Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

'Alice' for teaching programming skills

Finding the right introduction for programming for students has been an ongoing investigation. Javascript integrated into web construction, Gamemaker, Crocodile thingy .... The following popped up in my feed that could be interesting.
http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/interviews/v6i20_pausch.html

"Enrollments are down 23 percent in the computer science discipline. And at the top echelon, people aren't too bothered by it, because we will be the last to be impacted, right? But this is a huge, huge problem. And it's a huge problem for the country."

[Randy Pausch is Professor, Human Computer Interaction, Computer Science, at Carnegie Mellon University, and Design Director of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), a joint initiative of the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.]


The longest-running research project I have is called Alice, and it is using some of the underlying technology from 3-D graphics (driven of course by video games) and some of the inspiration of storytelling as a powerful human motivator (everybody wants to tell stories) — and using that to devise a system that is able to provide a better, first exposure to computer programming, in much the same way that Logo used to. But this is much more advanced than Logo was, to the point where it can be used for a full semester course at the college level.

"Oh, here is something that could change the fact that young people are not going into our discipline"? When I say I'm the only game in town, I'm saying that we have an entirely novel way to introduce people to programming, where we have huge amounts of evidence that we have a teaching strategy that works even at the middle school level. Typically, a kid's first exposure to programming frankly sucks, right?

I seem to have found the home of 'Alice' at http://www.alice.org/

Learning to program a computer is hard.
Alice makes learning to program easier. And it's fun.
Alice makes programming more accessible to girls as well as boys.

Alice is free.

It seems that if we were to use Alice we would need to do this section of courses from CO4 or maybe CO3. While the program will run on all of our machines, it probably will not run well.

Operating system requirements:

  • Windows ME, Windows 2000, or Windows XP

Minimum hardware requirements:

  • A Pentium running at 500 MHz or better
  • a VGA graphics card capable of high (16 bit) color
  • 128 MB of RAM
  • video resolution of 1024x768
  • A sound card

Recommended hardware requirements:

  • A Pentium running at 1.0 GHz or better
  • 16 MB 3D video card (TNT, i810, Rage 128, GeForce, Radeon equivalent or better)
  • 256 MB of RAM
Alice is still downloading (118mb) as I write this so I will have a play later. I am just a bit excited about this. I had better leave having a play until I finish writing my reports because I if I do it the other way around the reports may not get done :-)

3 Comments:

  • At 8:28 am, Blogger Richard said…

    See the free online Alice programming tutorials at http://www.dickbaldwin.com/tocalice.htm

     
  • At 8:55 am, Blogger Wara said…

    Cool, thanks for that Richard.

     
  • At 12:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am at the same point/time as you are in your investigations.

    We shall prevaiil!

    best...DataBoy

     

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