PhD Defence • Human-Computer Interaction • Coding Strip: A Tool for Supporting Interplay within Abstraction Ladder for Computational Thinking

Wednesday, March 16, 2022 1:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Please note: This PhD defence will be given online.

Sangho Suh, PhD candidate
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science

Supervisor: Professor Edith Law

As technologies advance and play an increasingly larger role in our lives, computational thinking — the ability to understand computing concepts and procedures and their role in the tools we use — has become an important part of our training and education in the 21st century. Unfortunately, many find programming intimidating and difficult because it requires learning abstract concepts, languages, and procedures. One of the main reasons for this is ‘dead-level abstracting,’ a phenomenon where information is stuck in certain levels of abstraction. High or low, the lack or absence of movement between abstraction levels makes it challenging to understand new information in a meaningful, efficient, and effective way — especially if the information concerns abstract concepts, languages, and procedures. Although the ability to “rapidly change levels of abstraction” has been recognized as a key characteristic of computational thinking, instructions in computing education tend to be mired in abstract levels of abstraction and lack opportunities for students to develop this ability to move up and down the ladder of abstraction.

This thesis aims to address this problem by proposing a model where learners can move between levels of abstraction. Specifically, I propose coding strip, a form of comic strip that has a direct correspondence to code, as a tool for teaching and learning programming concepts, languages, and procedures. By using comics that have a direct correspondence to code, coding strip is a model instantiated from a framework for computational thinking: learners can move between concrete and abstract levels of abstraction to develop a way of thinking about programming concepts, languages, and procedures in terms of real-life situations and objects. To support its use, this thesis contributes methods, tools, and empirical study to facilitate the design, creation, and use of coding strips. After presenting the studies in this thesis, I will discuss implications and opportunities for future work.