PointerViz - Towards Visualizing Pointers for Novice Programmers

Venigalla, Akhila Sri Manasa
Lakkundi, Chaitanya S.
Chimalakonda, Sridhar
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Pointers are considered as one of the key concepts in learning programming and are extensively used for implementing several data structures. They lay the foundation for handling dynamic aspects of a program, increase execution speed and handle data types with more efficiency. This makes it critical for budding programmers to be well versed with using pointers. However, most of the novice programmers find it difficult and tricky to understand concepts such as address allocations, pointers referring pointers and data structures containing pointers. Hence, drawing the physical structure and flow of pointers is considered to be a common learning practice to gain better clarity and avoid confusion when learning pointers. But, it is time consuming and tedious to draw the flow of pointers on paper while programming. To help programmers understand these variations in pointers, we propose PointerViz as a Google Chrome extension that displays the pictorial representation of selected code with pointers. We conducted a preliminary survey with 40 students from various universities and 83% of the users reported positive experience with the plugin.
Advances in Teaching and Learning Technologies, interactive visualization, novice programmers, pointers, programming support, simplify learning
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