About "The Meadow"
Critters in the Classroom: A 3D Computer-Game-Like Tool
for Teaching Programming to Computer Animation Students
|Eike Falk Anderson and Leigh McLoughlin|
The brewing crisis threatening computer science education is a well
documented fact. To counter this and to increase enrolment and
retention in computer science related degrees, it has been suggested
to make programming "more fun" and to offer "multidisciplinary
and cross-disciplinary programs" [Carter 2006]. The Computer
Visualisation and Animation undergraduate degree at the National
Centre for Computer Animation (Bournemouth University) is such
a programme. Computer programming forms an integral part of
the curriculum of this technical arts degree, and as educators we
constantly face the challenge of having to encourage our students
to engage with the subject.
We intend to address this with our C-Sheep system, a reimagination
of the "Karel the Robot" teaching tool [Pattis 1981],
using modern 3D computer game graphics that today's students are
familiar with. This provides a game-like setting for writing computer
programs, using a task-specific set of instructions which allow
users to take control of virtual entities acting within a micro world,
effectively providing a graphical representation of the algorithms
used. Whereas two decades ago, students would be intrigued by
a 2D top-down representation of the micro world, the lack of the
visual gimmickry found in modern computer games for representing
the virtual world now makes it extremely difficult to maintain
the interest of students from today's "Plug&Play generation". It is
therefore especially important to aim for a 3D game-like representation
which is "attractive and highly motivating to today's generation
of media-conscious students" [Moskal et al. 2004].
Our system uses a modern, platform independent games engine, capable
of presenting a visually rich virtual environment using a state
of the art rendering engine of a type usually found in entertainment
systems. Our aim is to entice students to spend more time programming,
by providing them with an enjoyable experience.
This paper provides a discussion of the 3D computer game technology
employed in our system and presents examples of how this can
be exploited to provide engaging exercises to create a rewarding
learning experience for our students.
- CARTER, L. 2006. Why students with an apparent aptitude for computer science don't choose to major in computer science. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin 38, 1, 27-31.
- MOSKAL, B., LURIE, D., AND COOPER, S. 2004. Evaluating the effectiveness of a new instructional approach. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin 36, 1, 75-79.
- PATTIS, R. E. 1981. Karel the Robot, a Gentle Introduction to the Art of Programming. John Wiley and Sons.
© 2006-2009 by Eike Anderson, Steffen Engel & Leigh McLoughlin, NCCA, Bournemouth University