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learning syntax
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Default learning syntax - 11-17-2007, 03:28 PM

Thanks, Dick. Your online tutorials are the first place I look for answers these days.

I would like to say I have completed this experiment, but my first report to our board of industry advisors was in the middle of my first semester of teaching Alice and I have never returned to it. I compared the compared the number of conditionals, loops, variables (properties), functions & methods, parameters, events, and concurrency used in a typical assignment solution (C++ vs. Alice). They were significantly higher across the board in the Alice program. To me this indicates students are programming at a much higher level of complexity.

I also compared the typical output generated by the programs (C++ vs. Java vs. Alice). Even using a simple graphics library for Java, there was no real comparison: text "images" vs. 2D graphics vs. 3D animation. See below.

I also pointed out that any modern syntax-directed editor removes much of the concern over placement of semicolons and usually suggest how to complete lines of code as they are entered. Then they immediately point out syntax errors (with suggested corrections). Some provide options like "create all accessor and mutators" methods.

The Alice environment prevents many errors, but those who use it are familiar with its syntax requirements. Try using the world equality function to compare objects. Or try dragging a statement using an index from one loop to another.

It's too bad experts in our field believe programming somehow equates to typing.

Someday, perhaps, I will complete the experiment by assigning the "same" project in Alice that I used in C++ or Java to directly compare results. The most difficult part is finding an assignment that lends itself to all three. Currently, I have student code compared to my own solutions for the first round of Craps. The dice are displayed along with the percentage of wins and losses. Anyone care to take this on? I'm sure Dick and I are not the only ones with this problem.

Last edited by mullins; 11-17-2007 at 03:32 PM.
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