Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice

I read Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture when I was in college. In it, Randy talks about developing Alice and how it impacted his career and his views on teaching computer science to kids. At the time, I remembered thinking, "I should download and try it out." But, I never did.

Fast forward seven years. I've spent the last two weeks playing in Alice, and I have to say, given my experience with Scratch, I wasn't feeling too optimistic.

Spoiler alert: I liked Alice much, much better. I'll continue after the video.

I said this in the video more than once, but I loved the editor. The staging area was great to set up camera angles and think through character movements before getting into the code. It really helped with my sequencing and thinking through algorithms I wanted to implement.

As with any piece of new software, I debugged a lot. I had to get used to the language the editor used as well as get used to the differences between "moveTo" and "moveToward." They're subtle, but important. But, what was nice about Alice is that it didn't seem too complicated, no matter what I played with. The procedures and their layering in the methods window were intuitive and I had a good time playing with different settings to get the effect I wanted.

Alice and Scratch are very similar...the main difference being Alice uses a 3D environment and Scratch is 2D. That being said, I think I would tend to lean toward Alice as a first-exposure program for students because of the immersive environment and the ease of editing. You can step through staging into the programming, rather than diving into the programming and thinking about staging later. I also think seeing all of the available procedures for each object in the code editor is a huge stress reducer because it saves me clicks later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *