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This article details the creation of a hybrid computer programming environment combining the power of the text-based Java language with the visual features of the Snap! language. It has been well documented that there exists a gap in the education of computing students in their mid-to-late teenage years, where perhaps visual programming languages are no longer suitable and textual programming languages may involve too steep of a learning curve. There is an increasing need for programming environments that combine the benefits of both languages into one.
Snap! is a visual programming language which employs “blocks” to allow users to build programs, similar to the functionality offered by Scratch. One added benefit of Snap! is that it offers the ability to create one’s own blocks and extend the functionality of those blocks to create more complex and powerful programs. This will be utilised to create the Hybrid Java environment. The development of this tool will be detailed in the article, along with the motivation and use cases for it.
Initial testing conducted will be discussed including one phase that gathered feedback from a pool of 174 first year Computer Science students. These participants were given instructions to work with the hybrid programming language and evaluate their experience of using it. The analysis of the findings along with future improvements to the language will also be presented.
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