Teaching Flowcharts – Have the Computer Draw One

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

Teaching Flowcharts – Have the Computer Draw One

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Last week the Microsoft Visual Studio Middle School Toy was announced and I wrote about it in my blog. Today I wanted to give people a taste of what one of the features – the Visual Programming Flow Chart - looks like. It’s really pretty simple to use. Point the mouse at a function/method name and right click for the context menu like this and select Generate flow chart

genflow

The result will look something like this:

Capture

The color bars on the right let the user change the color coding for different things like loops, if statements, Try statements, etc. The resulting image can be saved as a JPEG file. This lets the user include it as documentation if they want.

This is not a super serious professional tool BTW. It seems to do a pretty good job for the student level modules I’ve tried it with though. I can see where it could be very useful for students because it shows what the logic of the code actually is rather than what the student might think it is. Note that right now it only works with C# – sorry about that. I’ve already started bugging people about Visual Basic support. :-)

  • Hey, what a nice little teaching tool!  You're right -- sometimes it's hard to explain what your student's program is REALLY doing compared to what they THINK it's doing.

    Another nice thing is that it changes the "look" of your logic, so you get to view it in a new way.  You know how we can stare at our code for a long time and never see that little bug, but someone else ("a different pair of eyes") can come along and find the problem immediately?!  This tool gives us and our students a different perspective on the program so maybe we can find those elusive bugs (and  students can do more effective debugging on their own -- which is where LOTS of learning can take place!!)

  • This is a really great tool, sadly it only works with C# code.

    Does anyone know of anything similar that will do the same for VB.NET code?

  • This tool seems a bit backward.  Shouldn't you do the flow chart first then the code?  It would be nice to compare your original flow chart to what the tool generates but I want a tool to go from chart to code.  Something where I can drag the chart icon, enter some pseudo code in the box and "POOF", magic occurs and the code appears.  And, yes, I am getting lazy in my old age.

  • Honestly I'd like something that takes my flowchart and turns it into code as well. So yes, I agree, that for us old school people this is a bit backwards. But at the same time how often do people actually flowchart first except in very serious shops or classrooms. At least with this students can see how messed up their code actually is in graphic form. :-)

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