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Understanding how our brain works and how we learn is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing twenty-first computer science. Songbirds are good candidates for trying to unravel some of this mystery. Over the last decade, a large amount of research has been made to better understand how songbirds learn complex songs. The Canary (Serinus canaria) and the Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata) have been widely used bird models to study these brain and behavior relationships. Like songbirds, we humans are vocal and social learners. In such learners, the development of communication is initially steered by social interactions with adult tutors. In songbirds, song development is further shaped through interactions with peers and by attending to the consequences of others interacting. In this paper, we review three key areas in a bird’s brain which perform three specific roles (i.e. actor, experimenter and critic). Similarly, there are three roles (i.e. coder, designer and tester) that are being played in software firms for developing products. We can bring the same roles into the computer science classroom by designing a term project which involves students who play these three different roles. We demonstrate our methodology by showing how it works in a senior level computer science course. We then discuss and qualitatively show the benefits of such a role-based project design.


Conference paper presented at ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section Fall 2018 Conference, October 26-27th, 2018, Brooklyn Technical High School, Brooklyn, New York, New York.

A.Satyanarayana, R.Natarajan, and L.Baron, “How Songbirds Learn to Sing Provides Suggestions for Designing Team Projects for Computing Courses”, ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section Fall 2018 Conference, October 26-27th, 2018.



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