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Thesis Defense - Gurka

Pedagogic Aspects of Algorithm Animation
Computer Science PhD Candidate

Algorithm animation is but one of many attempts to use technology to improve learning. After early development and implementation, there are now powerful, easy-to-use animation systems in many classrooms, being employed in numerous ways. As research attention has shifted to demonstrating the assumed effectiveness of these applications, disappointing results have emerged. In spite of high expectations on all sides, experimental results have been mostly doubtful, suggesting that either algorithm animation is not very advantageous for students, or that experiments and teachers have not yet determined the correct mix of factors to optimize animation's potential.

An analysis of previous work shows that experimental design problems were often substantially responsible for the "negative" results; this differs from a premature conclusion that algorithm animation is not an effective classroom tool. In addition to these experimental concerns, there are also a series of pedagogic issues and problems that must be considered when designing and performing experiments, and when considering the results; these educational questions have often been secondary or ignored. This research combines past results and new experiments to provide a framework that codifies these experimental and pedagogic issues, for both the future experimenter and the classroom instructor using animation. Application of this framework will produce improved experiments that focus more closely on the effectiveness of algorithm animation, it will assist in comparing results across different experiments, and it will guide classroom use.

Committee: Wayne Citrin, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (Chair)
Clayton Lewis, Professor
Benjamin Zorn, Assistant Professor
Michael Eisenberg, Assistant Professor
Mark Gross, Department of Planning and Design
Department of Computer Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
May 5, 2012 (14:20)