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30 April 2024

Generative AI in programming education: Bridging the gap from school to what lies ahead

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Becci Peters

Raspberry Pi host free online seminars on current computing education research topics. Speakers from around the world present their work in the field. I recently chaired a breakout room in a session around AI. Here is a summary of the session.

Generative AI in programming education: Bridging the gap from school to what lies ahead

The session was delivered by Dr Brett A. Becker, an Assistant Professor at University College Dublin in the School of Computer Science. His research area is computing education broadly construed, normally focusing on the psychology of programming, programming error messages, novice programmer behaviour, metacognition, and generative AI in education.

As AI can write code better than most high school students, students must know how to use AI to support writing code, and how we teach programming will change as a result of this.

The session was very informative and discussed how good AI is at answering questions set for undergraduate students and how those students can use AI when learning to program. There were discussions about what students at different phases of schooling need to prepare them for the AI world we're now living in. 

Brett mentioned a book which looks useful which I'm looking forward to reading: Learn AI-assisted Python Programming with GitHub Copilot

We were also shown a website which has been created where students are given an output from a program and have to write a prompt for AI to create the code for the program. This changes how students learn to code and could be a really valuable tool. You can find it here:

I'd love to see this tool developed further to allow students to assess whether the AI has created what it should have done rather than there being built-in assessment as I feel this is a skill that students need to be able to do.

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