Nice to meet you. This is Alice, the first development environment that we are presenting to our students, and through which they will be making their first applications.
Alice? Who (or what) the heck is Alice?
This is a three-dimensional, object-guided development environment that, in contrast with older development and programming environments, is very helpful in presenting the development subject to a young audience and even to students.
“Learning programming is confusing”. Well, actually, not!
Courses in programming have undergone a revolution in recent years, and we have obviously studied the issue and developed a learning program that is geared for children and teens. And from now on, the development environment, which was previously used by students, has been adjusted to the new target audience – your sons and daughters.
A few words on the paintbrush
Creating an application is not much different than creating a work of art. So we can describe the tool that serves in writing the code (coding) as a “paintbrush”. This paintbrush is a work tool that is used by the children in the first eight sessions in our courses. And yes, like we said, its name is Alice. That’s right, just like Alice from Wonderland. And the proof is, that it is also our logo, which is very reminiscent of Alice from the illustrations of the Lewis Carroll story.
Because old-school programming is passe
If you are professional programmers, the endless loops derived from confusing algorithms are your “teacup”, your right. Enjoy. If you are “normal” people, it is certainly more difficult for you to connect to lines of code that are unclear, and certainly not to force your children to learn them, if they don’t reall need to. With Alice, your children want to learn! Because it is built differently.
So what’s the “story” with Alice?
So, the story with Alice is a story. The human brain is apparently built to better deal with stories, and those with graphic illustration (meaning pictures) are even better than a strange and unclear mix of letters and numbers.
A story interface helps us to understand the principles
Alice’s interface is story-based on graphic objects, and that is its strength. The story-like nature and graphics easily illustrate the principles for children and greatly help them skip over the difficulties, which makes it easier to transition between the Alice environment and the future, more simplified, development environments that they will learn later one. In other words, with Alice, the children learn to control the programming principles in a way that is almost natural, and without working up a sweat…
So how do we build a story in programming?
Working with Alice is based on building a story along a timeline (or in the professional jargon of filmmakers, building a storyboard). The students create a story based on a timeline, through which they ascribe behaviors to objects, and basically create a plot, similar to the plot line in “Alice and Wonderland”. And so, before you can be late to your next meeting, the rabbit that your children have developed through the environment will get there before you, with the perfect application made by your child.
What are the advantages of Alice for children and teens?
The environment was originally developed for students, but professionals discovered that it is optimal for learning the foundations of programming for elementary school-aged children and above.
There are many reasons for adjusting Alice for children, including:
• Its story structure, one of the principles upon which its interface is based.
• A strong connection with the children’s world of terms (such as children’s stories or animals)
• Alice makes it possible to illustrate simplified terms.
• Alice’s interface is very recognizable for children and very friendly.
• In Alice, there is a capability to drag commands rather than having to do exhausting typing, which prevents irritating errors and bugs, and makes it easier for children.
• Alice has an object library to choose from, without needing to reinvent the wheel or draw a rabbit out of a hat, because it already exists in the library…
• A very clear and easy-to-understand work process.
The main stages in working with Alice
• Creating a world
• Adding objects to the world
• Creating an action – putting instructions into action according to their order
• Creating an event that determines when the action will take place – what happens to the action – when and how it happens
Voila. You have an application.
Some of the advantages of this environment compared with other environments
• Alice seems very simple and juvenile, and at the same time, you can do very complex things with it.
• It is appropriate for a broad target audience (boys as well as girls)
• It is very simple and friendly, and it is easy to illustrate important programming principles with it.
• Teachers report that their students love working in this environment, to the point that they refuse to leave the computer lab.
• It has been proven that an object-guided environment is an excellent foundation for programming development environments later on.
The principle of simplicity in Alice
Contrary to earlier programming environments, you almost don’t need to write in the Alice environment. Simply drag instructions and actions. Children know drag principle from many other interfaces. Everything is colorful and nice-looking, giving the sense of a game and not the work of programming a task.
The principle of simplicity has proven itself
We are teaching a topic that is confusing and sometimes boring, in a way that children will be able to enjoy, with the understanding that in order for children to learn and want to learn, they need to like what they are doing. And we have “receipts”. The children are enjoying it, and it has happened more than once that they refuse to leave the learning framework.
What is the connection between the idea of “leaders on the net” and the Alice development environment?
There is a direct connection between the development environment and how we conceptualize the image of leaders on the net, and working with Alice emphasizes the element of leadership. The students unquestionably control the story they are creating, its heroes, its behavior, and everything comes from the guideline: “I control the program”. “I choose who things look. I have responsibility.”
For the Alice website: http://www.alice.org/index.php