DEN Techformation – Through the Looking Glass

In 2008 “Randy” Pausch died.  You may have heard of the last lecture series, Pausch delivered his “Last Lecture”, titled ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’, at Carnegie Mellon on September 18, 2007. This lecture was modeled after an ongoing series of lectures where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical “final talk” knowing you were going to die.  For Pausch this was truly his “Last Lecture”  he knew he was dying and had about 6 months to live when he gave this lecture.  It is at the bottom of the post if you have not seen it.  It is so much more worth watching then any hour of television you would normally. His lecture was about achieving his childhood dreams and enabling the dreams of others.

Randy Pausch enabled the dreams of others by creating the course “Building Virtual Worlds.”  In this course student development of virtual realities and it was through this course, Pausch and his students created’Alice’  Alice is a 3D environment that enables learners to create stories, games and visualizations and oh by the way it teaches computer programming skills.  Pausch believed, “the best way to teach somebody something is to have them think that they’re learning something else.”  And I did I mention he wanted it to be free.

I have been using Alice for 4 years now and it is by far one of the best things to happen to computer programming since Bill Gates bought DOS from  Seattle Computer Products.  It has opened doors for students and allowed them to understand the complex relationships that exist in the world of object oriented programming.  However, none of that is important at least to the kids.  They get a change to be expressive and create things.  That is a true source of motivation to learn for anyone.

There are two versions of Alice (2.3 and 3.1) most people starting out will want the 2.3 version.   So Why are there two versions? Alice 3 was originally designed to replace Alice 2 but the creators at Carnegie Mellon  recognize how and for what purposes people are using Alice.  Alice 2 and Alice 3 are as different at MS Word and Power Point.  They serve two different purposes. So they decided to maintain both. At this time  Alice 2 and Alice 3 are  different tools for different audiences as defined by age groups, grade levels, and course outcomes/goals. In addition there are a wealth of curricular resources that are available for Alice 2 and the Alice 3 resources are still in progress.  Alice 2 has multiple text books as well as instructor support materials at aliceprogramming.net. A rich repository of K-12 instructional materials for Alice 2 have been created and stored at Duke University’s Adventures with Alice site, maintained by Dr. Susan Rodger.  The creators of Alice don’t see either version going away but they might both eventually be replaced by  Looking Glass, a tool being developed by their collaborators at Washington University, St. Louis.

So step through the looking glass with Alice and participate in the Hour of Code

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