Alice - College Level Java Code Learning
I've been teaching Alice since 2007 so you know I am a long-time believer in teaching kids how to code in a way that is challenging, fun and good for cross-curricular projects. Alice started as Storytelling Alice -- created by the kind people at Carnegie-Mellon University to get girls excited about computer science. It's drag-and-drop programming -- like Scratch all grown up.
Alice 2.x is designed for younger kids. I taught it to 7th graders at Maui Preparatory Academy and The Wildwood School. When I attended a teacher workshop (at CMU) one summer, I met a pair of delightful 2nd grade teachers from Iceland who were bringing Alice 2.x back to their 6 and 7 year old students!
After two years of teaching Scratch to 4th and 5th grade students in The IDEA Lab, I wanted to kick the volume up a notch this year so I asked our tech guy to install Alice 2.4 on our new Macbook Airs. (He had already installed Alice 3.3 for the older students.) Before he could get that done, though, the 5th grade was ready to move on to their next project.
Take the leap
So, I took a leap. I said, "You know, people, Alice 3 is college-level-learning. It's used in major universities all over the world to teach entry-level Java. So, if it's too hard for you, I get it. No worries. Just give it a try today, and let's see where we are."
LovE the Challenge
Of course, they loved the challenge! And they loved Alice! I took some of the projects that are available through the Alice network and made them a bit more step-by-step and added more screenshots for my 5th graders. (I'm happy to share!) The culminating project was a car racing game in which the user uses the arrow keys to drive the car through a course in a limited amount of time.
I believe that students learn at their own speed. All of these lessons are designed for students to use the "student guide" and move at their own pace. Students are expected to help other students in the classroom so, if you know how to do something, go help someone who is asking for help.
toggle to java code
Alice 3.x has java code on a toggle so as you drag-and-drop your code to create animations, you can see in your side-bar screen what that code would look like in real java.
Graphics to die for
Something else you may be interested to know about Alice, the EA Games company (the ones who make the Sims games) donated many of their 3D library characters to the Alice project. Recently the creators of the Garfield cartoon donated their group of characters, as well. There is so much cool stuff in Alice.
I love Alice and I know you will, too. University-level learning for your students.