Alice is very different to Scratch, in that the application deals with concepts such as objects, methods and properties and relies on the user being able to think ‘independently’. It is a drag and drop program, so it’s a good follow on from Scratch.
The approach we have used to teach Alice is by getting participants to go through the Alice tutorials before getting them to make their own 3D animation. This is an excellent way of getting participants to get to grips with its concepts and the vocabulary involved in object-orientated design. It is satisfying when 15 year olds are leaving the room discussing objects and methods!
Although this method is effective, is it is not popular with a number of participants. A number of participants have said that this is the worst part of the workshop, where as others said it was the best part of the workshop. As a workshop developer I am in a dilemma about how to deal with this predicament. Do we keep going with the tutorials or take another approach?
After participants have gone through tutorials, they are asked to look at the animations and make their own games. This can be problematic as often they have gone through the tutorials but not paid too much attention to what was actually being taught in them. Or they have realized to do the animation they actually want to do, is actually going to take a long time, which means they get put off and start talking about how difficult Alice is to use. In other words, they give up far too easily!
Each tutorial takes about 15minutes to go through depending on the ability of the class and their patience with Alice.
Another issue is the program itself, participants have found it slow and therefore frustrating to use. Young people are not the most patient of people!
Overall, Alice gets across the main points to those who want to take the time to learn it and it allows space for creativity. However, we need to find a better way of getting the tool across. Using Alice is OK for prolonged lessons e.g. for 10 lessons or so, which means they can explore at their own pace, but for a one day workshop, we need to think of different ways of teaching it. Any thoughts, hints and advice would be much appreciated!