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Visualization as Effective Instructional and Learning Tools in the Computer Science Curriculum

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

CoED: Computer Science Topics

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Mahmoud K Quweider University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley

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M K Quweider is a Professor of Computer & Information Sciences at the U. of Texas at UTRGV. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Science (Multimedia and Imaging Specialty) and B.S. In Electrical Engineering, M.S. in Applied Mathematics, M.S. in Engineering Science, and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering all from the University of Toledo, Ohio. He also holds a Bachelor of English and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Brownsville. After graduation, he was employed at several corporations including Pixera, a digital multimedia processing company in Cupertino, CA, 3COM, a networking and communication company in Schaumberg, IL, and Mercantec, an E-Commerce company in Naperville, IL. He has more than 40 publications in the field, and has served as a reviewer/moderator for several scientific and educational journals and conferences. He joined UTB in the Spring of 2000. His areas of interest include Imaging, Visualization and Animation, Networking and Cyber Security, Web Design, Computer Graphics, and Linguistics.

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Fitratullah Khan The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

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Professor Fitratullah Khan has been teaching computer science courses since 1992. His areas of expertise are computer architecture, networking, database systems, computing platforms and languages. As the director of Infrastructure, Telecommunications, and Networking (ITNet), and later as a Chief Technology Officer, at UT Brownsville, he implemented state of the art networking using campus wide fiber ring with redundant links. He established diskless computer labs to provide uniform computing platform across campus, and modernized classrooms to make them congenial to online learning. He was the PI on NSF funded BCEIL (Beowulf-based Curriculum Enrichment Integrated Laboratory) and Co-PI on NSF funded MCALL (Multimedia based Computer Assisted Learning Lab).

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Visualization (the use of images, diagrams, presentations, animations, and video) represents a potentially great aid in teaching and learning, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields where abstract complex ideas and concepts are abound. Educators, especially in academia, are always searching for effective pedagogical methodologies to use in the classroom to enhance students’ understanding and retention of key concepts of the subject area they are teaching. With the rapid advancements in software, hardware, networking, computing and storage technologies, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, cloud and distributed computing, the use of multimedia as an effective tool and aid in the classroom has become a standard procedure, rendering obsolete the traditional pure “chalk and talk”. The next natural step to take is to enhance the presented course content through effective multimedia techniques. Of those techniques, visualization and animation have the most potential to revolutionize the way students learn and understand complex concepts that usually arise in the STEM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology) fields, as they inherently appeal to our highly developed and specialized visual system that effortlessly identifies patterns, trends, and outliers. Our paper presents a set of student-developed visualizations in strategically selected CS courses that enabled them to learn STEM related concepts in general (such as limits, differentiation, integration, and projectiles to name few), and CS concepts/algorithms in particular. In creating these visualization, the professor and the graduate assistants focused on incorporating into them a set of overarching themes that are effective and can be expanded to other fields. The themes were inspired by findings from a leading NSF Cutting Edge grant on teaching with visualization in a closely related field, although not one in STEM. The visualizations created were clear and simple; they are built on top of proven educational activities that were used in the past; the students’ feedback was a central component as the visualizations were built step by step; the visualizations defined the pre-conditions before which a student can watch or run them, so that context is well-defined and not lost; and finally, the visualizations were organized to reflect the mental organization that the student is creating. The paper will give details about the visualization algorithms, the criteria for their selection and inclusion in the curriculum, the students’ immediate feedback, and survey results taken by the students that contrast the traditional ways of teaching CS and STEM concepts vs. the use of the developed visualizations. The survey results, to be complete in December, 2016, will be analyzed with the hope of shedding light on whether visualizations make good tools for teaching, and if they have an effect on the rate (how quickly) of learning. Conclusions and recommendations will be presented. Keywords CS Education, Visualization, Animation, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, Image Processing, Software Engineering, Computer Vision.

Quweider, M. K., & Khan, F. (2017, June), Visualization as Effective Instructional and Learning Tools in the Computer Science Curriculum Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29107

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