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A case study on the role of Inquiry Based Learning in Computer Science in teaching Dr Mike Brayshaw and Dr Neil Gordon Department of Computer Science University.

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Presentation on theme: "A case study on the role of Inquiry Based Learning in Computer Science in teaching Dr Mike Brayshaw and Dr Neil Gordon Department of Computer Science University."— Presentation transcript:

1 A case study on the role of Inquiry Based Learning in Computer Science in teaching Dr Mike Brayshaw and Dr Neil Gordon Department of Computer Science University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, England Case study at the HEA ICS Workshop Exploring Inquiry Based Learning CILASS, University of Sheffield Friday 24 April 2009

2 Brief plan to the talk A general characterisation of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) and the focus on IBL given the skill set of students Computer Programmes as Information Spaces Some approaches to using IBL in our teaching at Hull Some reflections on our experiences

3 Introduction The Information Age changes the skills that students have and need We will consider how within the context of teaching computing these skills naturally support and are implicit to Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) We consider some of the dangers and pitfalls in the networked world We will reflect on the impact of how technologies support other learning styles and the impact of Web 2.0 and newer technologies Our experience is mainly in teaching computer science students at University level, but also covers students from other disciplines who have taken computer science modules and also school and college students

4 Approaches to learning IBL links closely with other learning approaches which are common in computer science, especially >Problem Based Learning >Project Based Learning >Discovery Learning >Guided Discovery Learning >Design Based Learning >Student Centred Learning

5 Characteristics of IBL The task is based on an open problem – open in the sense that there are numerous approaches to solution; The student(s) must discover for themselves the nature of the problem - in particular to identify what knowledge and skills they will need students must demonstrate self analysis and critical thinking in order to choose between a number of possible solutions and approaches; Where the teacher or lecturer acts as a facilitator in the process

6 IBL and the research and vocational environments One driver for explicitly including IBL is the opportunity to expose students to research methods and approaches However, this is not just academic research – R&D includes many similar features The problem is defined by the researcher The researcher identifies appropriate knowledge and skills and acquires/procures them

7 Skills in an information age The rise of Information Technology (I.T., I.C.T., computing) in the general education environment in many countries, and especially the Internet, has ensured that students develop skills such as >I.T. awareness, the ability to use standard applications (word processors) >Information gathering skills – use of web based and other search facilities >Data analysis skills – many students have some (often limited) understanding of the use of software to analyse data

8 Information skills The skills to identify appropriate information E.g. Wikipedia is a common source for many students – but contrast that to Citizendium which offers a more library like resource Skills to understand the distinction between merely using verbatim quotes (with accurate references) as opposed to paraphrasing and describing in their own words (but still with accurate references)

9 IBL in Computer Science Many problems in computer science require some element of IBL to solve them Whilst applying known techniques to a problem can be mechanical application, in practice students will frequently have to investigate a problem to identify what technique (algorithm, software tool etc.) would be appropriate

10 IBL in Computer Science Recalling the characteristics of IBL, solving a typical computer science assignment falls into the class of IBL problems – the constraining factor being how much context and direction that the teacher provides; Furthermore, computing provides the underpinning technologies which facilitate general IBL

11 Locus of Control for Inquiry Intelligent Tutoring Systems Intelligent Debugging Systems Letting the User be the Inquirry >People are smart >Give them the tools and they can find their own way >Cradle to the grave environment - what fits a novice can also be cool for an expert

12 Software Visualization The rendering of software in to visual models The can be both static models of the code itself Graphic accounts of the actual execution of the code Users are encouraged to explore both accounts and develop their own models of what has happenend

13 Mental Hygiene To what extent do you let people explore? What freedom do you give people to inquire? When you have such a truth about how a language works when do you have to enforce that and if you do how do you do it Execution stories: Prolog, PARLOG, Lisp, Java, Csharp

14 Roll Your Own Being able not only to configure you won information space but being able to roll your own How do think about problems How do people inquire An individual information space that can be made to fit the information space in the problem solvers minds

15 Customizable Systems (Lipen Wen, Brayshaw, Gordon) Personalise learning is possible through aggregation of learning materials This can be done by the learner – thus providing an inquiry based approach to their personal learning experience Or via a negotiated space of inquiry between the tutor and the student

16 Inquiry Based Learning and a C sharp based Tutor (Butterfield and Brayshaw) IBL can be considered as a process of guided discovery learning with an open syllabus and no rigid order as to how things are learnt Heuristic evaluation of the outcomes

17 dangers and pitfalls in a networked world The rise of the skills above has led to an apparent demise in the use of traditional information sources such as books Empirical evidence of this comes from the number of student reports and essays, where the majority of references are web based URLs Further, the ability to read, assimilate and condense information seems to have declined – the use of verbatim quotes (ideally identified as such) can lead to a rise in the volume of submitted work, but a reduction in the actual authored work A particular issue for computing is the use of other peoples algorithms and code (when allowed under license)

18 The Google generation The problem of the so-called Google generation reflects these problems A growing perception is that students enter University, and continue there, with a tendency to graze from a wide range of information sources but lacking the desire of skills to study in depth This may reflect the recent concerns about the demise of second class degrees, as students stratify into those who graze and the (minority) who study in depth

19 the impact of technology on learning styles As already considered, technology can be perceived to have encouraged many students to move from a deeper scrutiny of a small number of sources, to a more shallow study of a wide number of sources (the Google effect) Further, the understanding of the reliability of a source is often not developed – references to Wikipedia or web sites without considering their status are common

20 Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies IBL can be a lone activity, but it frequently offers an opportunity for group or team work Such collaborations can be facilitated through groupware and other technologies Web 2.0 technologies are particularly relevant – simplify providing support for collaborative activity on the Internet

21 Issues for collaborative learning The typical concerns about group work >Equal contributions >Group communications and organisation problems >Evidence of group activity Can be dealt with using groupware, which can provide a virtual environment in which to carry out the inquiry

22 Throughout our courses On a brief sample, we can identify IBL in numerous modules throughout our years of study e.g. >Level 0 (pre-certificate) Web Skills and Technologies >Level 1 (certificate) IT and Professional Skills / Software Engineering >Level 2 (diploma) E-commerce and E-business >Level 3 (honours) Commercial Game Development / third year projects >Level 4 (Masters) Development Projects / Masters dissertations

23 e.g. web skills and technologies Range of levels (0 to 2) and disciplines (CS and free elective) Ebl – students are given a rough area, and define their own question They carry out research – in groups to produce a report Group work supported by GroupWare (SharePoint), personal logs (Wiki/Blogs) Peer and self assessment – using WebPA Assess product AND process


25 A natural way of learning We have briefly considered some of the aspects of IBL generally, and with regard to the impact of computing technologies We have also considered some of the ways in which IBL is a natural way of learning in computing

26 Conclusions IBL offers numerous benefits to practitioners and to our students Ensuring that IBL provides these benefits requires developing the analytical and critical skills in students Technology can provide a way to encourage and support IBL, and in particular to promote the use of group work in this context.

27 Ongoing issues and points of discussion? How could we use electronic/virtual environments to emulate the facilities offered in facilities such at thus Information commons Is IBL a new paradigm or a rebadging of established ideas

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