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Learning to Program With Alice

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1 Learning to Program With Alice
Wanda Dann Stephen Cooper Randy Pausch

2 Alice is a solution to the current big problem in Computer Science Education: Attracting and Retaining Students

3 This isn’t just about selling books
This isn’t just about selling books. It’s about keeping America economically competitive. And about eighteen year-olds not dropping a computer science major due to frustration and self-doubt.

4 You are going to revolutionize the way students learn to program computers.

5 Alice is: Software + a Book

6 The Alice Software A 3D interactive animation environment
A tool for teaching fundamental programming concepts object oriented System developed at Carnegie Mellon

7 Overview We’ll demo Alice for you
And leave you with a copy on your tablet computer you can play with. If time permits, you will all write your own computer program today!

8 A Demo of Alice…

9 The Alice Approach Uses 3D graphics to engage students
Has a “smart” drag-and-drop editor that prevents syntax errors Appeals to wide audience Storytelling (young women, minority students) Interactive computer games (young men) Not threatening; Alice builds students’ confidence

10 Key Alice Features Makes objects something students can see and relate to Has a java syntax mode to ease the transition to C++/Java/

11 Textbook Features Emphasizes design using storyboards
Supports varying instructional approaches “objects-early” “objects-first" Allows an (optional) early introduction to events Color screen captures illustrate step-by-step construction of programs

12 Schools using Alice 2004-2005 Bucknell University
California Lutheran University California State University at Humboldt Camden County College Carnegie Mellon University Clemson University Colorado School of Mines Community College of Philadelphia Cornell University Duke University Georgetown College Haverford College Ithaca College Manor College Mississippi Valley State University Plymouth State University Saint Edward’s University Saint Joseph's University Saint Lawrence College San Diego State University Sierra Nevada College Southwestern University Tompkins Cortland Community College University of Colorado University of Illinois University of Mississippi Virginia Tech And several high schools

13 How Alice is being used In pre-CS1
course for majors and students considering a CS major As conceptual introduction in CS1, followed by a transition to Java/C++/VB Introduction to programming course non-majors (in business schools, for example) attract students to become CS majors Computer literacy problem-solving component Pre-AP in high schools

14 Results of NSF-supported study
As used towards retention of CS majors GPA in CS1 improved Grades went from C to B at-risk students (students with little to no prior programming experience and/or weak mathematics background) Increased retention into CS2 from 47% to 88% Improved attitudes towards computing

15 URLs The software: Includes forums for discussion/help
Supplementary instructional materials and solutions to exercises in the text: lectures labs assignments sample chapter of the text sample virtual worlds (programs)

16 Commonly Asked Questions
How much does the Alice software cost? It is free! (and open source) Does Alice run on the Macintosh? Yes! Download Mac version from Where can I go for instructor support materials? Is Alice hard to install? Just copy files to the hard drive; no “install”

17 Commonly Asked Questions, Cont.
Isn’t Alice just a toy? (it looks so “Fisher-Price”!) No -- Alice contains all the features of “real” languages Students can write 3,000 line programs in Alice How do students go from Alice to Java? They have learned the concepts in Alice, then learn syntax in Java They have built confidence and are more persistent Is there any “hard evidence” that Alice works? Yes! An NSF study on “at risk” CS1 students who used Alice… Increased grades from C to B Retention (into CS2) went from 47% to 88%

18 Questions? Wanda Dann (
Stephen Cooper Randy Pausch

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