EPHP - Developing a PHP learning tool - December 2017

EPHP - Developing a PHP learning tool using xdebug, PHP-Parser, websockets and Ratchet

Students frequently struggle to learn the basics of PHP and my theory is that the inability to visualise the components of a PHP web application and how they interact could be an important cause. "EPHP" an online learning tool I am developing to help introductory students learn PHP by visualising the client-server communication of a PHP-based application, the input to a PHP script, and the database results.

The tool has been used on a real group of students earlier this year; since then, I have been developing EPHP further into a new version, ephpii. Unlike the original, this version uses xdebug and DBGp to debug students' scripts, allowing much more flexibility than the original version. To allow instant client-side notification of the line-by-line stepthrough of the debugger, websockets and Ratchet are used together with ZeroMQ for communication between the debug client and websocket server. PHP-Parser is used to improve the power of parsing scripts compared to the standard tokenizer library.

The talk will very much focus on the technical aspects of the implementation of the new version, including the overall architecture and code extracts, and is hoped to give a demonstration of the application as it stands at the moment.

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