Programming is hot with middle schoolers. They’ve been using computers since kindergarten and want to do more than Word, PowerPoint, and visit internet sites. Our number one goal as teachers is to make them think (different from the rote learning of your grandmother), so this burgeoning student interest in computers provides us with a rare opportunity. Teaching them what they want to learn accomplishes our goals, too, and programming fills that bill nicely.
The problem is making programming simple enough for their non-calculus brains to understand.
Carnegie Mellon to the rescue, with a new program called Alice. It looks like a good start, though I confess, I haven’t used it. So here’s my shout-out: Anyone with experience using Alice, share with us-all. And please do it quickly because school is back next week so I need to know if I should add it to the curriculum.
Randy Pausch loved creating virtual worlds on computers. And Mr. Pausch, the late computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, wanted all of his students to learn how they could share in his fun. But typing code wasn’t exactly most students’ definition of “fun”.
Alice, the software program he created to entice students, is now being used at about 15 percent of colleges and universities nationwide. This month, a beta version of Alice 3.0 will be released, letting students create animated movies and games with new characters from The Sims video games and teaching advanced users the Java programming language in the process. The software is freely available from Carnegie Mellon’s Web site. (more)