If you learned computer stuff in the 1980ties you may remember the ideas of the programming language Logo. It allowed to move a turtle through programming statements. Now we have Alice that allows to let, e.g., fly a 3D chicken through a kind of drap’n’drop programming. Best of all, you can take your Alice code to Netbeans and become a real Java programmer.
Thanks to a tweet by Adam Bien I became aware of a nice project: Alice Authoring Tool. Its a Carnegie Mellon project that concentrates on the thinking of object-oriented programming, and not much on all the syntax stuff. This is in opposite to how a lot of us learned to program in the past.
Although, the target group are primarily students I think Alice is also a good tool to teach your children who are interested in programming. As a 3D fan I like the idea to visualize an object and its behavior that is controlled by the programming statements I can choose through drag’n’drop from a list of predefined methods. Here’s a screencast that shows how this is done with a chicken.
The screencast also shows how to transfer an Alice project to NetBeans. That’s a pretty cool idea. It allows to transfer the Alice results to the real programming world. So, something the child is already familiar with can be further developed like a project you’ve started in NetBeans. Another screencast shows how to use a for loop in Alice. So, Alice also shows advanced programming concepts. There’s already a book introducing Alice to a novice with a focus on instructors.
Kodu and Scratch
Microsoft is doing something similar for children to create games visually: Kodu. This is not a new idea. I’ve seen game creation tools doing this the last years. But, those were not to use for children.
If your children like games you may start with MIT Media Labs’ Scratch before you let them learn Alice. The idea is to let them combine something existing like a DJ is doing this during his scratch sessions. Although, you use something existing the kind of combination creates something new and you learn how to be creative with this.
Maybe intereresting: StarLogo TNG.