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Mister C
12-20-2006, 06:46 PM
Don't get a chance to come to this board much anymore..but would like to still chime in from time to time...

Alice is the new language of choice for many colleges/universities now in teachin introductory programming...

CS Textbooks are now out or out shortly on Alice...

Here is a quick article/overview..

User-Friendly Alice Programming Language May Get Friendlier


By W. David Gardner, TechWeb Technology News

Carnegie Mellon University said Monday that it is teaming up with computer games provider Electronic Arts to improve the university's www.alice.org Alice programming software, which is used at high schools and universities to introduce students to programming.
Noting that the number of students studying computer science at U.S. colleges has plunged by 50 percent in recent years, Carnegie Mellon indicated that an improved Alice could help stimulate interest in programming.

The Alice programming language allows students to drag and drop 3-D characters into scenes on computer screens and eschews the manipulation of numbers and code. Carnegie Mellon said the Alice programming language is currently in use at about 100 high schools and universities.
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I know we are very loyal to our languages we program in...but what do all of think of this new teaching language- in particular those that are in school or have had years of experince...

Prelude
12-20-2006, 07:10 PM
>Alice is the new language of choice for many colleges/universities now in teachin introductory programming...
God, I hope not if my first impression is accurate. Let's see:


Learning to program a computer is hard.

Well, duh! Programming a computer is hard, why should learning to do it be anything but?


Rather than having to correctly type commands according to obscure rules of syntax, students drag-and-drop words in a direct manipulation interface.

Drag-and-drop programming? We're nowhere close to having that in any useful capacity. These students will learn something that's worthless and they'll end up being completely lost on the job.


Alice makes programming more accessible to girls as well as boys.

*sigh*

>Noting that the number of students studying computer science at U.S. colleges has
>plunged by 50 percent in recent years
If students drops a CS course, it's extremely likely that the field wasn't for them to begin with. No amount of sugar coating reality will change that.

>but what do all of think of this new teaching language
I think it's a joke. The idea is sound, but we lack the experience with such solutions to do it well. Maybe in ten years or so we can look at pushing the idea more, but at present, it's simply ridiculous and ends up being a solid slap in the face to the students who are hurt by it.

indigo0086
12-20-2006, 07:24 PM
high school, sure, college, no way.

Plus if college students drop out of CS, I doubt it will be because of the computer programming courses. We'll see, but I doubt most serious programming teachers will look at this and see it as a beneficial alternative.


Carnegie Mellon Collaborates with EA to Revolutionize And Reinvigorate Computer Science Education in the US

You had me at EA...Revolutionizing Education when they can't even revolutionize the gaming industry, EA can really go to hell.

Mister C
12-20-2006, 07:54 PM
Well here are some excerpt from the preface of a Alice programming book

Why Alice...

"Alice by itself isn't all useful if our goal is to train people so that they can be professional computer programmers...it is intended to position students so that they can learn them (other languages) better..."

"The Alice language has a grammar and syntax like other programming languages...it is constructed in such a way that we do not need to memorize the grammer and syntax of the language...The use of Alice fosters persistent learning about computer programming and perhaps more importantly, about many concepts fundamental to all of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.."

BobMcGee123
12-20-2006, 08:22 PM
These students will learn something that's worthless and they'll end up being completely lost on the job.


I think that it's a good way to gain exposure to the general ideas of programming. I think that if they find alice interesting then they may delve deeper into the world of algorithms and pick up a real programming language.

Many coders here got into it because of an interest in games (pretty pictures!) and many, including myself, have gone way off the deep end in terms of the math, science and low level aspects of coding.

So, yeah, seems like a good foot in the door.

indigo0086
12-20-2006, 08:49 PM
I think that it's a good way to gain exposure to the general ideas of programming. I think that if they find alice interesting then they may delve deeper into the world of algorithms and pick up a real programming language.

I don't doubt that, they won't really have a choice. They may change what the introductory programming curriculum entails but they won't change the whole computer science curriculum. I mean I started off in java which is relatively easier than C++, though it has the same syntax it's a nice introductory since the later courses all use C++ and other languages. I guess as long as they are learning how to program before how to learn the language. Though I hate that EA has a hand in it.

Salem
12-21-2006, 06:51 AM
> Noting that the number of students studying computer science at U.S. colleges has plunged by 50 percent in recent years
Now is this down to
a) outsourcing
b) the lack of jobs if they get a degree
c) that universities no longer accept anyone who can recognise the on/off switch, which is how a hell of a lot of people got into the field in the first place on the back of the .com boom.
d) it's seen as difficult and geeky, and there are plenty of other softer options to go for.

> The Alice programming language allows students to drag and drop 3-D characters into scenes on computer screens
They tried this 50 years ago with COBOL. The thinking then was, well if it contains lots of long English words like "ADD 1 TO TOTAL" then that would make it a lot easier for less skillful people to learn.
This isn't the case at all, because once you get past the "hello world" stage, the act of solving the problem becomes dominant, and the syntax of the language becomes irrelevant.

Here's another example
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logo_programming_language

*edit - downloads the alice source code*
Wow. C, C++ and Java
Somewhere along the line, there's always some C in there.

DavidP
12-21-2006, 09:57 AM
*shudders*

hehe...I used Logo ages ago. It was the very first programming language that I learned, back in the 8th grade. We used some sort of version for DOS...I still have the interpreter on my external hard drive actually.

QuestionC
12-21-2006, 09:59 AM
Interesting language. It's basically just functional programming without Lisp's intimidating syntax.

I don't know how I feel about kids being introduced to programming via a functional language... but I'm not an educator, so who am I to say?

Perspective
12-21-2006, 11:02 AM
If it helps get more people interested in computer science then it's a good idea in my books. Sure they'll eventually have to learn real programming, but it's more like the marijuana that can lead to the pure cocain that is C/C++


Enrollment is down, and decreasing. Not just the number of courses dropped, or the number of students dropping out of CS. While this means that my salary can only go higher, it's very disturbing for the field in general. We need computer scientists.

Govtcheez
12-21-2006, 11:07 AM
Mister C, you're an idiot.

indigo0086
12-21-2006, 11:10 AM
Mister C, you're an idiot.


how terse.

Perspective
12-21-2006, 11:11 AM
how terse.

There's a bit of history there....

indigo0086
12-21-2006, 11:15 AM
*repetitively clicks on "history" expecting a link*


:(

Prelude
12-21-2006, 11:24 AM
>*repetitively clicks on "history" expecting a link*
Just do a search, silly. :rolleyes:

Clyde
12-21-2006, 11:53 AM
Drag-and-drop programming? We're nowhere close to having that in any useful capacity. These students will learn something that's worthless and they'll end up being completely lost on the job.


Do you think there is a (perhaps longer term) future to it - or is it a waste of time pipe dream?

Prelude
12-21-2006, 12:04 PM
>Do you think there is a (perhaps longer term) future to it
Probably. We're moving more and more into the realm of generated code through drag-and-drop, but we're not quite to the point where it's anything but a huge headache. ;)

BobMcGee123
12-21-2006, 02:39 PM
They tried this 50 years ago with COBOL.

They had 3D characters on computers 50 years ago?

QuestionC
12-21-2006, 03:27 PM
If it helps get more people interested in computer science then it's a good idea in my books. Sure they'll eventually have to learn real programming, but it's more like the marijuana that can lead to the pure cocain that is C/C++


Enrollment is down, and decreasing. Not just the number of courses dropped, or the number of students dropping out of CS. While this means that my salary can only go higher, it's very disturbing for the field in general. We need computer scientists.

I really don't see what the problem with losing CS grads is.

Basically, the qualified people we're losing fall into two roles: Programmers and Researchers.

Programmers are basically just producing commodities, and doing so redundantly. Civilization is not becoming more advanced because there exist twenty different programs for burning DVDs. I understand it's good for business to have more qualified workers, but that's just money, not knowledge.

Researchers, the real contributors to the field, need to start getting out of Computer Science. The world's great minds in math and science are all getting sucked in to study the same thing at the same time, because that's where the money is, not because that's where the time is best spent. CS is just a very very small subset of Pure Mathematics. This little micro-field is sucking in all the brains out of other fields of study.

dwks
12-21-2006, 06:08 PM
They had 3D characters on computers 50 years ago?
Who says you can't attach your credit card to your computer? :D

Then again, maybe they didn't have holograms on them then.