Models and Clickers for Teaching Computer Science

Matthias Hauswirth.


Many courses in a computer science curriculum, from computer architecture over programming languages to operating systems, discuss complex and intricate mechanisms and systems. Engineers who develop such mechanisms and systems (e.g. an operating system) use models to deal with their complexity. Instructors who teach the concepts behind those mechanisms and systems often implicitly use models to make those concepts more approachable: they present simplified abstractions and draw diagrams to focus on the essential.

In this position paper we propose to make this implicit use of models explicit. We propose to use models as a teaching tool in all courses where they are helpful, not just in a course on models or model-driven development. Moreover, we present an infrastructure, the Informa Clicker system, that provides support for integrating models into an interactive classroom. Using Informa, instructors can ask students to describe arbitrary concepts by creating and submitting simple models directly in the classroom, and they can ask students to evaluate their peers' models. The resulting models and evaluations allow instructors to quickly spot aspects of the modeled concepts that students misunderstood, and to clarify these misunderstandings within the same lecture.

Our hypothesis is that this use of Informa improves the student's learning as well as their modeling skills. We plan to test this hypothesis in future work.


You can find the slides of the presentation here.