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The Impact Of The Alice Curriculum On Community College Students' Attitudes And Learning With Respect To Computer Science

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Conference

2008 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

ERM Poster Session

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

14

Page Numbers

13.1238.1 - 13.1238.14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/3306

Download Count

33

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Paper Authors

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Ashlyn Munson

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Ashlyn Hutchinson (ashutchi@mines.edu) received her M.S. in Applied Mathematics, and is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences at the Colorado School of Mines. Her area of focus is statistics, and her research interests inlcude assessment and biostatistics.

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Barbara Moskal Colorado School of Mines

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Stephen Cooper Saint Joseph's University

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Stephen Cooper is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Saint Joseph's University. He taught previously at Rivier College, serving as Computer Science program director. He has also worked at IBM as a systems programmer. Dr. Cooper's research interests lie in the semantics of programming languages as well as in program visualization. He has been the principal investigator for several National Science Foundation and private grants, and serves as the college representative to the Computer Science Teacher’s Association Board. (email: scooper@sju.edu)

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Wanda Dann Ithaca College

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Dr. Wanda Dann is the director of the Alice team at Carnegie Mellon University. Her
research has encompassed program visualization and object-oriented and event-driven
programming. Dr. Dann has provided leadership in the international computer science
education community, serving as SIGCSE 2004 Program co-Chair and SIGCSE 2005 Symposium
co-Chair. She is now a member of the SIGCSE Board. (email: wpdann@andrew.cmu.edu)

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Impact of the Alice Curriculum on Community College Students’ Attitudes and Learning with Respect to Computer Science

Abstract

The Alice software is a three dimensional programming environment that is freely distributed through Carnegie Mellon University. Novice programmers can use the Alice software to create virtual worlds that consist of objects, or characters that interact on screen in a manner that is defined by the user. Users create these virtual worlds in Alice via a drag-drop editor, eliminating the frustration of syntax errors for beginning programmers. The Alice curriculum has been developed as a one-semester, introductory computer science curriculum that uses the Alice software to introduce students to programming. This curriculum was implemented and tested in three community colleges over three academic semesters. During this period, treatment data were collected in classrooms that implemented the Alice curriculum, and control data were collected in classrooms that used traditional programming languages as a first year computer science course. These data measured students’ attitudes toward and learning with respect to programming. Based on the results of this investigation, students’ attitudes with respect to computer science did not appear to be impacted either positively or negatively by the use of the Alice curriculum. However, students in the treatment classrooms did display greater gains in their programming knowledge when compared to students in the control classrooms. This improvement was more pronounced for men than for women, and this finding was consistent across the three semesters. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (DUE-03020542).1

I. Introduction

For more than a decade, there has been a consistent decline in enrollment in computer science courses throughout the United States.2,3 Additionally, students who decide to study computer science in college often leave this major prior to completion of their degrees.4 Yet, the employment demand for qualified computer scientists and programmers is expected to continue to increase, resulting in a shortage of trained professionals in the field. This paper reports the results of a three year investigation that uses the Alice curriculum and software to introduce computer science concepts and programming to students who are attending community colleges. Attracting students to take an introductory computer programming course and retaining students once enrolled in the course (and ultimately in computing and computing-related careers) have been goals of the investigative team.

The Alice software, which was developed by Stage III at Carnegie Mellon University under the direction of Dr. Randy Pausch, is a three dimensional programming environment that is freely distributed at www.alice.org.5 Novice programmers can use the Alice software to create virtual worlds that consist of objects, or characters that interact on screen in a manner that is defined by the user. Users create these virtual worlds in Alice via a drag-drop editor, eliminating the frustration of syntax errors for beginning programmers. The Alice software appeals to students who have been raised in a multi-media culture with animated movies and video games through its design. The Alice software supports students as they animate their own stories on screen. The

Munson, A., & Moskal, B., & Cooper, S., & Dann, W. (2008, June), The Impact Of The Alice Curriculum On Community College Students' Attitudes And Learning With Respect To Computer Science Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3306

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