Notes from IDC
A brief note from the IDC 2015 conference, which is just wrapping up in Boston, hosted at Tufts.
There was a lot of interesting goings-on at the conference, including a fascinating workshop on Every Child A Coder? organized by Kate Howland, Judith Good, and Judy Robertson. There we wrestled with the question of universal computer science education, bringing child development specialists toether with computer scientists to think through an approach to introducing appropriate computational concepts and practices at all ages. The workshop was an opportunity to meet a number of other teachers and researchers with overlapping interests, including Jeremiah Blanchard, who is intersested in extending Pencil Code to support python for his college classrooms.
In the main workshop, a lot of fascinating work was presented. The paper that interested me most was David Weintrop's To Block or not to Block, which analyzed perceptions of high school students toward block programming as they took a programming class. Under different conditions, the class mixed blocks and text programming in different ways. David has been carefully pulling apart the ways in which students find blocks valuable - for example, he has found that there may be more value in the browsability and the compsability of the blocks, rather than the natural-language labels in the blocks. He has also found that student perceptions of the value of blocks change as they advance through the class, and as they move to text programming.
Anthony's Droplet work, which is the dual-mode block-and-text editor used in Pencil Code, is right at the center of these discussions. Since Pencil Code allows students to freely switch between blocks and text, it raises the question of whether perceived hurdles and differences between blocks and text can be smoothed out.
It is a pleasure to be able to benefit from the insights that David Weintrop has been uncovering, and we are excited to be working with him to use Pencil Code as a research platform for his research.