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Making Software by Greg Wilson, Andy Oram

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Conclusion: A Fledgling Field

Computing Education Research, as a field of study, is still a fledgling discipline [Fincher and Petre 2004]. We are just recently realizing the importance of computing education and the need to support the teaching of computing. The ACM organization that supports computing teachers, Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), was formed only in 2005. In contrast, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics was formed in 1920.

Most of our studies point more toward how complex it is for humans to learn how to program a computer. We continue to marvel at the intelligence and creativity of humans, and that even students without training in computing can already think in algorithmic terms. However, developing that skill to the point that it can be used to give directions to a machine in the machine’s language occurs more slowly than we might expect. We can get students through the process, but we still don’t have effective measures of how much they’re learning.

What we really need as a field are predictive theories, based on models of how people really come to develop their understanding of computing. On those theories, we can build curricula in which we can have confidence. ACM’s International Computing Education Research workshop is only five years old this year, and the number of attendees has never topped 100. We have few workers, and they have only just started at a difficult task. We have taken only the first steps toward understanding why it is ...

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