Talk: Teaching Programming with Graphics: Pitfalls and a Solution

Cascais, Portugal
Sun, Oct 22, 2023Tue, Dec 27, 2022

Luca Chiodini and Matthias Hauswirth presenting our paper on Teaching Programming with Graphics: Pitfalls and a Solution at SPLASH-E 2023.


Many introductory programming courses employ graphics libraries that promote engagement and enable fun visuals. However, student excitement over graphical outputs is not a guarantee of conceptual understanding of programming, and graphics may even distract from intended learning outcomes. Our contribution is twofold. First, we analyze a selection of existing graphics libraries designed for novice programmers. We consider how these libraries foster clean decomposition, direct students’ attention to key content, and manage complexity; we find shortcomings in these respects. These shortcomings involve the libraries’ support for global coordinates and external graphics, as well as their rich APIs; we argue that these features, although powerful, are also potential pitfalls in student learning. Second, we present the design of a new graphics library, PyTamaro, which avoids the pitfalls with a minimalist design that eschews coordinates; we also outline a pedagogical approach that builds on PyTamaro’s strengths and deliberate limitations. We briefly discuss PyTamaro’s trade-offs in comparison to coordinate-based libraries. The work reported here paves the way for future empirical evaluations of PyTamaro and associated teaching practices.

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