An Experiment on the Effects of Engagement and Representation in Program Animation Perception
Seppo Nevalainen, Jorma Sajaniemi
Abstract: When visualization tools utilized in computer science education have been evaluated empirically, the results have been controversial. The extent to which the tools have benefited learning has remained unclear, as well as the ways through which the benefit has been achieved. In our research, we have chosen to vary type of students’ engagement and representation of the visualization tool in a series of experiments, in order to investigate the phenomena taking place during individual viewing of visualizations.
In the current experiment, we varied student engagement using two different tasks to perform during viewing; data flow task (D) and control flow task (C). Representation of visualization was varied by using two versions of the program animator; one with special images and animation, and one without. The results show that while the distribution of visual attention of the participants performing task D was steady throughout the time, the participants performing task C focused their visual attention at the beginning almost solely on the code, and increased their visual attention to the other parts of the visualization on the second half of the viewing. The participants performing task D also benefited most from the tool, at least regarding programming knowledge.