The University of Washington and Oregon State University will investigate how to teach debugging and computing skills in personalized, social, online learning settings. The investigators will create an interactive website that presents a series of debugging puzzles to learners, allowing them learn diagnostic strategies and computing concepts in a self-paced manner and in collaboration with their peers. The website will also allow learners to create their own debugging puzzles to share with friends, family, and the world, resulting in an online community of social learning. Using this design, the project will investigate the effect of explicit instruction on debugging strategies on learners' ability to learn basic programming concepts and the effect of social learning features on learning outcomes and engagement. The project will also contribute basic discoveries on how to teach debugging and how such teaching can be integrated into instruction on other aspects of computing. Evaluations will include both controlled laboratory experiments, annual summer camps involving over 200 U.S. teens, and a worldwide deployment of the website.

This project is part of a larger effort to increase both computing literacy and interest in computing careers on the part of U.S. teens. This project's focus on social learning is particularly important for broadening participation in computing, allowing teens to learn computing in supportive and collaborative settings, rather than the highly competitive settings that tend to deter many teens today. Moreover, because the website will only require an Internet connection and a web browser, and not software installations or special devices, the project will also improve access to effective, evidence-based computing education, reaching learners who only have Internet access at public libraries or at school. These efforts will not only improve U.S. citizens' global competitiveness for information technology jobs, but also help the broader citizenry better understand and debug the increasingly software-based world around them.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Janice Cuny
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University of Washington
United States
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