Week 5

Early Bird Monday

Today started at 7:30 on the traffic circle. I was handing out parking passes to the participants of the Alice seminars. I brought my umbrella just in case... but I didn't need to use it. It was a little crazy directing people to a place that I had never been to (the parking garage) but I was told that it was easy to find... it's your first left. Jenna switched with me at 8:30 and I continued to the welcome session where all the Duke students were introduced as experts for all problems... technical, network, Alice, and marital. I think the last one was meant a joke.

I was in a session for Alice 2.2 (the others were for Alice 3.0). There were about 45 teachers in the room from all over the US and even one from Canada. The range in background was everywhere from Grade 3 teacher with no Alice or programming experience to several University computer science department heads looking to implement Alice in their programs. I was quite the challenge to make the presentation relevant for everyone in the room. My job was to find those crinkled foreheads and frustrated computer stares and try to smooth them out.

The session finished around 5. I was tired, but I enjoyed it. There were several teachers that were very appreciative of the extra help that I could give them. I also spoke with a teacher who has been using Alice with students who have a variety of special needs ranging from sever to mild including: visual impairment, Autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome, and cerebral palsy. I found this really interesting.

The Alice Seminar web site can be found by clicking here

Alice Symposium Day 2

The second day of the workshop was intense for those who were just catching on to Alice. There were a few problems with trying to give hands on experience of such a large amount of the more advanced Alice functionality. As I looked at how the workshop progressed I felt it may have been more productive to have example worlds with the basic scene already created. It was a lot to pack into two days but I think it gave a really clear picture on the capabilities of what Alice can do. From my own perspective I can see both the positive points and some of the challenges with presenting and running an Alice workshop. It was another full day as the workshop went from 8:30 until 5:00.

During the evening the Alice participants were invited to a Durham Bulls baseball game which included dinner and a baseball cap. It was really nice that Professor Rodger arranged that we could join the group! There was a little misting rain for a couple of innings, but nothing an umbrella and jacket couldn't handle.

It was a crazy game. Five home runs were scored in the second and third innings and the game was fairly close. That is until the visiting team hit a grand slam in the eighth inning. It was a fun event and while the home team didn't win, I did see the bull's eyes glow red as smoke puffed from its nose in celebration of a Bull's homerun.

If you look at the picture you can see the bull billboard sign... that is the one whose eyes glow. You might also notice the electronic billboard with the nice welcome sign for our group. If you look even closer you may notice the score board does not look as high tech as the sign. In fact you may even notice under the ninth inning a light on behind the score board. There is a score keeper that sits behind the board and manually changes the score for each inning!


I attended seminars all day today. It was really interesting to hear about how Alice was actually being implemented in the classroom. I've put the information about the seminars I visited and links that were referenced at the end of this page. So if you are interested there are some interesting links both related to Alice and other random interestingness.

Keynote - Are we all Cyborg's?

An interesting title... and the answer is yes by the way. Rachael Brady is the director of the Visualization Technology Group at Duke University and runs the DiVE Duke Immersive Virtual Environment. One of only 8 in the world. It is used for visualization of complex 3D geometry involved in engineering, art, history, scientific research, cognitive research, training, and education. It looked really cool! I'm going to go for a tour in the DiVE sometime in the next few weeks.

At lunch those of us helping out with the Alice seminars joined the other summer research undergrads to listen to Susanna Ricco present her graduate research on recognition techniques for American Sign Language. I was intrigued by the topic and found her process interesting. She also shared about the struggle to develop a question as part of how she focused her research topic.

Multimedia Approach

The presentation workshops held over these two days was looking at teaching introductory computer science using a combination of Java and Alice. The focus is to use media examples like modification of photos and sound files to create movies and other media related exercises.

One of the ideas that I found most interesting was using chromakey (green screen) to merge two pictures together. The example that was shown was a video of a student merged into her Alice world video.

Barbara Ericson presented the advanced workshop and introduced her material. Her website on Media Computation called Tea Party gives information on the tools, classes and resources that she uses in her textbooks.

A HOT weekend

By the end of the week and into the weekend the weather here got really hot. On Saturday it was 96 Fahrenheit (35 Celsius). Now 35 Celsius is hot but it is the humidity that creates a sticky feeling that seems to create a blanket to hold in your own body heat. I spent a good part of the day in the shade drinking cool liquids. The evening was really nice as I spent time with my relatives and watched fireflies dance, while tree frogs sang to each other above our heads.

Sunday was a relaxing day and I was able to connect with my Dad to wish him a happy Father's Day.

Interesting links referenced by Rachael Brady:
Sketchup: Google's Free 3D sketch software
Many Eyes: A tool to create a visual representation of information
ISIS Mapping: a 3D google map.
Jonny Lee: Wii remote hacks, $14 steady cam... other stuff.
Other sessions I attended:

Show a Little Style
Nifty Alice Teaching Ideas
Afternoons with Alice
Alice in Roboland: Inclusive K-12 Outreach Programs for Typical & Special Needs Children
Reaching Computer Clubs with Computing Concepts using Scratch, Alice, Greenfoot and JavaFX
Developing K-12 Curricula Using Alice
Alice in Elementary School: Lessons from the Front Line
How Alice Game Templates Support Student Learning
Providing Robotic Experiences Through Object-Based Programming (PREOP)
A Beginner's Guide to Conducting an Alice Workshop
Alice via Interactive Game Programming

A schedule and link to the abstracts of all the sessions were posted on line here.

Other online resources noted in the sessions:

On line resources include an online chapter book with video instructions Fluency With Alice
The site by http://dickbaldwin.com/ was mentioned several times as a resource for teaching multiple programming languages. It is provided free of charge.
http://timetrek.org/index2.htm is a site set-up by grade and theme, specifically for middle school students. It provides lessons for various core subject areas, with Alice integrated as a support tool.