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Drag-and-Drop Programming Tool Alice Updated

The developers of Alice have introduced a new version of their free drag-and-drop development tool as well as an online tutorial to help young students learn how to perform object-oriented programming.

Created at Carnegie Mellon University, Alice is a 3D programming environment that lets the user create animations and simple video games. The new version, Alice 2.4, is intended for students in lower grades; another edition, Alice 3.1, is primarily geared to learners in higher grade levels and universities.

The new version was released to coincide with this month's international "Hour of Code," which ran Dec. 9 through 15 during Computer Science Education Week. That event is intended to introduce students as young as 6 to the basic concepts of computer science, demystify code, and show kids that they can become developers. The initiative is backed by multiple online self-guided tutorials that can be run on a browser, tablet or smartphone or used "unplugged" in classrooms without computers.

The Alice project has contributed an Hour of Code tutorial specifically using the new version. In the lesson, students learn how to set up scenes using characters and props and write program code for creating the animation of the characters within the scene.

The new version of Alice includes multiple feature tweaks and bug fixes, but the biggest change is the addition of characters from the Garfield comic strip, which can be used within the programs created by the students.

Wanda Dann, director of the Alice Project, said Alice is used in more than 15 percent of colleges and universities and has become a "popular teaching tool" in secondary schools. She said she expects the addition of Garfield, which appears in 2,100 newspapers around the world, to extend that reach to new students.

At the higher education level, Alice has been adopted by faculty at Penn State Schuylkill campus and the Georgia Institute of Technology, among others.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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