New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Teaching Programming Through Tactivites

Sarah Patterson, Virginia Military Institute (United States)

Blain Patterson, Virginia Military Institute (United States)

Sherif Abdelhamid, Assistant Professor, Virginia Military Institute (United States)


Tactile activities or “tactivities” are one form of active learning that can increase student participation and enhance students’ understanding of conceptual materials (Barnes & Libertini, 2018). In this paper, we describe several tactile activities that can be used to teach introductory programming concepts such as basic logic, programming structures, functions definitions, and debugging. The activities require students to work individually or in groups with a physical manipulative that represents some aspect of programming. For example, students might be required to play the role of entries of a matrix (indexing data), physically put lines of code in order (programming logic/debugging), or use a string to represent the flow of a program (programming structures). These activities are technology agnostic and can be paired with any high-level programming language with little adaptation. This may reduce the extraneous cognitive load on remembering the syntax. This allows students to focus on the germane load, affording students the opportunity to develop conceptual understanding (Medeiros et al., 2018). By focusing less on the ability to program or write code, students can deepen their skills in problem-solving and abstraction (Tafliovich, Campbell, & Petersen, 2013).

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