Sunday, 21 January 2018

Computer Science Internationalization - Exercises

My specialism is Computer Science internationalisation (i18n) and I encourage students to think globally when programming. Recently I gave an i18n workshop to school students. If you look at you will see that all the activities are international. Take special note of the feedback at the end of my blog article.

A couple of weeks ago I gave a programming challenge to University students. If you look at you will see that the focus is on diacritics with people and place names.

Another example is a use of CSS applied to the Chinese culture One of the activities in the aforementioned workshop was to change 👀 from right looking to left looking 👀 . Unfortunately there was not sufficient time to task the students with writing CSS to produce the Chinese upside down 福.

One of the classic Computer Science exercises when teachings students a new computer language is to task them to write the code to print "Hello World". It has become almost traditional and expected. Why not task the students to write code to print "你好世界" which is Chinese for Hello World.

Another classic Computer Science exercise is to code a bubble sort. In addition to sorting ASCII text, why not also task the students to bubble sort Korean and Thai text. This will give students an appreciation of sorting order in non English languages. 〖 Chinese has at least 2 different sorting orders which will give different results. I will write about this another time. 〗

This will be one of my final year projects which I will offer to students for the 2018/2019 academic year, and which I will supervise. Here is a draft specification:

< start student project specification >

Title: Internationalised Computer Science Exercises

One way in which Computer Science departments could encourage global thinking and develop global skills is to internationalise the exercises set to students. Your task will be to produce a set of exercises along with solutions. You can choose the computer languages but you should encompass at least 2 languages. Python and JavaScript would seem to be good choices. Try to find both a school and a university Computer Science department that would be willing to trial your internationalised Computer Science exercises. You should classify your exercises as beginner, intermediate or advanced so educators can use the most appropriate exercises. You should encompass several world cultures in your exercises. I can help you with the Chinese culture. Here are some examples of internationalised Computer Science exercises which I have made public as programming challenges. All my internationalised programming challenges are available at

Maybe you are not confident in your programming abilities and are thinking this project is beyond you. No worries! Just write internationalised exercises at the beginner level.

Maybe you are a gifted programming and want to be challenged. If that is the case, write internationalised exercises at the advanced level.

I envisage you will make your exercises publicly available online but without the solutions. Some educators and students will request the solutions from you. Do not give them your solutions. Instead, guide them to a solution or solutions. They will learn much more this way. It will also give you an insight into how people solve problems and how much they know about internationalised programming. It is my experience that the majority in Academia know nothing about internationalised programming. You can use a method I devised for guiding people to solutions which I describe in my Internationalised Programming Challenge 1, above.

I will be attempting to solve some of your exercises using the methodology described above. I may well ask you for clue or clues. I will give you feedback on how I tackled the exercise and I will give you my solution(s). If you are a gifted programmer try writing an exercise which you think I cannot solve or to put it another way, challenge me! (hint: I am rubbish at recursion😰 )

You should endeavour to obtain feedback from both educators and students.

I will be accepting more than one student for this project. Each student will write internationalised Computer Science exercises for a different set of world cultures. I will allow some overlap with other students but this will be strictly limited. I will be offering this project to students for a number of years. My vision is that we will build up an extensive library of exercises that cover many world cultures. Educators can then mix and match exercises from different cultures. One scenario that comes to mind is of a school that teaches both Geography and Computer Science. During term 1 the Geography teacher covers, say, Poland. The Computer Science teacher could, as a consequence, choose Polish culture Computer Science exercises.

< end student project specification >

I have described setting Computer Science exercises in the context of world cultures but there is no reason why the same principles could not be applied to other disciplines. So, letʼs also have a set of Computer Science exercises that encompass the Arts. It may well also have the added benefit of encouraging collaboration between Artists and Computer Scientists, Art organisations and Computer Science departments.

Here is a first thought for a Computer Science exercise that embeds art:

You are given a table of data. Each record in the table consists four fields: colour name, red value, green value, blue value. Write a program to display the colour names of all those colours where, for example, the green value is greater than 200. You should use variables for the red, green, blue thresholds. You will then be able to run your program with different threshold values and see which colour names are displayed. Red, green and blue values are in the range 0 to 255, inclusive.

I may well set another student final year project to produce a set of Arts Computer Science exercises.