Academic journal article Education Research International

Developing an Algorithm Learning Tool for High School Introductory Computer Science

Academic journal article Education Research International

Developing an Algorithm Learning Tool for High School Introductory Computer Science

Article excerpt

Aimee Theresa Avancena 1 and Akinori Nishihara 1 and Chika Kondo 2

Academic Editor:Shu-Sheng Liaw

1, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2-12-1-W9-108 Ookayama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 152-8552, Japan

2, Tokyo Tech High School of Science and Technology, 3-3-6 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023, Japan

Received 30 November 2014; Accepted 21 February 2015; 15 March 2015

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

With computer science (CS) becoming a more regular part of the K-12 curriculum the need to address the learning performance of the students has increased. There is also a need for appropriate tools that assist learning among novice programmers. In relation to these, a tool for learning basic search and sorting algorithms was created for the students of the Information Systems course track of Tokyo Tech High School of Science and Technology. The students of this track undergo a specialized curriculum that is designed to prepare them for a computer and engineering related degree in the university. The target participants for the initial stage of this study belong to Information Systems Class 2014. According to their instructor, some of the students in the said class are not performing as expected and have low motivation for learning computer science. As these students were entering their final year in high school it was deemed necessary that they have a good grasp of fundamental CS topics before taking up the required advanced courses. In order to address this problem, a special lecture on fundamental algorithms was conducted for the class using the learning tool as instructional aid. This is in accordance with the ACM Computing Curricula's proposition that a good foundation on algorithms and their implementation is necessary to gain programming skills and advanced computer science concepts [1].

In this paper, the initial stage of the design and development of the online algorithm learning tool and its pilot implementation among the students of Information System Class 2014 are introduced. One of the two phases of the entire research is also discussed in this paper. For the preliminary stage of the study, the goal is to verify if there is an improvement in the learning performance of students after using the algorithm learning tool, which incorporates Algorithm Visualization technology or AV. Another objective is to compare the effects of the AV that offers more control and interaction with the one that offers limited menu options. Hence, the learning tool was designed to have two types of AV, one with more input options and control and the other with less.

This paper also tackles one phase of the research which entails the design, implementation, and analysis of two evaluation instruments. One instrument is a questionnaire for evaluating the usability and pedagogical effectiveness of the algorithm learning tool and the other is a written test on algorithms. The design of both instruments was based on proposed AV evaluation properties and algorithm learning objectives. The learning tool's evaluation questionnaire was used to verify the intended differences in the features between the two types of AV offered by the learning tool. It was also examined to see how it can be improved and revised. The revisions are to be verified in the next stages of the learning tool's implementation. The written test on algorithms, on the other hand, was mainly used to measure the effects of the tool on the learning performance of the student participants.

A brief background on Algorithm Visualization, which is the main feature of the learning tool created for this research, is the topic of the next section. The research framework and future stages of the study are explained in Section 3. The development of the algorithm tool is discussed in Section 4. …

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