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FREEBEE FRIDAY: Programming with Alice

Alice logo One thing that has bugged me for the decade since computers have slipped into school curricula is that while most schools generally do a good job of teaching how to use Word, Excel and the like, they generally abdicate any responsibility for teaching programming. It’s hard to believe but this important discipline is thought to be too advanced for middle or high schools students. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not, thanks to a program from Carnegie-Mellon University called Alice.

Alice not only teaches programming by doing, it doesn’t require typing statements or learning the unique syntax of programming. In fact, everything is done by dragging and dropping items from the side to the main screen and then making adjustments. Within ten minutes of starting, most kids are able to place an Alice object on a screen, cause it to move, rotate, jump and react to mouse movements. It can be the basis for creating a mini movie to tell a story or an interactive game.

In other words, it’s a great way to introduce these ideas to students who are 12-years or older and have them learn by trying. On top of the base program and a huge variety of objects that range from space ships to geometric shapes, Alice has a slew of teaching materials and books. It works with Windows, Mac and Linux systems, is absolutely free to download and just might be the first step to creating the next Bill Gates.


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