson, SC, in 2005. He is currently an Associate Professor at Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS.

From 1996 to 2000, he was a Hardware Design Engineer with Compaq, where he specialized in board layout for high-availability redundant array of independent disks (RAID) controllers. His research interests include engineering education, robotics, and literate programming.

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Jane N. Moorhead Mississippi State University

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Jane received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University. Her career has been all about hardware and software development; with NASA she designed cut-down systems for weather balloons and telemetry systems. Working for IBM, she designing modems and routers and had the opportunity to work at IBM Research Yorktown Heights on the first large-scale voice recognition system. Moving to Mississippi, Jane took a job at Mississippi State University teaching courses in Digital Design using FPGAs, Microprocessors course based on the PIC. She enjoys playing around with new designs for technology, presently playing with the Raspberry PI and Arduino as the basis for projects. Obtaining a GIS-Remote Sensing certificate, she is working on a design of a GPS-based system interfaced with a Raspberry PI. She now is working on a Broadcast Meteorology certificate to find ways to embed hardware into the geosciences curriculum.
Always looking for fun educational instructional methods, Jane designed and taught BullyBots - a summer robotics camp for junior-high students; with her college-age students, she has held line-sensing robotics competitions and sea-perch competitions. She requires her students to utilize the development boards to control the robots. To improve the challenge for her students, and always hoping to get back to the water, she decided to embark on the Mate challenge.

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Software defines and empowers much of our modern society, from water treatment plants to banking, social media to anti-lock brakes. A wide variety of programming languages (C/C++, JavaScript, Python, etc.) enable computer scientists and software engineers to create the software and firmware necessary to our modern society. As educators, we must therefore find effective ways to instruct students in the use of these complex languages. Therefore, this paper presents a novel approach to programming pedagogy by combining literate programming, in which a program is presented as a web page, with Runestone Interactive, an open-source platform to author and host interactive textbooks. Each program/web page becomes a section in the text, meaning that students can both read the text as a web page, or execute it in their development environment as a program. Questions and programming exercises directly embedded within these program/web pages allow authors to present brief, concise exposition of a new concept followed by comprehension questions and automatically-graded programming exercises to reinforce this concept. Since the textual version of the web page can also be executed as a demonstration program, students can observe these programs in operation, while instructors can automatically check that all their code compiles and executes correctly. A comprehensive set of tools enables instructors to quickly and easily compose books consisting of program/web pages, embed exercises, check the correctness of the programs, then host their textbooks for student use. Student feedback provides preliminary indicators of this approach’s effectiveness.

Jones, B. A., & Moorhead, J. N. (2018, June), Literate Programming for Authorship of Interactive Textbooks for Programming-centric Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30774

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