June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Computers in Education
15.992.1 - 15.992.13
Programming for Pre-college Education using Squeak Smalltalk
Competence in a programming language can provide a strong basis for logical thinking and an exposure to technology; however, many languages are perceived to be too complicated to learn at a young age. Opportunities for pre-college students to learn programming concepts can help develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that will enhance their educational experiences. Also, conceptual understanding of programming techniques in one language can aid in learning other languages. This project developed an integrated series of programming tutorials for using Squeak Smalltalk. Squeak Smalltalk is an open-sourced, object-oriented programming language that is being used for educational software and through the One-Laptop- per-Child initiative as well as for database and multi-media applications. The intent of the tutorials is to allow anyone, no matter their current programming proficiency, to learn applied programming techniques and to avoid simple manipulation of code without understanding the underlying concepts. These tutorials cover object-oriented commands, conditional coding, programming methods, variables, and classes in the context of Squeak Smalltalk, but these concepts are applicable to many languages. The object-oriented nature of Squeak Smalltalk facilitated the development of basic programming literacy. The tutorials, an implementation with pre-college students and teachers, and an associated assessment are described. Completion of the tutorial series enabled the young programmers to adapt the Squeak software package for their own original programs.
Programming literacy is an important component in educating a modern workforce and has particular relevance for those pursuing STEM careers. Programming promotes the development of logical thinking and problem solving, both of which are skills necessary for success is many technical fields. The National Science Foundation projected that there would be a shortfall of natural science and engineering bachelor degrees in the year 2006.1 The United States needs to remain technologically advanced in order to compete in world markets.2 In April of 2004, the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics reported that fewer than half of seniors in high school were taking a science course, which emphasizes the fact that there is a decline of interests in scientific fields within the United States.3 Students need to be exposed to technical topics at earlier ages before they decide that STEM-related subjects are uninteresting or too hard. Many educational programs are currently seeking new methods to improve STEM curriculum.4 Additionally, many new extracurricular programs such as Best Robotics are developing with the sole purpose of attracting students to technical fields.5 Programming literacy efforts are included in these efforts.
In most college engineering programs, an introductory software programming course is required. Programming skills and an understanding of software are important in many engineering professions.6 Programming tasks require that a problem be explicitly defined, that a possible solution be formulated, that the solution be implemented, and that the solution be tested. This problem-solving process is relevant to most engineering work. Early programming skill development enables students to develop these critical skills, and it helps them gain computer
Rodhouse, K., & Cooper, B., & Watkins, S. (2010, June), Programming For Pre College Education Using Squeak Smalltalk Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16161
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