Adventures in Alice Programming Workshop at Duke University

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Both teachers and students across the state of North Carolina learned about the Alice Programming Language during a summer workshop held on campus at Duke University. This Workshop had support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and IBM. Alice is unique because it uses simple commands and an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface that allows students to create animated movies and video games. The workshop organizer, Dr. Susan Rodger from Duke University said “Middle school students don’t really know what Computer Science is about. Alice is changing that by attracting both boys and girls with its virtual worlds storytelling and interactive capabilities. Our workshop showed that Alice can be used for problem solving and presentations in different disciplines such as math, science, English, art, business, and history.”

Students, as well as teachers, tend to like Alice’s visual format; it’s much easier for someone new to writing code. Tom Robertson, a middle school math and technology teacher from Asheville, said “This summer I had the opportunity to observe middle school students using Alice to build creative 3-dimensional interactive worlds. They were completely engrossed in the task at hand: computer programming. Clearly, Alice was providing a technology experience that went beyond the typical PowerPoint presentation.” Another teacher, Jaine Torain, a business teacher from Person High School agreed with Robertson. She said that her students were able to use Alice to explore multimedia production in a way that was different from anything they had ever used before.

Math teachers Bridgette Scott and Cheri Grantlin have big plans for Alice. Scott has already created a world for teaching the coordinate plane, and Grantlin plans to integrate Alice into her classroom too. Nashville Science teacher Alisa White said of Alice “Worlds created by middle school students effectively promote interdisciplinary understanding, problem solving and learning fundamental concepts in life, earth, and physical science within a short period of time. It is a great assessment tool.”

It wasn’t just teachers from technological disciplines either. Humanities teachers saw Alice as a way to encourage students to be creative and help them with literature. Person County teacher Andrea Payne said “Alice slows the thinking down and helps a child think about ‘thinking about.’ Storyboarding takes thoughts from abstract to concrete. This is how screenwriters do it: they storyboard.”

Even students had good things to say about Alice. Jesse, a student present at the camp said “It’s interactive; that’s cool. It’s open – you know – there’s a lot you can do with it.’ Brittany, another student, was considering using Alice for projects. She said, ‘I like that you can actually create your own ideas and express yourself and have fun with it.”

Download Alice here

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