Tuesday, 12 May 2015

STRiPe papers at 11th China-Europe International Symposium of Software Engineering Education,

Two papers were recently presented at the 11th China-Europe International Symposium of Software Engineering Education, 29-30 April 2015, Zwickau, Germany http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/index_CEISEE.html by two members of STRiPe, University of Northampton.

Paper 1
Review of a problems-first approach to first year undergraduate programming

Gary J. Hill
(Head of Department, Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton, Northampton, NN2 6JB, UK)



This paper, predominantly discusses the teaching of programming and problem solving to undergraduate first year computing students, using robots/robot simulators and visual programming to emulate the robot tasks. The needs to focus initial programming education on problem solving, prior to the teaching of programming syntax and software design methodology is also considered. The main vehicle for this approach is a robot/robot simulation programmed in Java, followed by the programming of a visual representation/simulation to develop programming skills. Problem solving is not trivial (Beaumont & Fox, 2003) and is an important skill, central to computing and engineering. The paper aims to summarise the authors earlier research on a problems-first approach to programming (Hill & Turner, 2011, 2014  to further emphasise the importance of problem solving, problem-based learning/project-based learning and the benefits of both physical and visual solutions.

The importance of linking the problem-solving robot activity and the programming assignment, whilst maintaining the visual nature of the problem, will be discussed, together with the comparison of this work with similar work reported by other authors relating to teaching programming using robots (Williams, 2003, Burbaitė et al., 2013).

The approaches discussed have been disseminated to colleagues, not only within the author’s University, but also in Europe and internationally (Kariyawasam, Turner & Hill, 2012, Hill & Turner, 2011, 2014) . Development funding support has also been received from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) – Information & Computer Sciences (ICS) Development Fund (2015a) and the HEA-ICS/Microsoft Innovative Teaching Fund (2015b).

Adams, J., Turner, S., Kaczmarczyk, S., Picton, P., & Demian, P. (2008). Problem solving and creativity for undergraduate engineers: Findings of an action research project involving robots. Paper presented at the International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE 2008), Budapest, Hungary.
Adams J. P., & Turner, S. J., (2008) Problem Solving and Creativity for Undergraduate Engineers: process or product? International Conference on Innovation, Good Practice and Research in Engineering Education July 14-16, 2008, Loughborough, England, Higher Education Academy. 9781904804659.
Burbaitė, R., Damaševičius, R., Štuikys, V., (2013) Teaching of Computer Science Topics Using Meta-Programming-Based GLOs and LEGO Robots, Informatics in Education - An International Journal (Vol12_1), pp125-142.
Beaumont, C., & Fox, C. (2003). Learning programming: Enhancing quality through problem-based learning. In proceeding of 4th Annual Conference of the subject centre for Information and Computer Sciences of the Higher Education Academy (pp. 90-95). Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland: Higher Education Academy.
Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I: Cognitive domain. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Chickering, A. W., Gamson. Z., F. (1987) "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." AAHE Bulletin 39:3-7. ED 282 491.6 pp. MF-01; PC-01.
Computing Curricula. (2001) IEEE CS, ACM Joint Task Force on Computing Curricula, IEEE Computer Society Press and ACM Press. Retrieved January 22, 2015 from http://www.acm.org/education/curricula.html.
Gallopoulos E, Houstis E, Rice JR (1994) Computer as Thinker/Doer: Problem-Solving Environments for Computational Science IEEE Computational Science and Engineering pp 11-23
Gold. N., (2010) Motivating Students in Software Engineering Group Projects: An Experience Report. Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences 9(1), 10-19. DOI: 10.11120/ital.2010.09010010
Greenfoot (2013) Teach and Learn Java Programming. Retrieved August 1, 2013, from http://www.greenfoot.org/
HEA-ICS Development Fund (2015a) HEA-ICS Development Fund [online] Available from: http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/projects/development-fund/index.php [Accessed February 2015].
HEA-ICS/Microsoft Innovative Teaching Fund (2015b) "Developing problem-solving teaching materials based upon Microsoft Robotics Studio" [online] Available from: http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/projects/development-fund/fund_details.php?id=88 [Accessed February 2015].
Hill, G. and Turner, S. J. (2014) Problems first, second and third. International Journal of Quality Assurance in Engineering and Technology Education (IJQAETE). 3(3), pp. 88-109. 2155-496X.
Hill G. J., Turner S. (2011) "Chapter 7: Problems First", Software Industry-Oriented Education Practices and Curriculum Development: Experiences and Lessons, M Hussey, X Xu & B Wu (Eds.), IGI Global, USA, pp 110-126, ISBN: 978-1-60960-797-5.
Houghton, W., (2004) How can Learning and Teaching Theory assist Engineering Academics? [online]. School of Engineering - University of Exeter. Available from: http://www.engsc.ac.uk/er/theory/problemsolving.asp [Accessed November 2007].
JICC5 (2001) Java & the Internet in the Computing Curriculum, Higher Education Academy (HEA) – Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) Conference, South Bank University, London, 22nd Jan, (http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/events/displayevent.php?id=127).
Kariyawasam K., A., Turner S., Hill G. (2012) "Is it Visual? The importance of a Problem Solving Module within a Computing course", Computer Education, Volume 10, Issue 166, May 2012, pp. 5-7, ISSN: 1672-5913.
Microsoft. (2006). Microsoft robotics studio. Retrieved February 14, 2008, from http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/robotics/aa731520.aspx
Savin-Baden, M. & Wilkie, K. (2004) (eds) Challenging Research in Problem-based Learning. Maidenhead: Open University Press/SRHE.
Turner S., Hill G. J., (2010) Innovative Use of Robots and Graphical Programming in Software Education, Computer Education, Volume 9, May 2010, pp. 54-6, ISSN: 1672-5913.
Turner S., Hill G. J., (2008) Robots within the teaching of Problem-Solving, ITALICS, HEA-ICS, Volume 7 Issue 1, June 2008, pp. 108-119, ISSN: 1473-7507. http://dx.doi.org/10.11120/ital.2008.07010108
Turner S., Hill G. J., (2007) Robots in Problem-Solving and Programming 8th Annual Conference of the Subject Centre for Information and Computer Sciences, University of Southampton, 28th - 30th August 2007, pp 82-85 ISBN 0-978-0-9552005-7-1
Turner S., Hill G. J., (2006) The Inclusion of Robots Within The Teaching OF Problem Solving: Preliminary Results, 7th Annual Conference of the ICS HE Academy, Trinity College, Dublin, 29th - 31st August 2006, Proceedings pg 241-242 ISBN 0-9552005-3-9
Wing, J. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, 49(3), 33.

Gary is also on the International Programme committee (http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/CEISEE_ProgComm.html)  and was a panel member of the discussion of Software Engineering Education and Industry

Paper 2
Enhancing computing student employability skills through partnership working in STEM outreach.

Scott Turner, Associate Professor, Department of Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton, Northampton, NN2 6JB, UK

Student volunteering is growing in the UK and elsewhere, and there is an ongoing debate about whether it is really “self-evidently a ‘good thing’” or there is a greater need for reflection to determine whether this statement is true (Holdsworth and Quinn, 2010).  This paper presents a personal reflection of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) volunteering as a potential route to increasing Computing student’s employability.
This paper looks at an approach at the University of Northampton that involves:
  • ·         Linking but not combining a local STEM volunteering scheme to the National STEM Volunteers (STEMNet 2015)
  • ·         Creation of a STEM Steering Group that has representation across all parts of the university.

Three brief case studies of computing student volunteers at different stages will be presented and culminate with a personal reflection based on observations over a ten year period.


  • Brewis, G., Russell, J., & Holdsworth, C. (2010). Bursting the bubble: Students, volunteering and the community. Research Summary.

  • Junkbots (2015) Junkbots [online] Available at: http://junkbots.blogspot.co.uk/ Accessed on: 24th January 2015.

  • Sinclair J, Allen A, Davis L, Goodchild T, Messenger J, Turner S (2014) "Enhancing student employability skills through partnership working in STEM outreach; the University of Northampton approach " HEA STEM Annual Teaching and Learning Conference 2013: Enhancing the STEM Student Journey, University of Edinburgh, 30th April-1st May 2014

  • STEMNet (2015) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network [online] Available at: http://www.stemnet.org.uk/ Accessed on: 24th January 2015.

Scott is also on the International Programme committee (http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/CEISEE_ProgComm.html)  and was a session chair for a paper session.

All views are the authors, and may not reflect the views of any organisation the author is connected with in any way.

Innovate and Educate 2015: Keep Taking the Tablets

Keep Taking the Tablets
Rob Howe and Adel Gordon
Innovate & Educate 2015
15-17 April 2015

Monday, 20 April 2015

Creative Computational Thinking blog

A new blog has been launched by Scott Turner  looking at Computational Thinking (http://compuationalthinking.blogspot.co.uk/ - the typo in the name is there on purpose). As a blog there is not a particular target audience apart from those interested in Computational Thinking or problem-solving.

At the time of writing so far there have been posts on robots, apps, and overview of Computational Thinking.

Junkbots training - 23rd February 2015

Junkbots training for University of Northampton STEM Champions on 23rd February 2015.

Training lead by Scott Turner.

(c) Linda Davis-Sinclair

(c) Linda Davis-Sinclair
For more details of the junkbots project go to: http://junkbots.blogspot.co.uk/



Jannicke Madeleine Baalsrud Hauge, Ioana A. Stanescu, Sylvester Arnab, Pablo Moreno Ger, Theodore Lim, Angel Serrano-Laguna, Petros Lameras, Maurice Hendrix, Kristian Kiili, Manuel Ninaus, Sara de Freitas, Alessandro Mazzetti, Anders Dahlbom, Cristiana Degano

International Journal of Serious Games
Vol. 2 No 1
pp 29-44 


The challenge of delivering personalized learning experiences is often increased by the size of classrooms and online learning communities. Serious Games (SGs) are increasingly recognized for their potential to improve education. However, the issues related to their development and their level of effectiveness can be seriously affected when brought too rapidly into growing online learning communities. Deeper insights into how the students are playing is needed to deliver a comprehensive and intelligent learning framework that facilitates better understanding of learners' knowledge, effective assessment of their progress and continuous evaluation and optimization of the environments in which they learn. This paper discusses current SOTA and aims to explore the potential in the use of games and learning analytics towards scaffolding and supporting teaching and learning experience. The conceptual model (ecosystem and architecture) discussed in this paper aims to highlight the key considerations that may advance the current state of learning analytics, adaptive learning and SGs, by leveraging SGs as an suitable medium for gathering data and performing adaptations.

A Rating Tool for Sharing Experiences with Serious Games

A Rating Tool for Sharing Experiences with Serious Games 
M. Hendrix, P. Backlund, B. Vampula, 
International Journal of Game-Based Learning (IJGBL)
volume 4(4), pp. 1-18, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2014100101

    The potential of Computer Games for non-entertainment purposes, such as education, is well established. A wide variety of games have been developed for the educational market, covering subjects such as mathematics and languages. However, while a growing industry developing educational games exist, the practical uptake in schools is not as high as one would expect, based on current evidence of their effectiveness. The EduGameLab project investigates causes and solutions to the relatively low level of uptake in European schools. This paper describes a rating tool for sharing experiences about educational games among educators and parents, developed in the EduGameLab project. The ambition is that sharing knowledge about how games can be used in practice will stimulate practical use and acceptance. The development of this tool is based on a metadata schema for formally describing serious games and experiences with these games.

    DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2014100101

    Providing Career Guidance to Adolescents through Digital Games: A Case Study

    Providing Career Guidance to Adolescents through Digital Games: A Case Study
    I. Dunwell, P. Lameras, S. de Freitas, P. Petridis, M. Hendrix, S. Arnab, K. Star, 

    International Journal of Game-Based Learning (IJGBL)
    volume 4(4), pp. 1-18, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2014100104

    In an evolving global workplace, it is increasingly important for graduates and school-leavers to possess an understanding of the job market, their relevant skills, and career progression paths. However, both the marketplace and career paths are becoming increasingly dynamic, with employees more frequently moving between sectors and positions than was the case for previous generations. The concept of a “job for life” at a single organization is becoming less prevalent across sectors and cultures. In such a context, traditional approaches to career guidance, which often focused upon identifying a suitable occupation for adolescents at an early stage and establishing a route towards it, are being challenged with the need to communicate the value of transferrable skills and non-linear progression paths. This article explores the role digital games might play in allowing learners to develop these skills as part of a wider careers guidance programme. Through a case study of the “MeTycoon” serious game, the potential reach of such games is discussed, with 38,097 visits to the game’s website, and 408,247 views of embedded educational videos. An online survey of players (n=97) gives some insight into their opinions of the game’s impact and appeal, with positive comments regarding the design of the game and its emphasis on creating an enjoyable gaming experience whilst providing educational content.