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Mar 13, 2007



Very interesting. Thanks Nate. Booch is not among my favorite methodologists, but one must take notice of what he says nonetheless.

I can see Alice's appeal to middle-school aged students. I would contend that appeal is not limited to girls, but would also bring in more boys who don't fit the gearhead stereotype.

How well does Alice teach students the fundamentals of polymorphism, which seems to be one of the stumbling blocks keeping people away from grasping modern CS?



Hi randolfe, from the FAQ, it doesn't sound like Alice supports polymorphism directly. It does sounds like there is an awkward means via lookup of methods off an object's method table. I would imagine that this likely represents a simplifying nod given a history in an "objects-first" view towards programming instruction, see "Teaching Objects-first in Introductory Computer Science", Cooper et al.

I don't think its approach is limited to girls either. From here:

Storytelling Alice presents programming as a means to the end of storytelling... I observed girls interacting with Storytelling Alice and analyzed their storyboards and the story programs they developed. To enable and encourage middle school girls to create the kinds of stories they envision, Storytelling Alice includes high-level animations that enable social interaction between characters, a gallery of 3D objects designed to spark story ideas, and a story-based tutorial presented using Stencils, a new tutorial interaction technique.

To determine the impact of the storytelling focus on girls' interest in and success at learning to program, I conducted a study comparing the experiences of girls introduced to programming using Storytelling Alice with those of girls introduced to programming using a version of Alice without storytelling features (Generic Alice). Participants who used Storytelling Alice and Generic Alice were equally successful at learning basic programming concepts. However, I found that users of Storytelling Alice show more evidence of engagement with programming. Storytelling Alice users spent 42% more time programming and were more than three times as likely to sneak extra time to continue working on their programs (51% of Storytelling Alice users vs. 16% of Generic Alice users snuck extra time).


These approaches quite remembers me of Seymour Papert's constructionist learning theory at MIT. MaMaMedia (http://www.mamamedia.com/) or the LOGO language are some well-known examples of his work.
Meanwhile, I do hope he is back in shape again (http://papert.media.mit.edu/). Best, v.


Is Storytelling Alice different from Alice 2.0 at www.alice.org? Kelleher's description of her work (that Nate cited above) draws a distinction between Storytelling Alice and Generic Alice, but it isn't clear to me which I get if I go to alice.org.

My 8 year old daughter was curious about how video games get made, so I did some research on this a few months ago. She experimented with Alice 2.0 and spent about 4 hours total playing around with it. I think it's about a year or two out of her reach, still. But if there's a different version focusing on storytelling, I am certain she would respond better to it.


I took a look at the Powerpoint -- it's a neat program. I may try it out with my kids. I was encouraged by them noting how production values matter and that they've got a deal with EA of some sort to use IP from the Sims.

What I'm wondering is this: could marketing a program that teaches programming skills be profitable for EA or another company? The Reader Rabbit line or other educational software titles once raked in a good deal of money, but I think that side of the industry has been in a slump due to Web-based offerings from Nick Jr, etc.


BTW, for those who'd like a quick and engaging overview/introduction, the videos are worth the gander:



Isnt alice just based on python?

If so, I'd say its OO is marvelous.

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