Concrete Simulators to Constructively Build Abstract Computability Concepts in First Year IT-Students and Enable the "Can Computers Think"
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In our Foundations of Computing course, the aim is not only to teach some general aspects on how computers work (like binary notation), but also to enable students to truly comprehend notions like algorithm, technology, and even the notion of information to be able to exercise professional judgment. A fundamental exercise in the course is being able to convincingly understand and reproduce the Universal Turing Machine argument. We use a series of simulators that provide clear illustrations of how a computer works, commencing from very basic logic gates for hardware. We reach a point that the Turing Machine (TM) behavior and actions are very much the simulator of the von Neumann Machine describing the modern CPU. Therefore, a TM can emulate anything executable in a modern stored-program CPU. This exercise not only has the computability implications but also enables to represent other many issues of current computer systems, like virtualization, viruses or computation in the cloud. More importantly, we can introduce the philosophical argument of whether machines understand what they are doing, and in that regard whether they would be able to think.
8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation: Conference Proceedings
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Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy