Spotlight on PPIGers


We welcome announcements and introductions about your current research, projects, openings and stuff interesting for the PPIG-community.

Andrés Moreno, University of Joensuu

I found myself teaching programming in Tanzania some time ago. My previous teaching experience included assisting a programming teacher in England. At England I started to analyzing how students use and understand the automatic visualization of programs provided by Jeliot 3 (1), which I helped to develop. The first results indicated that students were not able to properly process the repeated animations of common operation like string concatenation. More complex operations, like object creation, resulted in puzzled students that knew what an object was and how to use it but could not describe the steps shown in the animation tool (2).

In Tanzania I tried to work out a experiment to get a better insight in what happens when students try understand Jeliot's animation, and how their knowledge changes after repeated visualizations. The number of participants was low (6), but some of the initial findings point out that some of the students fail to benefit from the visualization alone. They also could not describe the running animation properly, but improved slightly when they wrote down the meaning of snapshots taken from the animation. I will submitting the results for publication soon.

As part of the research I have created a modification of Jeliot 3 that automatically introduces mistakes in the animation. That is, correct source code will produce incorrect animations; and it is students's task to spot the error if there were any. The goal is to force the students to visualize carefully the animation and check their knowledge (or lecture notes) constantly. As well, critical thinking should be promoted. You can give it a go at 3.


Chris Martin

University of Dundee

I work as a researcher in the School of Computing University of Dundee. I’m currently employed on a collaborative project called MATCH (Mobilising Advanced Technology for Care at Home) which is exploring how technology can prolong and enhance the independent living of older adults and disabled people living in their own home. The team in Dundee are particularly interested in supporting the dialogue of care between the cared for and the complex network of stakeholders that surround them. A key focus of this is understanding people and the relationships that exist between them, as this is vital when augmenting these relationships with technology in an effective and appropriate way. We have employed existing method such as questioners and focus group work as well as more novel methods including live forum theatre to focus and stimulate multi stake holder debate.

My personal research (working towards a PhD) is concerned with understanding the role of tools to support creativity and problem solving in programming tasks. I seek to employ rich user engagement methods to understand current practice, tools and technique in commercial software house. The analysis of this data should provide the information required to produce tools that fit the domain, users and context of use.

These disparate activities are joined by a strong motivation to develop better methods to understand the people we write software for; Enabling software to not just work but ‘fit’ the user and the context of use.

Sami Pietinen

University of Joensuu

I focus in my research on the problem of software development productivity that has been in great interest for several decades now. There has not been any silver bullet -pardon the cliché- in the form of robust solution to meet the ever growing demand for software and I see it very unlikely to surface in the near future, though I would surely be gladly surprised if it did.

The solution to productivity problem is multidimensional, because in addition to raising programming productivity by developing more efficient integrated tools, the human cognition needs to be also better supported. On top of these, outcomes of software projects are group efforts and as contemporary software systems are more complex in structure and size, we need multiple developer teams and solutions to the restriction in efficient knowledge sharing in distributed environments. In other words, we need new solutions to the "usability of software engineering".

I search the solution to the underlying productivity problem by combining software process improvement, cognitive usability and eye-tracking. My current interests include, among others, improving pair programming protocol and supporting shared attention in distributed software development by superimposed eye-movements. All things considered, I see productivity as a combination of challenges related to human factors, process factors and supporting tools, bundled with proper theories to build on. For further details and discussion, please contact me at sami (dot) pietinen (at) joensuu (dot) fi.