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Teaching IT Concepts Is Enhanced by Including Hardware in Experiential Learning

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Topics in Computing and Information Technologies II

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1479.1 - 26.1479.11



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Paper Authors


Richard G. Helps Brigham Young University

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Richard Helps has degrees in EE and a PhD in Instructional Technology. He is primarily focused on Cyber-Physical systems in IT with related interests in HCI. He is also interested in instructional design. He is a member of ACM-SIGITE, IEEE-CS and ASEE. He is an ABET accreditation commissioner.

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Information Technology (IT), like other computing disciplines, is a largely software-oriented discipline, however teaching aspects of computing are significantly enhancedwith hardware support. For example some programs use microcontrollers and low-levellanguages like C or assembly language to teach basic computer architecture concepts.Others use the flexibility of programmable platforms to teach basic discrete mathematicsconcepts. Yet other programs in IT recognize that the computing world is moving todifferent platforms, such as the “Internet of Things” and mobile platforms, and choose toincorporate these principles in their design of their student educational experience.Using hardware in computing instruction enhances the learning experience for manystudents, especially those with learning profiles indicating a preference for active orexperiential learning. Both Keirsey-profile (MBTI) ‘Artisans’ and ‘Rationals’ can benefitfrom this approach.A significant problem with using hardware oriented tools to enhance learning is thatstudents (and some IT faculty) typically don’t have a deep background in hardware andtherefore hardware platforms must be selected which allow for development of learningexperiences with ready-made hardware platforms. Platforms such as mobile phonesepitomize this, as the hardware platform is complete and sealed, but includes a varietyof sensors and interfaces, which offer versatile and flexible options for instructionaldevelopment. Some single-board computers, such as the popular Raspberry Pi, offerextensive development support to minimize the need for hardware expertise, similarly afew microcontroller platforms, such as the Cerebot series and the Arduino series, offerextensive pre-built sensors and other interfaces, complete with software drivers anddevelopment systems, making them available to a software-oriented audience.This paper describes the educational concepts that lead to improved learning throughincorporating hardware platforms. These principles are illustrated with several exampleapplications that validate the principles.  

Helps, R. G. (2015, June), Teaching IT Concepts Is Enhanced by Including Hardware in Experiential Learning Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24816

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