Publication Date

5-2016

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

3-14-2016

Type of Culminating Activity

Dissertation - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Educational Technology

Department

Educational Technology

Major Advisor

Ross Perkins, Ph.D.

Major Advisor

Yu-Chang Hsu, Ph.D.

Advisor

Yu-Hui Ching, Ph.D.

Abstract

Understanding the hardware/software interface is a key competency in computer science and engineering. In traditional brick-and-mortar courses, these concepts are typically covered in laboratory exercises using physical equipment and electronic components. With numerous computer science programs currently existing or moving online, the problem of replacing these laboratory experiences with authentic, practical and cost-effective methods is necessary. Traditionally, static models in the form of schematic diagrams along with detailed textual descriptions are used. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the use of a logic simulation tool as an interventional assignment at a key point in an online undergraduate computer science course to see if difficulties in understanding and visualizing these static models can be affected in a positive way. Three iterations of the intervention were run using a design-based research approach with each iteration adding additional components. In the second iteration, the simulation targets the concepts of static computer memory through the simulation of a D-latch, and the concept of abstraction, through the design and simulation of a single-byte ripple-carry adder from single-bit adders. Finally, learning through collaboration is explored in the third iteration with the introduction of a group project using the simulator, Web 2.0 tools, and the Hsu, Ching, and Grabowski (2014) learning through collaboration framework. Findings show overwhelmingly that student understanding and ability to visualize dynamic digital logic systems was enhanced through the use of simulation and that the concepts of memory and abstraction were strengthened as well. The collaboration project was moderately successful but suffered from issues related to communications, logistics, and assignment design. Detailed results are discussed, student artifacts presented, and recommendations for future research, including a proposed design for a fourth iteration are discussed. Ultimately, it is hypothesized that the use of simulation technology will allow students to learn computer architecture in a different, visual way, ultimately affecting metacognition of these, and by extension, other topics in computer science and engineering.

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