A recent trend in introductory programming education in high schools is programming without coding such as block programming. However, practical programming requires coding skills. We consider that live programming can be the key technique to learn to the fun of coding for novice students.
Based on this idea, we have been developing a code-intensive programming environment, called Puppy. Puppy is a Kid's version of Python that runs on an integrated environment of program execution on a physics engine. Even a small amount of coding can express a rich program. In addition, the programming environment helps to understand coding and programming execution using live programming technique. This essay reports the initial development status of Puppy with several demonstrations.
A recent trend in introductory programming education in high schools is programming without coding. As seen in Scratch[1, 2], students can build programs using GUI-based block components and learn a concept of programming without annoying syntax errors.
But, how do they learn the fun of coding?
We consider that coding is an essence of programming. Live programming can be a key technique to learn a fun of coding for novice students. Based on this idea, we have been developing a code-intensive programming environment, called Puppy.
Puppy is a Kid’s version of Python, which is designed to restrict Python’s syntax and complex functions in order to obtain richer programming experience in a short amount of time. Besides, Puppy has an integrated environment of program execution on a physics engine, where a rich motion of objects is simulated with a small amount of coding.
The idea behind live programming in Puppy is straightforward. If a program execution reflects an intermediate result of coding, coding experience will be greatly improved for students. Puppy introduces Live Focus, which highlights some changed program states resulting from code change. Due to Live Focus, the students can learn an intuitive understanding of coding and program executions.
This essay reports the initial development status of Puppy with several demonstrations. The essay proceeds as follows. We introduce Puppy with demonstrations that Puppy runs on a live programming environment. We then describe the implementation of the live programming environment. Finally, we discuss several challenges and conclusion of this essay.
What is Puppy Like? Let us start with a simple example of Puppy programs.
The Rectangle and Circle are basic classes that describe a shape of objects on Puppy. Here, two objects are created with some physical properties.
Rectangle(500, 950, width=1000, height=100, isStatic=True) Circle(500, 100, width=150, restitution=1.0)
The first two arguments represent an initial position of the object. The width and height represent the size of the object. The Puppy playground provides an editor on the right hand of the screen. The left hand of the Puppy playground is a canvas, where the execution result of Puppy is shown. Once, you type in the above code, puppy runs the code at the same time.
In the above demonstration, the rectangle object does not move, whereas the circle object is bounding due to a physics engine integrated with the Puppy playground. As shown above, the circle follows the law of classical dynamics such as gravity and restitution. Why the Puppy playground include the physics engine? Toy robot programming (such as in LEGO Mindstorms) is a favorite theme since students are likely to understand the state change of programs through the movement of a robot in the real world. Likewise, the Puppy Playground simulates the real world with a mapping of program behaviors.
Let’s go back to live programming in Puppy. Puppy has a nice print function. You may add a statement print(‘Hello World’) into the last line.
Rectangle(500, 950, width=1000, height=100, isStatic=True) Circle(500, 100, width=150, restitution=1.0) print('Hello World')
The Puppy playground displays “Hello World” as shown in the following video.
The string of “Hello World” moves from the right to the left on the canvas. Even just printing a string makes a fun experience in Puppy. In the above case, the program execution proceeds without stopping. Similarly, if you rewrite code slightly, the state of program is updated on live. The following demonstration changes the restitution property in the editor.
As you can see, the state of the program execution is updated in part by resulting from modified code. We aim to remove redundant time waiting for confirm the modification results. This will help students in understanding the relationship between code and the execution results.
Here is the last code in the above demonstration.
Rectangle(500, 950, width=1000, height=100, isStatic=True, fillStyle='green') Circle(500, 100, width=150, restitution=1.5, image='bird.png')
In this code, two new properties fillStyle and image appear. The Live Focus makes possible to try and check the properties easily.
The collisionEnd property is a hook point for event handling. A function registered in this property is invoked by the event of the end time of object collision in the physics engine. The following code is counting a number of collisions between a circle and another object.
Rectangle(500, 950, width=1000, height=100, isStatic=True, fillStyle='green') C = Circle(500, 100, width=150, restitution=1.5, image='bird.png') L = Label(100, 100, value=0) def hit(obj1, obj2): L.value = L.value + 1 print(L.value) C.collisionEnd = hit
The Label is another basic class for displaying a value in the specified location on the screen. Here is a live version of counting a number of object collisions.
In this section, we illustrate the implementation of the Puppy playground. The Puppy playground is implemented as a web application, thereby it makes possible to start writing a Puppy code easily without environment construction.
The Puppy playground introduces Live Focus, which supports coding to improve coding experience. We will describe how to realize Live Focus. An editor on the playground keep in to be observed, moreover, code deferences are calculated. The code deferences are classified into the following three patterns.
Appending at the tail of a code.
Changing at the midway of a code.
In the case of pattern 1, the appended code is continuously executed without stopping the program execution. In the case of pattern 2, if the changed part is a parameter, the parameter is updated without stopping the program execution. In the case of pattern 3, the program execution starts from the beginning.
Consequently, Live Focus highlights some changed program states resulting from code change.
The challenge in live programming is the refinement of Live Focus. For fluid coding, the restart of a program should be removed as many as possible. We plan to support more code changes not required stopping the program execution.
Another challenge is the enhancement of coding supports. In particular, the supports linked with the visualized execution result is desirable such as idea of Learnable Programming. For instance, if a user mouse over the parameter of a rigid body, the playground explain by visual in the rigid body.
In this essay, we introduced Puppy with several demonstrations on a prototype implementation. Puppy is simple, whereas it is expressive enough to learn programming. In addition, the Puppy playground assists coding using live programming technique. Finally, we described the implementation of Puppy Playground and how to realize live programming. If you want more detail, please access to the Puppy repository on Github.