Visual Plan Construct Language (VPCL): Visual System and Method for Teaching and Learning Programming and Problem Solving through Knowledge Visualization

Visual Plan Construct Language (VPCL): Visual System and Method for Teaching and Learning Programming and Problem Solving through Knowledge Visualization

Alireza Ebrahimi (State University of New York at Old Westbury, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8142-2.ch010
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Teaching and learning programming can be enhanced by the incorporation of visualization. A system and method that the author created, known as Visual Plan Construct Language (VPCL), incorporates programming visualization for teaching, learning programming, and problem solving. VPCL contains a Plan Library that is accessible through the Web. A user can create and establish a working space and environment on the system to examine VPCL plan library and develop one's own plan library. VPCL consists of three phases: Plan Observation, Plan Integration, and Plan Creation. The observation phase rehearses how a program is broken down into smaller components with their integration relationship. The integration phase concentrates on how two plans are related to each other in building a program. The methods of integration are known as appended, interleaved, branched, and embedded. The creation phase concentrates on how a new plan is built using the existing plans from the plan library.
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Background: Why Vpcl

A problem facing the technological field today is the difficulty of learning programming. Most people are intimidated by the word programming. When it comes to learning, the methods used nowadays may seem too complicated for a beginner. Visual Plan Construct Language has incorporated all aspects of programming and programming languages. Various programming languages can be used to produce the final code in a plan, the execution of plans, and testing of plans. It is made to help novice programmers learn programming in easy ways. A problem that often arises is that those who know programming do not understand the concepts correctly. VPCL incorporates a visualization plan abstraction; its integration and language constructs into one integrated teaching and learning environment.

The design of both the VPCL system and the method was based on study of novice programming errors with different languages. Visual Plan Construct Language was designed as a solution for a plan composition problem. This chapter describes a system designed by the author that incorporates visualization, plan abstraction and its integration, and language constructs into one teaching and learning environment. VPCL has a library of a common problem set (plan) for novice programmers, which include: statistical problems known as find average, find minimum, a search, and a sorting problem. Additionally, the plan addresses the language constructs of VPCL. VPCL is not language dependent and can be adjusted to any of the current conventional languages. It can be connected to various programming languages to execute various plans; programming languages such as C/C++, Visual Basic, Java, Perl, and PHP can be useful in execution.

Mismanagement of plans has been a major cause of errors by novice programmers, rather than understanding of language constructs such as ‘if,’ ‘while,’ ‘input/ output,’ or other statements. Many programming problems can be identified and corrected at the early stage by training of plan composition than at end by trial and error of coding. (Ebrahimi, 1994). VPCL can be designed and implemented manually (hand drawing, hand writing, cards or blocks, a puzzle, or a game) or can be implemented as a computer software. World Wide Web has given a new dimension to VPCL in regards to its usage and the design principle options. The web programming of VPCL can be done by CGI, ASP, JSP or PHP, under webservers such as Apache, IIS Windows or Tomcat

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer Programming: Transforms a computer problem into executable programs in the form of an algorithm. The source code is written in a programming language.

A Plan: An abstraction that visually provides a solution to a problem or to a sub-problem representing a problem from its macro to its micro level. Any important and meaningful concept that is used to solve a problem is known a plan.

Programming Language: Such as C, C++, Java, Python, JavaScript, or some other language, is a formal language serving to communication between a human and a machine, for example, a computer.

Plan Visualization: A plan that can be represented by a dot, a geometric shape or an image.

Plan Library of VPCL: Consists of a series of common programming problems and their solutions using VPCL methods.

Language Construct: A base unit of programming language from which the language is built such as keywords: if, else, while and for.

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