Agriculture
Flush-Free Fertilizer
Growing Healthier Tomato Plants
Watching out for vultures
Amphibians
Salamanders and Newts
Tree Frogs
Frogs and Toads
Animals
Sleepless at Sea
Odor-Chasing Penguins
Little Beetle, Big Horns
Behavior
Sugar-pill medicine
Taking a Spill for Science
Ear pain, weight gain
Birds
Woodpecker
Kingfishers
Geese
Chemistry and Materials
A Framework for Growing Bone
Sticking Around with Gecko Tape
The memory of a material
Computers
Middle school science adventures
Galaxies on the go
Music of the Future
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Fossil Forests
Middle school science adventures
Teeny Skull Reveals Ancient Ancestor
E Learning Jamaica
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Earth
Arctic Algae Show Climate Change
Meteorites may have sparked life on Earth
Surf Watch
Environment
Toxic Cleanups Get a Microbe Boost
Plastic Meals for Seals
A Vulture's Hidden Enemy
Finding the Past
Of Lice and Old Clothes
Fakes in the museum
The Puzzle of Ancient Mariners
Fish
Megamouth Sharks
Cleaning Up Fish Farms
Carp
Food and Nutrition
The Essence of Celery
Strong Bones for Life
Recipe for Health
GSAT English Rules
Finding Subjects and Verbs
Capitalization Rules
Adjectives and Adverbs
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
Preparing for the GSAT Exam
GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Access denied - Disabled boy aces GSAT
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
GSAT Mathematics
GSAT Mathematics Quiz, Teaching Math, teaching anxiety
Secrets of an Ancient Computer
Deep-space dancers
Human Body
Fighting Off Micro-Invader Epidemics
Cell Phone Tattlers
A Fix for Injured Knees
Invertebrates
Crustaceans
Sponges
Giant Squid
Mammals
Guinea Pigs
African Hyenas
Chipmunks
Parents
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
How children learn
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
Physics
Electric Backpack
Black Hole Journey
Road Bumps
Plants
Tracking the Sun Improves Plant Pollen
Stalking Plants by Scent
Farms sprout in cities
Reptiles
Anacondas
Box Turtles
Geckos
Space and Astronomy
A Great Ball of Fire
Icy Red Planet
Intruder Alert: Sweeping Space for Dust
Technology and Engineering
Sugar Power for Cell Phones
A Satellite of Your Own
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Problems with Prepositions
Adjectives and Adverbs
Transportation
Flying the Hyper Skies
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Where rivers run uphill
Weather
Earth's Poles in Peril
Recipe for a Hurricane
The Best Defense Is a Good Snow Fence
Add your Article

Programming with Alice

Shriveled, slithery, and wily, Gollum is one of the more memorable characters in the Lord of the Rings movies. But it took computers to bring Gollum to life, creating animated images of the character that smoothly blend with the actors on the screen. And wherever there are computers, there have to be computer programmers who write the instructions that tell the computers what to do, step by painstaking step. The skills of programmers, computer scientists, and software engineers are essential not only for generating special effects in movies but also for creating video games, operating cell phones, searching the Internet, downloading and playing music, and much more. Nowadays, there are computers in airplanes, cars, television sets, vending machines, and kitchen appliances. All these computers need people who understand how computers work and can provide the necessary instructions. A set of instructions for a computer is called a program. Unfortunately, the popularity of computer science as a career has been fading in the United States. There are 50 percent fewer computer science majors at U.S. universities now than there were 5 years ago, says Randy Pausch. He's a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh. Equally troubling is that fewer than 20 percent of these students are women, he adds. "Computer science has tremendous power to make a big difference in people's lives," says Caitlin Kelleher, a graduate student in computer science at CMU. Kelleher wants middle schoolers, especially girls, to get excited about working with computers. Using an interactive computer program called Alice, Kelleher has made it her mission to show kids all the exciting opportunities that open up when you can talk to these machines in a language that they can understand. Using Alice, a student can quickly create an animated movie in which characters move about and interact in an imagined 3D world. Along the way, the student learns how to write a simple computer program. The results don't look like Lord of the Rings, but if you give Alice a try, you can experience the immense satisfaction of getting a computer to do what you want it to do—and of showing off your waddling penguins or attacking bugs to friends. Action commands In a computer program, each instruction specifies an action. Writing a program to animate 3D objects is all about deciding what actions you want these objects to perform. With Alice, students begin by crafting stories. Then, they work out lists of actions that must go into the programs to tell the story. The students learn how to break a large problem into smaller pieces. It's a bit like doing a word problem in math. Users select characters, such as ice skaters or monsters, and environments, such as a forest or a city. They then create scenes in which the characters talk and move around in these environments. The results are satisfying little animations that can be funny, sad, or even weird. Working with Alice, students aren't faced with the hardest part of writing a computer program—specifying in excruciating detail, and in exactly the right language, every little thing that has to happen. For example, suppose you had to tell someone who had never been in a kitchen how to make a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. You couldn't just say, "Make a peanut butter- and-jelly sandwich." You'd have to specify where to find the ingredients and the knife, how to use the knife, how much jelly and peanut butter to measure out, how to assemble the sandwich, and so on. You'd also have to tell the person what to do if something went wrong—for example, if the jelly jar were empty or there were only one slice of bread. "If you write a paragraph in English and you put a semicolon or comma in the wrong place, people will still understand what you're talking about," Kelleher says. "With computer languages, if you get one thing wrong, it doesn't work anymore." With traditional programming, beginners often get frustrated. They're unable to figure out what they've done wrong. With Alice, students use a mouse to select commands. Then, they can watch what happens on the screen. If a monster happens to end up in the wrong place, for instance, they can simply change the command. Improved grades So far, Alice seems to be doing its job. It's getting students more interested in computers. One study looked at college freshmen who were interested in computer science but were at risk of failing because of low grades. Without Alice, Pausch says, the students averaged a C in their first computer science class. Only 47 percent went on to take another computer class. The average grade of students who used Alice, however, jumped to a B. Eighty-eight percent of these students took a second class. Alice conveyed the basic ideas and purposes of programming. After that, students were better able to learn the specifics of computer languages, such as Java and C++. Teachers at 50 colleges and 40 high schools are now using Alice to teach introductory computer science classes, Kelleher says. She has been using a modified version with Girl Scout troops. In Colorado, graduate student Agata Dean and her coworkers have used Alice at the middle school level in an after-school technology club and in a weeklong technology summer camp at the Colorado School of Mines. In both cases, students learned the software and were able to begin using it quickly, Dean says. The beauty of Alice, Pausch says, is that it shows students how exciting and creative computer science can be. Working with computers doesn't make you a geek, he insists. Computer work is an art form, only better. "Painters are limited by paint, and sculptors are limited by clay," he says. "Computer programming is limited only by the limits of the imagination . . . . There's nothing you can't do."

Programming with Alice
Programming with Alice








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™