Thursday, August 26, 2021

IntelliCode Completion In Visual Studio (Preview) 2022

There is a preview out for Visual Studio 2022 available and since I a) love to try new things and b) am not limited to by what is on the student computers I have been trying it out. Normally, I don’t see a lot in new versions of Visual Studio that impact me personally or me as a teacher. That is not the case with this new version of VS. The new feature is called IntelliCode Completion. (you can read more about it here)

Basically what it does is try to help you write code faster and with less typing.

IntelliCode now predicts the next chunk of code based on your current context, and presents it as an inline suggestion to the right of your cursor. If you like it, just hit tab-tab to accept it; otherwise simply keep on typing to adjust the completion further.

Take the following code for example. I have a string array declared. In my btnGet_Click method I typed “foreach (“ and Visual Studio showed my the code in gray as a guess of what I wanted to write. In this case, it was right and by hitting the tab key the code was in place. Continuing to type would have replaces the suggestion.

For me this has been awesome. It's helped me start all sorts of loops and even helped build Boolean expressions. What does it mean for the classroom and beginners? That is the big question for teachers.

I know that teachers are divided on Intellisence which helps with understanding and suggestions with variables and methods. I suspect that if you don’t want your students using that sort of predictive information you’re going to really hate IntelliCode. Even if you like Intellisence, as I do, you may have concerns about IntelliCode. I admit to having some concern myself.

My first impression was that it could prevent a lot of typos and badly formed code. It does have that potential. On the other hand, will students put too much faith in the AI and assume code it suggests is correct for their particular program? That could be a big problem. I have had students blame to tools for their own mistakes for years.

Teachers can use this for a good discussion of artificial intelligence. What do you think of the information was used to train the AI? (Spoiler – lots of code in GitHub) How well does the AI really understand the context of a specific student project?

Clearly, students need to be prepared for using this feature. Students need to know that it is not prefect and that they need to be careful what suggestions they accept.

It does look like this feature can be turned off by specific area of help. Maybe there will be a way to turn it completely off easily on release. It’s on by default right now. So what do you think? A helpful feature for beginners or more potential for harm than help?

1 comment:

Garth said...

I am a fan of Intellisence. I teach several languages and it just helps me and the kids to unscramble language confusion. Intellicode for students I will have to think about. For myself I think it would be great but I know what I intend to type. A student, like you say, might be willing to just assume the AI is always correct.