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Recommended Citation: Frank, R I.  An Inherent Conflict in Using IDEs in Computer Language Courses.  In The Proceedings of the Information Systems Education Conference 2002, v 19 (San Antonio): §221d. ISSN: 1542-7382.

An Inherent Conflict in Using IDEs in Computer Language Courses

Ronald I. Frank    [a1] [a2]
CS & IS Departments
Pace University    [u1] [u2]
Pleasantville, New York, USA    [c1] [c2]

The computer language or programming part of the curriculum requires hands-on problem solving program development. In industry, the tool of choice for program development is an IDE (Integrated Development Environment). We would like to use this tool in teaching. Learning to use an IDE is as large a task as learning programming in courses which use it, so we have to limit its uses to appropriate levels for each course. However, there still is an inherent conflict when using an IDE in teaching due to conflicting requirements placed upon an IDE by early program development courses versus the requirements of advanced courses and industrial program development processes. Early courses require students to learn the structure and function of the language and language system in solving basic problems. An IDE is merely a way to: 1) ease the typing burden, 2) organize files, 3) aid syntax error detection, 4) easily manage searching language documentation, and in later work, 5) control debugging. On the other hand, industrial IDE use requires it to do as much as possible automatically for the developer. This involves automating the steps just listed and even automatically generating code using code templates. Automatic code generation using code templates destroys the student's motivation to learn code structure and function in early courses. It solves most of the problems for the student thus depriving students of having to learn language and language system basics. The resolution of this conflict is to use the beneficial functions of an IDE but not automatic code generation. In first courses, we should not use automatic code generation. We show how to get around code generation in a sample Java IDE (JCreator). Other IDEs are circumvented in a similar way. This process also has benefits for grading and assignment management in a programming course.

Keywords: integrated development environment, IDE, Java education, code generation

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