Using a game template as a multimedia-based cognitive tool to facilitate novices' conceptual understanding of object-oriented programming

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Yuen, Timothy Tung-Ming, 1978-

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This study examined how a multimedia-based cognitive tool (MCT) facilitates novices' conceptual understanding of object-oriented programming (OOP). The tool used in this study was CSNüb, a game template created in Adobe Flash. The MCT design framework guided CSNüb's design. The MCT design framework was synthesized from literature on constructivist, multimedia, and motivation learning theories and computer-based cognitive tool design principles. Students worked with CSNüb to develop a simple role-playing game (RPG). Through clinical interviews and process tracing methods, it was found that CSNüb affected novice computer science students' conceptual understanding of OOP through five cognitive processes and factors: cognitive disequilibrium evoked through multimedia-based feedback, exploring for resources that scaffold understanding, changing the level of awareness of the "bigger picture" and ability for higher-level thinking, and consistent refinement of solutions and mental models within the problem space. The five cognitive processes and factors were found to be the result of three levels of interaction with CSNüb. At the Tool Level, students received conflicting information, generally through multimedia-based feedback from the CSNüb, which placed students in states of disequilibrium. At the Interaction Level, students interacted with the CSNüb to resolve their disequilibrium through exploring resources within the tool and refining their solution. They were able to experiment and test out their understanding on OOP. At the Cognitive Level, students used the resources as cognitive scaffolds found through exploration, which in turn, increased the degree of awareness and influenced the level at which they understood the object-oriented system. The five cognitive processes and factors through the three levels of interaction were formed into one model--the MCT Interaction Model (MCTIM)--as a general explanation for how MCTs, such as CSNüb, affects novice students' conceptual understanding.