Saturday, 21 November 2009

Computer Programming - getting young people started

It has been around for several years, and apologies if I am slow on the uptake here, but I have just discovered Alice.

Alice is a free educational software that teaches students computer programming in a 3D environment. The strength of the software, which has been developed by Carnegie Mellon University in the US, is that it teaches key principles in programming in such a way that it is impossible for the programmer to make mistakes in syntax. This allows the young programmer to develop key skills without the frustrations of encountering continual error messages, which can be so demotivating in the early stages of getting to grips with a traditional programming language.

The program has had considerable success in encouraging more young people to move into programming - most notably with women, who traditionally have not followed this route.

Clearly we now live in a world where we don't all need to have programming skills, but the fact remains that there are many careers where it is essential. Alice would seem to be a very good way into programming that is freely accessible to all who are interested. There is real scope here for young people to learn some important skills either at school or at home.

Click here for more on Alice and an introductory video

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mark,

    We do use Alice at Berkhamsted, but you might also want to look at some of the other options. We also use Scratch, which comes from MIT, and shares broadly the same educational aims as Alice; but it's a little easier to use.

    Have a look at Scratch:

    There's a great piece of gaming software called Mission Maker, which I like the look of, although its cost price is still too high for my liking. Its called Mission Maker.

    What we're seeing now, on the media front, is the arrival of Web 2.0 tools that allow creativity to flourish with animation and moving image, but requiring little prior skill. One tool I'm just starting to explore is called Xtranormal - "if you can type, you can make movies." There's a good example of a teacher using this to make an engaging film about his school's new VLE available here:

    With kind regards,