Animations Introduce Computer Science Basics to Media Savvy Students
August 30, 2006

The University of Tennessee's Department of Computer Science in conjunction with the School of Art has released Basics of Computer Science Animated, a series of five related, animated modules. The web deliverable animations are set in a narrative framework covering topics such as computer architecture, binary representation of numbers, text, sound and images, and networks. In addition to being scientifically accurate, the modules were designed to be as visually stimulating as possible. Artwork and photography were created specifically with today's multimedia savvy student in mind.

Developed by the Department of Computer Science and the School of Art, the Basics series of animated modules covers a wide range of introductory topics about computer science.

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"Each year the student population grows more and more technically sophisticated, producing increasingly higher expectations of visual presentation, which raises the bar on digital media as an educational tool," says Sarah Lowe, a professor in the School of Art, "We purposely concentrated on the design and navigation of the modules as much as on the content itself."

With respect to content, the modules were initially developed for Introduction to Computer Science for Non-majors classroom, but the modules are appropriate for a wider audience such as computer literacy or information technology course at a high school or a junior college.

"With fluctuating enrollments in computer science, there is sufficient motivation to create materials that can present some of the principles of computer science in an engaging manner," says Dr. Michael W. Berry, Interim Head of the Department of Computer Science and principal investigator of the project. "We hope the modules can play a small part in generating more interest in the discipline."

Sponsored in part by two grants from the University of Tennessee's Innovative Technology Center, the modules required a collective effort from several departments. Professor Lowe was the art director and graphic design student Jeff Romaniuk did the majority of the programming. Computer science instructor Dr. Heather Booth and Systems Administrator Markus Iturriaga served as subject experts. Dr. Booth also did some of the writing. Murray Browne, a research associate who does outreach for Science Alliance was the producer and the other co-author of the modules.

Several educational institutions including the University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State Community College have served as testing sites for the modules.

The modules are available free of charge online and are compatible with most browsers. The modules are located at web.eecs.utk.edu/research/cs100modules, but do require the use of Flashplayer 7 or later. For more information about the modules, contact Michael Berry at 865-974-3838 or by email at mberry(at)utk(dot)edu.

Testimonials:

I have used these animated modules in my Introductory Computer Science courses for several years, both during lectures and as suggested tutorials. As promised, they provide a basic introduction to some fundamental concepts of CS, and the animations are quite good. My students have enjoyed them and found them to be very helpful. Several students went back on their own to the Numbers module to review binary-to-decimal conversions for their final exam.

Mrs. Debbie Carter
Teacher of Math & Computer Science
Mt. Olive High School
Flanders, NJ