The Alice Project
Adventures in Alice Programming

Research Project

My project this summer as part of the Duke Research Team, is to examine the best way to integrate the computer programming environment Alice into kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms.

Alice is a computer program developed by Carnegie Mellon University and is provided free of charge to the public. It provides a 3D environment where students interact with a virtual world using basic programming skills. One of the purposes for Alice is to help increase the number of people entering computer science fields. This is important because of the declining number of students entering computer science majors [4] and the increase in demand for computer science and technology skills in industry [1]. Many middle school students have negative stereotypes about computer scientists and do not consider themselves to have the characteristics of a person who would become a computer scientist [2]. Alice is a way to introduce computer science as an exciting field of study, and spark interest in students for future exploration.

The project I am working on this summer is part of an ongoing investigation. Previously the Duke Research Team ran workshops for both teachers and students. They worked with teachers to develop lesson plans on how Alice could be integrated into their classrooms. Through the student workshops they looked at how middle school students used Alice and found students were engaged and used a wide range of basic programming concepts and Alice features [3].

This summer additional teacher workshops are taking place. The purpose of these workshops is to train and encourage elementary, middle school and high school teachers to use Alice in their classrooms. It is also continuing the research into ways of incorporating computer science into the current school curriculum, which does not currently allow for compulsory computer science courses.

Integration of Alice is possible in a wide variety of subjects including: language arts, math, sciences, social studies, second languages, and art [3]. My focus will be on the potential of integrating Alice into the math curriculum. I will be looking at suggestions from teachers who will be attending Alice workshops this summer in context of the North Carolina school curriculum requirements.

[1] Hecker, D. Occupational employment projections to 2014. Monthly Labor Review 128, 11 (Nov. 2005), 70-101.
[2] Mercier, Emma M.; Barron, B.; O'Connor, K. M.. Images of self and others as computer users: the role of gender and experience. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Oct2006, Vol. 22 Issue 5, p335-348, 14p,
[3] Rodger, S., Hayes, J., Lezin, G., Qin, H., Nelson, D., Tucker, R., Lopez, M., Cooper, S., Dann, W., and Slater, D., Engaging middle school teachers and students with alice in a diverse set of subjects. Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education 2009, 271-275.
[4] Zweben, S. Ph.D. production at an all-time high, with more new graduates going abroad; undergraduate enrollments again drop significantly. Computing Research News 18, 3 (May 2006), 7-17.