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Thesis Defense - DiGiano

Self-Disclosing Design Tools: An Incremental Approach Toward End-User Programming
Computer Science PhD Candidate

The typical direct manipulation software application currently suffers from a lack of expressiveness in that user are limited to the functionality anticipated by the system's graphical interface. A programmable application provides users with the ability to transcend the constraints imposed by its direct manipulation interface through end-user programming. By weaving programming expressions into their regular interaction with such tools, users can potentially accomplish tasks faster and more accurately, and take on whole new kinds of problems they had never considered previously. However, for many users the transition from a direct-manipulation style of interaction to a more formal, language-based one can be a daunting challenge.

This research seeks to address the language learnability problem inherent in programmable design tools by embedding "self-disclosure" mechanisms into these systems. Self-disclosing design tools can-as they are being used-present short, relevant programming language examples. Through exposure to these incremental language learning opportunities within the context of authentic activity, this work hypothesizes that users can acquire end-user programming skills with minimal distraction from the tasks at hand. To test this theory, the self-disclosing drawing tool Chart 'n' Art was developed and evaluated in a series of studies. The final analysis reveals that self-disclosing tools can have a positive educational impact on programming language acquisition with only limited interference to user activity, and that the disclosures themselves can facilitate the composition of programming expressions.

Committee: Michael Eisenberg, Assistant Professor (Chair)
Clayton Lewis, Professor
Gerhard Fischer, Professor
James Martin, Assistant Professor
Thomas Landauer, Department of Psychology
Nancy Songer, School of Education
Department of Computer Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
May 5, 2012 (14:20)