Exploiting Smalltalk Modules In A Customizable Programming Environment

Woodman, Mark; Griffiths, Rob; McGregor, Malcolm; Holland, Simon and Robinson, Hugh (1999). Exploiting Smalltalk Modules In A Customizable Programming Environment. In: ICSE '99: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Software Engineering, ACM, New York, pp. 65–74.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/302405.302453


This paper describes how we have extended a module structure of the Smalltalk LearningWorks to provide a programming environment deigned for very large scale technology transfer. The ‘module’ is what we have termed the LearningBook, a set of classes and persistent objects, including an HTML browser, programming and visualization tools, and microworlds. The context for this development is a distance learning university course in object technology which has enrolled over 5,100 mature students in its first year – making it the largest such course in the world. While promoting a systems building approach, we have successfully added support for programming in the small and the needs of the isolated novice. Two principles have applied: (i) the programming environment and its modules fit into a consistent framework for personal management of study and (ii) details of complex facilities, such as the class library, are progressively disclosed as knowledge and sophistication grow. The paper shows how these principles have guided the exploitation of LearningBook modules. To provide context, relevant academic background is given. Early informal feedback is reported and a project currently underway to observe in detail how thousands of learners use the Smalltalk programming environment is sketched.

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