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The Role of Physicality in Rich Programming Environments

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Computer Science Education Volume 23, Number 4, ISSN 0899-3408


Computer science proficiency continues to grow in importance, while the number of students entering computer science-related fields declines. Many rich programming environments have been created to motivate student interest and expertise in computer science. In the current study, we investigated whether a recently created environment, Robot Virtual Worlds (RVWs), can be used to teach computer science principles within a robotics context by examining its use in high-school classrooms. We also investigated whether the lack of physicality in these environments impacts student learning by comparing classrooms that used either virtual or physical robots for the RVW curriculum. Results suggest that the RVW environment leads to significant gains in computer science knowledge, that virtual robots lead to faster learning, and that physical robots may have some influence on algorithmic thinking. We discuss the implications of physicality in these programming environments for learning computer science.


Liu, A.S., Schunn, C.D., Flot, J. & Shoop, R. (2013). The Role of Physicality in Rich Programming Environments. Computer Science Education, 23(4), 315-331. Retrieved October 27, 2020 from .

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