Initial Abstract

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07 Sep 2005

Traditional teaching methods allow for a student and teacher to engage in a dance where the teacher presents material and the student opens a textbook to think about the concepts presented in class while doing homework. One of the problems that many students have with this approach is the lack of interactiveness with the material. To learn about a particular aspect of computer science, it is usually necessary for students to – in some way – write their own minimal implementation of a protocol and dance with the compiler and text-editor until they can begin to get a sense of computing in general (and the particular problem specifically). As visual creatures, this leaves a lot of burden upon the students to come up with their own visual layout of a problem or concept in their minds.

Wolfgang Christian, a professor at Davidson College came up with the notion of physlets (literally PHYSics appLETS) to help visually show students different concepts in the physics realm. These applets further let students investigate the concepts by allowing a minimal set of interactions. To the best of my knowledge, the idea has stopped there, but I would like to take my senior seminar project in a direction that might help the CS community at large, especially as regards teaching students concepts.

While I'm not yet sure that I will be creating Physlets (or CSlets), I do know that I would like to create some sort of easily extensible framework for my project, and something with which students can interact. This will almost certainly be something visual, and something with which students can interact – without the aid of a professor; they will be able to use it from their room.

For a certain direction, I will recognize that some courses will be taught next Spring here at Earlham, specifically, POCO and Theory of Computation. (Other ideas include such things as cryptography, parallel computation, graphics, and compression theory. I am not pushing as hard for these, however, as they don't have a direct connection to next semester of which I'm aware.) It will be far too much to tackle both projects; my interests lie more towards the POCO end of things. At this time, the manifestation details of the project are vague. Soon (1 week?), however, I will have some implementation ideas.

--hunteke 14:30, 07 Sep 2005 (EST)

Feedback for Kevin

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Hey Kevin, looks like you've got a start but you're still looking for some direction. It sounds as if you're interested in making some sort of a presentation style project -- that is, a framework of presentation. How are you planning on deciding this?

--hunteke 23:38, 13 Sep 2005 (EST)