Alice Symposium and Workshops 2013

June 17, 2013

Teachers taking a follow-up programming workshop this summer scored a bonus with a chance to participate in the third Alice Symposium, co-run on the Duke campus by Professors Susan Rodger of Duke University, Steve Cooper of Stanford University, and Wanda Dann of Carnegie Mellon University.

About 130 teachers from primary schools and up attended the symposium and week of workshops June 17-21 on the 3D animated programming environment Alice, geared toward interesting students in computer science. Two follow-up workshops for North and South Carolina teachers were among the six workshops offered with the symposium, which took place June 19.

The symposium featured posters from middle school, high school and university faculty - including from Japan and Brazil - as well as paper presentations and a panel of community college professors from around the country discussing how they use Alice, a virtual world in which 3D objects can be placed and programmed. Among the invited talks, artist Laura Paoletti - Alice Arts Team director at Carnegie Mellon, where Alice was created - discussed “How Alice 3D Models Are Created.” Teachers were also invited to submit their students’ best Alice worlds for a contest with the theme of “superstitions” in honor of the year 2013. Three winners from each level - K-8, high school and college - were chosen.

Clever uses of Alice emerged during the symposium, Rodger noted. “People are having students create movies of themselves with a green screen behind it, and then they’re combining the video of a student with a video of the student’s Alice world, essentially putting their student into the Alice world,” she said. Alice is also being used to teach robotics. “You could look in the virtual world and see how the physical robot would work,” Rodger said. “You'd program the robot in the virtual world, and then the same code would be used to program the actual robot.”

Past symposiums were offered in 2006 and 2009 at Duke. This summer’s symposium kicked off the third year of Rodger’s $2.5 million ITEST - Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers - grant from the National Science Foundation to train teachers in North and South Carolina and California in teaching students how to program through Alice. California’s training site will open in 2014.

Through the Adventures in Alice Programming project, teachers receive two weeks of intense training one summer, learning to navigate Alice and working to create lesson plans to incorporate the software into their various disciplines. They return the following summer for a one-week follow-up to share how they’re using Alice, develop more lesson plans and learn about new materials being developed. This year’s two weeks of beginner training at the Duke Department of Computer Science took place July 8-12 and 15-19.

Learn more at the Alice Symposium web site.