Bridging Languages Project: Progress and new initiatives

In the last blog post, I wrote about how we completed our study – of a summer camp in which kids learned how to make games in Scratch – and how we were analyzing the data. We’ve completed that analysis and hope to see it published soon. Our analysis focuses on the impact prior programming experience has on students’ perceptions of programming and computer science; we believe our study and analysis will help guide the development of computing curricula in the future.

Since completing the summer camp work, I have been working with the group developing Pencil Code – a hybrid blocks-text environment that allows users to switch back and forth between blocks and text quickly. Hybrid environments hold promise in helping learners move from blocks to text with less frustration than they may currently experience when transitioning between different modes of programming. I spent the summer implementing the Python branch of Pencil Code, and it is now available on the production website for kids to use. You can find a history of the python-specific commits here. Through further investigation of hybrid environments, we hope to see how they can help learners progress for learning environments – like Scratch – to production languages like Python, Java, and C++.

The summer camp study was my first since entering UF’s doctorate program, where I am currently a third year PhD student. Research with people has been very different from other work I’ve done. Besides learning about children’s perceptions of programming, I also gained valuable experience in conducting behavioral research – especially how unpredictable humans can be! Moving forward, I’ll be studying just how effective hybrid environments can be in supporting student confidence, interest, and programming skills.