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ailwon
09-12-2008, 10:18 PM
I am currently using Alice in an introductory programming class for HS sophomores and juniors (yes, starting late) and hope to use the software in our introductory college curriculum next fall.

Question? How do you handle the transition when you must finally step into "reality programming" where studens who have grown used to syntax error-free, highly flexible graphical interfaces, great feedback, etc., etc., suddenly need to deal with the tedium of syntax errors, text editors, and "hello world" (obtained only after 20 minutes of frustration)? Eventually they need to go over the cliff.

It would be great if there was a "native interface" in Alice (perhaps there are posts about this) with which a student could add his/her own classes that interfaced with the Alice environment...

Anyway, sorry if this is already beaten to death somewhere... I am new to this community (but love the tool).

DickBaldwin
09-12-2008, 10:43 PM
I am currently using Alice in an introductory programming class for HS sophomores and juniors (yes, starting late) and hope to use the software in our introductory college curriculum next fall.

Question? How do you handle the transition when you must finally step into "reality programming" where studens who have grown used to syntax error-free, highly flexible graphical interfaces, great feedback, etc., etc., suddenly need to deal with the tedium of syntax errors, text editors, and "hello world" (obtained only after 20 minutes of frustration)? Eventually they need to go over the cliff.

It would be great if there was a "native interface" in Alice (perhaps there are posts about this) with which a student could add his/her own classes that interfaced with the Alice environment...

Anyway, sorry if this is already beaten to death somewhere... I am new to this community (but love the tool).
What you are asking for is the great promise of Alice v3.0.

All the capability of Alice 2.0 plus much more,
All the capability of Java,
All sitting atop an Eclipse IDE with a smooth migration path from drag and drop to text-based programming.

We are all waiting somewhat impatiently at this point in time. Hope that it is released someday.

Dick Baldwin
Free Alice tutorials: http://www.dickbaldwin.com/tocalice.htm
Free Scratch tutorials: http://www.dickbaldwin.com/tocHomeSchool.htm
Free Java/C#, etc. tutorials: http://www.dickbaldwin.com/toc.htm

hgs
09-14-2008, 11:09 AM
We've not heard a huge amount about what has made it into Alice 3, well, I haven't, and I have probably been looking in the wrong places. But since it isn't out yet, and they could probably do without all those users repeatedly asking "Are we there yet?" :-) you'll need some other way to descend this cliff.

Syntax errors can be reduced by syntax highlighting editors, automatic completion, and other features of an IDE or advanced editor. Also, choice of language can help. Java gives you a lot to type, but does enforce the idea of abstract types very well. Languages which are dynamic give you less to type, reducing the pain, but for some, like Ruby, you will need to learn about objects pretty soon, as for Java.

I don't teach, and don't have much contact with people in the age range you talk about, so this next thing may be inappropriate. If you look at http://shoooes.net/ there is a portable GUI programming system in which is pretty easy to make interesting programs with visual effects (see http://www.the-shoebox.org/). It is based on Ruby. But it is still in development. It is getting constant testing from its users, but bugs do creep in. It is written by one person who has splendidly eccentric ideas for his writing and documentation (just look at the Shoes manual! http://hackety.org/press/) but he is an excellent programmer, having written many widely deployed utilities for the Ruby community (YAML (de)serialization, Camping web framework, Hpricot HTML parser,...).

You will still need to provide an editor for this, though there are some written in Shoes (see http://www.the-shoebox.org/) which your students could decide to tweak.

DickBaldwin
09-14-2008, 05:29 PM
We've not heard a huge amount about what has made it into Alice 3, well, I haven't, and I have probably been looking in the wrong places. But since it isn't out yet, and they could probably do without all those users repeatedly asking "Are we there yet?" :-) you'll need some other way to descend this cliff.

Syntax errors can be reduced by syntax highlighting editors, automatic completion, and other features of an IDE or advanced editor. Also, choice of language can help. Java gives you a lot to type, but does enforce the idea of abstract types very well. Languages which are dynamic give you less to type, reducing the pain, but for some, like Ruby, you will need to learn about objects pretty soon, as for Java.

I don't teach, and don't have much contact with people in the age range you talk about, so this next thing may be inappropriate. If you look at http://shoooes.net/ there is a portable GUI programming system in which is pretty easy to make interesting programs with visual effects (see http://www.the-shoebox.org/). It is based on Ruby. But it is still in development. It is getting constant testing from its users, but bugs do creep in. It is written by one person who has splendidly eccentric ideas for his writing and documentation (just look at the Shoes manual! http://hackety.org/press/) but he is an excellent programmer, having written many widely deployed utilities for the Ruby community (YAML (de)serialization, Camping web framework, Hpricot HTML parser,...).

You will still need to provide an editor for this, though there are some written in Shoes (see http://www.the-shoebox.org/) which your students could decide to tweak.

I took a look at http://shoooes.net/ It looks like it might be a lot of fun. However, I found the text to be somewhat confusing and wasn't able to figure out who the target audience might be: young students, older students, web programmers, game programmers, prototype designers, business modelers, etc. In other words, what is the primary intended purpose of shoes? Do you have any information on this?

Dick Baldwin

hgs
09-14-2008, 06:42 PM
I'm not sure the intended audience is so well defined. The author, who is known on the internet as "Why the Lucky Stiff", or _Why for short, started out thinking about the Little Coder's Predicament (http://whytheluckystiff.net/articles/theLittleCodersPredicament.html), which in summary is that "getting the computer to do something interesting" was really easy in the days before the IBM PC, because everybody used some dialect of BASIC, with access to colour, and sound. Then everything got directed at business, and became inaccessible. So _Why then went on to produce Hackety Hack (http://hacketyhack.net/), and that met with some good reception. Shoes grew out of that and he says on the Wiki, if I recall correctly as it won't actually load this minute, that Shoes will be the new Hackety Hack.

So it is definitely directed at the sort of young person who would have enjoyed bashing code into the BBC Micro and its peers, but that had a pretty wide age range, providing useful work in universities (even into the 1990s, much to the embarrassment of certain professors). I can only suggest that you get on the mailing list and ask him directly. The traffic is a bit bursty, but it isn't overloaded. I can't really add much more at this stage. It is not intended for Web designers, it is a GUI toolkit, but _Why believes that Web "design" is familiar to people as users, so he's followed some of the conventions (layout should pretty much just happen, you shouldn't have to scroll horizontally, vertical scrollbars will appear when you need them...), but probably all the others you mention. There don't seem to be many business apps in the shoebox.