Saturday, June 20, 2009

Teaching Computer Science with Augmented Reality

There's this guy named Jack Cough (can't say whether it's his real name). He writes about software on his blog, Jack Cough on Software.

One day, Jack Cough wrote about teaching his young child about functional programming. Jack Cough's post made it to Reddit, where I, and many others, found it, read it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. After that, I (and maybe those many others) completely forgot about it.

Until now.

After watching the video about the augmented reality zombies game, I was thinking to myself, "What kind of cool stuff can I make for my PhD?" I know I really want to work on augmented reality (whether it's for the main dissertation or smaller research projects). I'm also rather interested in the role video games can play in education (either as entertainment designed to teach new skills, or as a motivation for learning computer science). Combining all these things together only seems natural.

It's amazing how little time it took for me to remember Jack's post after I started this wondering. I can definitely imagine an augmented reality game that has kids build Dr. Seuss's Star Belly Sneetch machines using concepts of functional programming (without even knowing it! A head fake as Randy Pausch would say...). More mature analogies could make the concept useful for college students struggling to figure out programming for the first time. Even Siftables - smart, intercommunicative little tiles with LCD screens - might prove ideal for such a project, either in addition to or instead of augmented reality solutions.

Now, I don't want to steal Jack Cough's ideas and build a game completely based on his concept. That's just not fair. But it does give a bit of inspiration to look around and see what others might have done, and to start exploring various ways to teach young children about programming. Stay tuned in case I come up with anything really cool! I might just share it here...


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