Abstract: My passion within research and the classroom is understanding why programming is so difficult for so many people. Years of teaching offered insights as to why it might be challenging, but as a good academic, I sought company in literature. Surprisingly, computing education has been a subject of research for more than fifty years now, yet the themes of how people struggle have remained largely unchanged. Students are forgetful, full of misconceptions, overloaded, and often suffer an emotional toll from their coursework. Outsiders often say that programmers ‘thinking differently’ but few have attempted to describe the cognition of a programmer based on either theory or cognitive science. The gap became so problematic I was forced first to define a theory that could support the empirical research I planned! In this talk, I will introduce the concepts tackled within my theory and how I think it can influence research and practice. I will start by summarizing what literature states programmers should know, how novices struggle, and how to improve the teaching of new programmers. I will discuss the role of theories of cognition, development, and learning in researching and practicing education and touch on the theory-building process. My theory, the Theory of Applied Mind of Programming, looks to build model how trained programmers think, and describe the gaps novices face. I hope to challenge your view of the mechanics driving a programmer’s cognition and start a conversation about how we can better teach and assess new programmers.
Bio: Tony Lowe is a Ph.D. candidate graduating next Spring from Purdue’s School of Engineering Education. He is excited to pursue a teaching position after spending 24 years in industry, delivering code to GPS receivers, satellites, the 767-400, various financial systems, non-profits, and health insurance, among others. He has also had a hand in teaching most of his career working both as a corporate, educational consultant, adult-education instructor, and assistant professor at an online university. He has been playing Ultimate (don’t call it frisbee) playing college, club, and even an appearance at nationals as a grand-master. He is very much looking forward to completing his dissertation to get back into practice and spend more time with his family and dogs.