Teach Middle Schoolers Programming

Alice 2.0 is free software that allows users to manipulate 3D graphics via a programming language to create virtual worlds (either with a virtual reality, immersed experience or with a movie-like experience). I’ve been successfully using this software with my 4th, 5th and 6th grade students.

I’ve structured the lessons so that each day the students have an objective. Something like, “put a woman in the scene and make her wave at the camera,” or “move the camera in a circle around a character.”

So far, I’ve seen the kids learn to use step-by-step thinking use terms like method, event and object. I’m working up to teaching them if/then statements and while loops. By the time we’re done, these kids will know how simple programming works.

In a classroom setting, lessons that use Alice could last anywhere from a week to four. I plan on about 12 instruction days.

Check Alice out: Alice: Free, Easy, Interactive 3D Graphics

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2 thoughts on “Teach Middle Schoolers Programming

  1. Thanks Megan. Got this link from your comment on Vicki Davis Cool Cat Teacher blog.
    I had not seen ‘Alice’ before. Will definitely be recommending this to the Art, Media and Maths departments in my own school. I have a workshop session on Web 2.0 tools with the Art department tomorrow so will throw this in as well. We have been considering introducing some programming (Maths currently use logo) and have looked at transferring ‘BBC Basic’ to the PC (see http://www.rtrussell.co.uk/)but ‘Alice’ is something really special – motivating, creative, cross-curricular – I can see the potential – hope they take to it.

  2. Pete, I’m glad you see potential in Alice. I like your cross-curricular idea for Alice. It’s something I’ve been missing because I’ve been working with it purely in a computer class. For example, we’ve spent far too little time talking about how to animate a realistic looking character. The conversations are fascinating to me.

    From the programming angle, Alice offers very nice object oriented learning. My students have seen that programs have events, events have objects, and objects have methods. They haven’t seen yet that this is the basis for all modern programming. I’ll wait on that one ;)

    –Megan

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