Bridging Languages Project: Middle school study

It’s been a long time since my last update, so there’s lots to cover!

As a recap, I have been investigating hybrid environments, which provide multiple representations of the same code. In particular, I’ve been looking into Pencil Code, which is a bi-directional environment – it lets students go back and forth between blocks and text. We had been planning a study at a middle school in Orlando since January.

In April and May, I ran our planned study in a middle school in an 8th grade technology course. The curriculum for the last several weeks was programming, and we arranged with the instructor to use the instructional period to gather information about how blocks and hybrid environments compare when transitioning from blocks to text.

Running a classroom study of this sort was quite a new experience for me. Logistically, we had to make arrangements for the class schedule (as there were a number of days that were taken up by school events, standardized testing, and field trips). There was also the challenge of addressing a diverse student population – some deeply committed to academics, and others more interested in socializing – while delivering a uniform curriculum across all classes for the course. We also ran into IT challenges, as the school’s filtering mechanism required special permission to access our online materials.

Overall, it was a great experience. I learned a great deal about how to organize such a large study – planning out the schedules, accounting for different levels of aptitude, and realizing just how much advanced preparation is required. We are in the process of analyzing this data for future publication. Stay tuned for updates!