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Simplifying Programming for Non-technical Students: A Hermeneutic Approach

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This paper investigates the simplification of programming for non-technical university students. Typical simplification strategies are outlined, and according to our findings CT courses for non-technical students typically address learners from different faculties, providing generic and basic knowledge, not specifically related to their major. In this study, we propose instead a hermeneutic approach to simplify programming, in which we aim at clarifying the problem-solving aspect of programming, addressing computational problems that are specific to their studies and leveraging on learners’ preunderstanding of the digital media they have experienced as users. The practical counterpart of our theoretical approach is a minimalistic Python multimedia library, called Medialib, that we designed to enable university students with a non-technical profile to create visual media and games with short and readable code. We discuss the use of Medialib in two empirical case studies: a collaboration with the university of Kyushu in Fukuoka, Japan, and a coding module for Media Studies students at the University of Southern Denmark. Furthermore, we use Notional Machines to attempt a comparison of the simplicity of learning tools for programming, and to ground our claim that Medialib is “simpler” for learners than other popular approaches. The main contribution is a hermeneutic approach to the simplification of programming for specific contexts that combines the hermeneutic spiral and notional machines. The approach is supported by a tool, the Medialib library; the two case studies provide examples of how the approach and tool can be deployed in beginners in CT courses.


Valente, Andrea; Marchetti, Emanuela (2022): Simplifying Programming for Non-technical Students: A Hermeneutic Approach. KI - Künstliche Intelligenz: Vol. 36, No. 1. DOI: 10.1007/s13218-021-00748-0. Springer. PISSN: 1610-1987. pp. 17-33