Teaching and Engaging with Debugging Puzzles
Lee, Michael Jong
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation describes Gidget, an online educational debugging game that is designed to engage and teach novices introductory programming concepts. Players solve puzzles throughout the game to help a robotic character complete its missions. These puzzles are actually debugging tasks, where players must inspect, modify, and test existing code to fulfill the goals that are written as test cases. Each level teaches a specific concept or set of concepts related to topics that are covered in introductory programming courses. The dissertation defines the core principles that constitute an educational debugging game. Three controlled experimental studies show that the game is engaging to novice programmers. This was especially true when 1) the compiler/interpreter and its feedback messages were personified, 2) objects in the game attributed more purpose to the game goals, and 3) assessments were integrated seamlessly into the game. Another controlled experiment, where participants were assigned to use one of three learning interventions, revealed that those who completed the Gidget game or an online tutorial on a website called Codecademy showed similar learning gains, with Gidget players doing so in about half the time. Thousands of people have played Gidget through its development and public release. It has been shown to be appealing to a broad range of users independent of age, gender, education, or place of residence. A total of 68 teenagers from underrepresented groups in computing (i.e., females, and those from rural communities) took part in four, weeklong summer camps. With only about 5 hours of training playing through and completing the Gidget game, these teenagers were able to create a total of 210 of their own Gidget levels with minimal or no outside help. Furthermore, Gidget has attracted several thousands of players since its release. Registered players, composed of 54.8% males and 45.2% females, completed 0-37 levels playing between between 1 minute to 5.22 hours each.
- Information science