Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog

Initial thoughts about Alice

While looking through Google for articles to add to the database, I came across one that describes middle school student experiences with Alice. Alice was developed by Carnegie Mellon University to introduce computer science to students in a fun, interactive manner and they do so by creating a 3D animated programming interface. After learning that Alice was successful in attracting students to computer science, I played around with Alice myself. Even though I enjoyed it, it strikes me that Alice may lead to turning students away from computer science.

Studies show that Alice has been capable of increasing student interests in computer science. While this is seen as advancement in the field, I think it may have a drawback. Alice is an attractive interface and therefore is easily able to hook students on to computers. Therefore, even though Alice may be able to lead students into taking more computer science, further courses in computer science may end up disappointing students if they do not find it attractive enough. Further advanced computer science courses are not similar to Alice and may lead students to believe that they didn’t have the right idea about the field in the first place. I understand that this is quite a negative approach towards Alice even though I have actually always liked the idea of having an interactive, attractive interface. Therefore, it would be interesting to actually look into how many students get attracted to computer science through Alice and then actually end up studying further computer science. It would also be interesting to think about how Alice can be used as an incentive to make advanced computer science courses more interesting. However, if studies show that Alice is definitely retaining computer science students and not disappointing them, I think that it is a great idea to be used as an introduction of computer science.


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