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Engage Against the Machine: Rise of the Notional Machines as Effective Pedagogical Devices

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review

Paul E. Dickson, Neil C.C. Brown, Brett A. Becker

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationITiCSE 2020 - Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Pages159-165
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781450368742
DOIs
Published15 Jun 2020
Event25th ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE 2020 - Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 15 Jun 202019 Jun 2020

Publication series

NameAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE
ISSN (Print)1942-647X

Conference

Conference25th ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, ITiCSE 2020
CountryNorway
CityTrondheim
Period15/06/202019/06/2020

Documents

  • notional-machines

    notional_machines.pdf, 2.15 MB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:04 Sep 2020

    Version:Final published version

King's Authors

Abstract

The term "the machine" is commonly used to refer to the complicated physical hardware running similarly complex software that ultimately executes programs. The idea that programmers write programs for a notional machine - an abstract model of an execution environment - not the machine itself, has risen to the point of gaining acceptance as a useful device in computing education. This has seeded a growing discussion about how explicitly utilizing notional machines in teaching can help students construct more accurate mental models, which is essential for learning programming. Much of the existing literature necessarily involves specific languages, visualization, and/or facilitating tools, and is not very accessible to many practitioners. Less focus has been put on how teachers can make explicit use of notional machines in their teaching. In this paper we describe notional machines and their use in a manner that is more accessible to a general educator audience in order to facilitate more effective computing education at all levels. We advocate explicitly delineating between visualization tools and the notional machines they depict, isolating and clarifying the notional machine so that it is conspicuous, apparent and useful. We present examples of how this approach can facilitate a more consistent method of teaching computing, and be used in more effective pedagogical practice for teaching computing.

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