Teaching informatics to novices: big ideas and the necessity of optimal guidance

Sbaraglia, Marco (2023) Teaching informatics to novices: big ideas and the necessity of optimal guidance, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Computer science and engineering, 35 Ciclo. DOI 10.48676/unibo/amsdottorato/10914.
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This thesis reports on the two main areas of our research: introductory programming as the traditional way of accessing informatics and cultural teaching informatics through unconventional pathways. The research on introductory programming aims to overcome challenges in traditional programming education, thus increasing participation in informatics. Improving access to informatics enables individuals to pursue more and better professional opportunities and contribute to informatics advancements. We aimed to balance active, student-centered activities and provide optimal support to novices at their level. Inspired by Productive Failure and exploring the concept of notional machine, our work focused on developing Necessity Learning Design, a design to help novices tackle new programming concepts. Using this design, we implemented a learning sequence to introduce arrays and evaluated it in a real high-school context. The subsequent chapters discuss our experiences teaching CS1 in a remote-only scenario during the COVID-19 pandemic and our collaborative effort with primary school teachers to develop a learning module for teaching iteration using a visual programming environment. The research on teaching informatics principles through unconventional pathways, such as cryptography, aims to introduce informatics to a broader audience, particularly younger individuals that are less technical and professional-oriented. It emphasizes the importance of understanding informatics's cultural and scientific aspects to focus on the informatics societal value and its principles for active citizenship. After reflecting on computational thinking and inspired by the big ideas of science and informatics, we describe our hands-on approach to teaching cryptography in high school, which leverages its key scientific elements to emphasize its social aspects. Additionally, we present an activity for teaching public-key cryptography using graphs to explore fundamental concepts and methods in informatics and mathematics and their interdisciplinarity. In broadening the understanding of informatics, these research initiatives also aim to foster motivation and prime for more professional learning of informatics.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Sbaraglia, Marco
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Introductory programming; Informatics for all; balanced constructivism; Necessity learning design; big ideas; cryptography
Data di discussione
5 Luglio 2023

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