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Empirical Modelling Interactive Learning Experiment


The EMILE project team: (L to R) Matt, Meurig, Hui, Stelios, Joe, Sirandjivy, Arteesha, Sarupa, Tess and Steve

Introducing EMILE

The Empirical Modelling Interactive Learning Experiment (EMILE) will run from Monday July 2nd to Friday July 13th 2012. The broad objective of the project is to explore the possibility of enhancing learning through developing EM construals that reflect the processes by which students become familiar with the basic concepts and techniques of linear algebra.

The learning team comprises six students who have just completed their first year of studies in Computer Science: Arteesha Bosamia, Joe Butler, Sirandjivy Gocouladasse alias Souloramane, Tess Tom, Sarupa Vipulanandam and Stelios Voskos. They will be working under the supervision of Dr Steve Russ and Dr Meurig Beynon, with technical support from Matt Cranham and Hui Zhu. We are also pleased to welcome Dr Ma Li who will be joining us from time to time in an advisory capacity. She taught mathematics at a University in Sweden for a decade before going into teacher training in Norway.

A draft schedule for the first two days is now linked from the tab at the top of this page.

  • Steve's introductory talk is available as EmileIntro.ppt at /dcs/emp/empublic/emile.
  • PowerPoint presentations from Arteesha & Sirandjivy [ArtSir], Tess & Sarupa [TessSar]and Joe and Stelios [JoeStel] can also be accessed from /dcs/emp/empublic/emile.
  • Whiteboard presentations from the learning team have been captured in these snapshots.
  • Resources for the construal merging exercise can be found in the JSEsources subdirectory, and the products of the exercise can be found in the JSEmerges subdirectory.
  • Script fragments that have been developed to convert the linearalgebraBeynon2011 construal into JS-EDEN can be found in VectorsJSE subdirectory.

To load the construals mentioned above into the emile version of JS-EDEN at, you can now use an include() procedure. For instance, entering:


into the Input Window will load Joe Butler's merge model.

Some links to external teaching and learning resources for linear algebra can be found here.

EM tools to be used in the project

The principal tools to be used in the project are three variants of the EDEN interpreter: tkeden, Web Eden, and JS-EDEN. By default, the term 'EDEN' will refer to 'tkeden'.

EDEN can be invoked as 'tkeden' on the departmental computer system, which we expect to use to support most of the day-to-day work on the project. It is the most extensively used and highly developed of the three variants. For more details, you can consult the EDEN handbook and the Help tab on the EDEN Input Window. The conceptual background to EDEN, and its role in EM, is discussed in detail in the CS405 Introduction to EM module, for which lecture material is available online. There will be a directory of resources dedicated to the project that you can access on the departmental computer system at /dcs/emp/empublic/emile.

EDEN exists as a cross-platform interpreter that can be downloaded for Windows, Linux and Mac. You may find it helpful to use one of these versions of the interpreter for development on your personal machine. Note that there is a significant difference between using EDEN on Windows and other systems where loading files are concerned. Specifically, you will find it helpful to use the commands for inspecting and manipulating the current working directory (viz. writeln(cwd()); and cd("newdirectory");) to obtain convenient access to files in different folders on Windows.

Web EDEN and JS-EDEN are contrasting web-enabled variants of EDEN based on a client-server architecture. Web EDEN (developed by Richard Myers in 2008) implements much of the functionality of tkeden. In Web EDEN most of the computation takes place at the server, and only the rendering of visualisations is done at the clients. Web EDEN also uses Adobe Flash, which has declined in popularity since its use was barred from mobile platforms such as the iPhone. JS-EDEN (developed by Tim Monks and Nick Pope in 2011-12) uses JavaScript and HTML-5, which has now supplanted Flash in many web applications. JS-EDEN is still in the early stages of development, and implements only a simplified form of EDEN without auxiliary special-purpose definitive notations such as Donald, Scout and EDDI. In JS-EDEN, most of the computation takes place at the clients rather than the server.

Introductory exercises with the EM tools

The use of each of the above tools has been illustrated in the preparatory sessions for EMILE. Here are some brief notes on construals, all of which you will be able to experiment with when the appropriate resources have been suitably organised within the /dcs/emp/empublic/emile directory.

  • The Sudoku experience workshops are Web EDEN based. They can be found at this webpage. The introductory workshops give a useful orientation on the principles of modelling with definitive scripts using EDEN. For instance, Workshop 2A will give you some insight into how the Sudoku grid is modelled in the Scout notation, and this may be helpful in thinking about how matrices might be modelled in an EM construal.
  • The most relevant illustrative examples of EDEN in action exploit the Empirical Modelling Presentation Environment (EMPE) developed by Antony Harfield. The first of these construals is the introduction to the primitive notions of vectors in 2d space that has already been demonstrated. To run this construal, you invoke tkeden on the departmental Linux system and use the Open tab on the File menu to navigate to the UsingEMPE subdirectory within the /dcs/emp/empublic/emile directory. You can then enter the subdirectory linearalgebra2dBeynon2011 and execute the file run.e. A second construal concerned with learning to multiply matrices can be accessed by executing the file run.eden within the subdirectory presmatrixmultGarciaZhu2012 in UsingEMPE. This construal was constructed by adapting part of the Sudoku grid, but is still in a somewhat unfinished state and may be a useful target for experimentation. (One of the subsidiary goals in making construals, highly relevant to learning, is to share and co-construct these with others.)
  • Resources relating to linear algebra using JS-EDEN are as yet somewhat undeveloped, though one or two initial fragments were put together in the preliminary sessions last term (see More work is needed by way of documentation to exploit and illustrate the potential of JS-EDEN in its current form, and this will be carried out shortly. As a starting point, you should open JS-EDEN in a Chrome browser, cut-and-paste the contents of the webpage at into the Eden Interpreter Window of the 'latest' version of JS-EDEN, and follow the guidance under the Model Readme tab.. Note that for the purpose of the EMILE project, the appropriate version of the JS-EDEN interpreter to use is the special-purpose emile variant that has been developed by Matt Cranham.

EMILE project outcomes

Our work on the EMILE project stimulated new developments in thinking about Empirical Modelling in relation to learning. These include:

  • questions about the nature and role of the construction that can accompany learning
  • insight into the technical challenges to be met in tools to support EM

These are documented in more detail in preliminary notes towards a project report and an associated research publication that were prepared during the project. Further work has since been carried out on enhancing the emile variant of the JS-EDEN interpreter, with particular emphasis on new techniques for developing and managing the networks of dependency that can be framed using definitive scripts (currently being prototyped and to be announced).