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  Feature Name: Content organized by nested resizeable boxes in Boxer
Author: Nathan Kitchen

Category: Open Ended Construction Tools

Subject: Others

Kind: Work Environment

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Software URL: Boxer

Created by: Andrea diSessa

Reference URL

This Feature is connected to (2) Principles
  • Provide knowledge representation and organization tools
  • Reduce visual complexity to help learners recognize salient information
    Feature in Visual Map
    Text, graphics, and programs in the Boxer computational environment are stored in a hierarchy of nested boxes. In programs, boxes represent variables and procedures naturally and make their scope intuitive.
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    Hierarchical organization is the principal method that people use to manage the complexity of large structures. Boxer makes it even easier to manage complexity by allowing boxes to be resized: They may be shrunk to hide their contents or expanded to fill the view and hide the higher levels of the hierarchy.

    The spatial presentation of nested boxes is especially helpful for programming, because the entire state of a program is visible and accessible. The user is not required to maintain a mental model of the programs state.
    Context of Use:
    Boxes are the main organizing principle of the Boxer computational environment. Boxer may be used for general-purpose programming, to teach students to program, or to construct mini-worlds for teaching other subjects, such as math and physics. The box structure makes it easy to combine content from different sources: Just copy and paste the containing boxes into the new document.
    Field-based Evidence:
    Boxers designers originally provided a map utility to help users keep track of their locations in the hierarchy, but users had no difficulty navigating without it.

    Boxer beginners tend to use good structure in their programs without being taught to do so, in contrast with the spaghetti code structures that beginning programmers often create in other languages.

    Boxer users easily composed code by cutting and pasting boxes.
    diSessa, A. A., Abelson, H., & Ploger, D. (1991). An Overview of Boxer. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 10(1), 3-15.

    diSessa, A. A. (1997), Twenty reasons why you should use Boxer (instead of Logo), in M. Turcsányi-Szabó (Ed.), Learning & Exploring with Logo: Proceedings of the Sixth European Logo Conference, Budapest Hungary, 7-27:

    diSessa, A. A. (1991). Local sciences: Viewing the design of human-computer systems as cognitive science. In J. M. Carroll (Ed.), Designing Interaction: Psychology at the Human-Computer Interface. NY: Cambridge University Press, 162-202.

    diSessa, A. A. (2000). Changing Minds: Computers, Learning, and Literacy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Image:(Click to enlarge)