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Turning lemons into lemonade. The practice of using instant messaging for teaching programming


  • Watson Manduna Student
  • Prof Goede
  • Prof Drevin


critical systems thinking, technology, technological pedagogical content knowledge framework, human computer interaction, computer programming education


The world we live in is complex such that only data-driven innovators who, are able to: (a) push boundaries; (b) acknowledge the ‘science’ (for continuous learning, critique learning, self-organization, inter-connection/dependence); and (c) practice the ‘art’ (to pragmatize diversity, openness, connectivism) of the unimaginable (admittance of emergent phenomenon) can survive.

In educational settings, complexities exist in various forms, which includes the ‘haves’ and ‘haves not’: e.g., access to/not to the study content and environment. In developed countries, teaching/learning tools like learning management systems (LMS) are used by students, a privilege that does not exist to schools/colleges students in most developing countries; especially those whose parents have low incomes. Older mobile phones are the only technology available to the students because of their capabilities (e.g., manageable costs and ubiquitous). Although the prospects of using mobile phones with applications such as instant messaging (IM) in education exist; due to complexities (i.e., organizational; individual; micro, macro, and meso forms); most millennium learners who have access to IM, do not use it for learning.

The aim of this paper therefore is to present a study that shows how to make a difference; to emancipate the affected/involved (students, teachers) in achieving the seemingly impossible through using IM for teaching in order to reach their full potential as learners/teachers. This paper reports on the preparatory literature review done to develop guidelines for using IM in computing training from a critical systems perspective, through the ideas of Werner Ulrich, based on Kant’s work on conditioned realities. Koehler and Mishra’s technological pedagogical content knowledge framework (TPACK) is applied to elucidate different types of perspectives (in form of technical, pedagogical, and content boundaries), essential in dealing with the complex educational ecosystem.

Sequentially (from widest view to a narrow), through TPACK the first phase of the technological knowledge of the study (TK); as the main boundary, is discoursed in accordance with ‘conditioned realties’ of the ‘art’ and ‘science’ of HCI to produce initial guidelines for developing software. Due to the critical systems’ idea of an environment; a pragmatic review of the initially produced HCI guidelines is done with regards to IM restrictions/affordances; for the development of the initial guidelines in relation to HCI and refinement thereof for IM.

The second phase the study’s pedagogical knowledge (PK) is provided through a detailed theoretical review of literature on education and programming education. The discussed intersection of the TK and PK of the study is centered on the understandings of the affordances/restrictions associated with the study’s technological and pedagogical understandings. The obtained knowledge is applied to the previously developed guidelines to produce a set of refined guidelines.

The third phase of the study’s content knowledge (CK) is presented in respect of Java programming concepts. The interrelationship of the CK and: (1) TK is discussed in tandem to technologies that are used for performing and understanding that science; (2) PK, offered is based on the: motives of teaching programming; concepts to be taught; familiar students’ programming difficulties or misconceptions; and the way to teach a topic. A pragmatic review is also done on the previously refined guidelines to obtain another set of (final) enhanced (center for all the knowledge connections; TPACK) guidelines. In future work, these literature-based guidelines will be imperially tested/verified and used to assist in the development of a framework for using IM in computing training in secondary schools, technical and vocational education, and training colleges from a HCI principle and critical systems perspective.