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Alice is a modern programming environment designed to be a student's first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn basic computer science while creating animated movies, simple video games, where students control the behavior of 3D objects and characters in a virtual world.

Although computer programming has existed in its modern form for half a century, it still eludes all but a small fraction of society. While programming is an inherently difficult activity, there are currently many barriers, both mechanical and sociological, that prevent large portions of the population from learning to program a computer.

Alice address both the mechanical and sociological barriers that currently prevent many students from successfully learning to program a computer. Alice addresses the mechanical barriers to programming by making it much easier for students to create programs. Rather than having to correctly type commands according to obscure rules of syntax, students drag-and-drop words in a direct manipulation interface. This user interface ensures that programs are always well-formed. In addition, Alice reifies object-based programming by providing animated, on-screen 3D virtual objects.

Sociological barriers are far more complex.  Alice addresses the specific needs of the subpopulation of middle school girls. By supporting storytelling, an intrinsically motivating activity for middle school girls, Alice will make programming a means to an exciting end.

Electronic Arts is even involved with this project. Carnegie Mellon University has entered into a groundbreaking collaboration with Electronic Arts Inc., that has the potential to revolutionize and reinvigorate computer science education in the US from middle school through senior high and beyond.

EA has agreed to help underwrite the development of Alice 3.0 - a popular, object-oriented, Java-based computer-programming environment created by Carnegie Mellon researchers - and provide essential arts assets from "The Sims™" - the best selling PC video game of all time.

The Sims content will transform the Alice software from a crude, 3D programming tool into a compelling and user-friendly programming environment. Development for Alice 3.0 will begin immediately and will span the next 18 to 24 months.r s Experts say that when the transformation is complete, the new programming environment will be in position to become the national standard for teaching software programming.

High school computer science teachers can review some new textbooks for Alice. More information about Alice can be found here

You can download Alice here.

Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2007 6:03 PM Teaching AP CS | Back to top

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