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[ide4edu-dev] Learning OO Concepts in Eclipse using Analogies


I am Masters student in Software Engineering, and am working on my (minor) thesis.  My chosen topic is the use of analogies in teaching Object Oriented concepts, and more specifically, the provisioning of analogies within Eclipse to try to help students grasp OO concepts.

I have not been using Eclipse for very long, but have been using it while learning Java.  My (historical) programming background is procedural, and in my many attempts at learning Java, it finally struck me that the obstacle I kept bumping up against was my lack of understanding of the basic OO concepts.  In my quest at grasping these concepts, I found that the use of analogies was of considerable benefit.  Then I had a closer look at Eclipse.  As Eclipse is primarily aimed at the professional development community, it provides many tools to assist in code completion, debugging, refactoring, package building and the rest.  And for the novice programmer, it assists in all of these things, but totally ignores the "elephant in the room", that the understanding of OO concepts is central to the understand of OO programming.  And there is nothing (that I have found) in Eclipse that addresses the need to understand these concepts.

On that basis, my thesis statement is "How effectively does the provisioning of analogies within the Eclipse IDE promote the learning of Object Oriented programming concepts?".

In reviewing the literature, I came across a paper on Penumbra (Mueller & Hosking), which then led me to the "Eclipse IDE for Education".  As this appears to fit broadly my area of interest, I thought I would put a posting here and see if there is any response.  My idea is to develop a plugin that would present analogies (in text form) that cover many of the basic OO concepts.  I am undecided yet as to how to present these.  I am mindful of the reason for the Penumbra perspective (i.e. to present a simplified perspective to novice programmers), I do not want to add to students being overwhelmed by the IDE.  I think the least intrusive mechanism would be to add to / modify the "Help" system, to make these analogies available as needed.  Another would be to present these in a separate view, but then this would have to be selected as needed.  I can't see a way (at the moment) to make these context sensitive (based on code in the editor), as OO concepts are not always obvious from the code (with the possible exception of the "new" keyword). 

As I said, I am relatively new to Eclipse, and have not yet developed any plug-ins.  I would appreciate any feedback that anyone here might be willing too offer (don't be afraid to tell me off for a dumb idea.. ).

Many thanks,


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