day 9 – friday

I completed my photosynthesis world today! It took a lot longer than I had anticipated, but I feel accomplished. It was difficult and I hope to simplify my code next week since I have a lot of If/Else statements in it. Additionally, I feel like I need an ending to my world, and I’m working on a summary of concepts reviewed in the tutorial that I created. 

I hope to work on some other worlds next week that I have brainstormed and also start working on the video tutorials that Professor Rodger asked us to make for the tutorials that have already been created. 

Here is a screenshot of the beginning of my world: Image

day 8 – thursday

Today I started creating my own world on Alice. I first started out by looking at more of the example worlds. Then I brainstormed some ideas based on the education standards of NC. I listed several ideas that I wanted to work with – involving both math and science topics. I decided to create a demo about photosynthesis and if I have more time, I’ll include an additional demo on cellular respiration. Then, I started playing around with Alice and creating my demo. It takes much longer than what I had imagined! In the demo, the users will click on the reactants and products to help them memorize the formula better.

I also had an idea about related rates, and having students being able to reduce rates to unit rates. As the kids get the answers right, the runner gets closer to the finish line. I might work on this world when I’m done with the current one.

day 7 – wednesday

I finished up writing the summary for Liz Liang’s thesis and also read another article about using storytelling to help motivate students that Randy Pausch and  Caitlin Kelleher wrote. I found this article through searching on ACM Digital Library’s website, which Professor Rodger suggested. It was an interesting article on how effective storytelling has been with girls and getting them to study CS.

Additionally I looked at middle school math requirements and started brainstorming some tutorials that I could create with Alice. I flipped through the textbooks that Professor Rodger gave us on middle school math. I’m still trying to figure out how math can be incorporated with computing without just creating worlds that students can use to practice math concepts. However, I did come up with an idea related to science. With Alice, we could simulate how photosynthesis and cellular respiration works, so students can better visualize these processes.

I plan to look around some more to further progress with this project.

Using Storytelling to Motivate Programming

In this paper, Caitlin Kelleher and Randy Pausch discuss the effectiveness of storytelling in motivating students, especially girls to study CS. The number of students majoring in CS is dropping, but more job opportunities related to technology are being created, and therefore we as a society need to address this problem. The authors attribute this drop to the fact that many of the first CS courses that students take in college are not that interesting and thus, does not motivate them. Not only do we need to attract more students and make CS less frustrating, but also we need to retain these students. Furthermore, we need to increase the number and diversity of students since most of CS majors are males. While we could easily attract more students to the field of CS using video games, it could also decrease the number of women in the field. The key to solving this problem is introducing middle school girls to programming, since that is when students usually discover their passions. 

Through storytelling and creating animated movies, Pausch and Kelleher created a workshop where girls could create a story using Alice programming. After working with them, they added more complex animations, the ability to create multiple scenes, a library of characters, and created a story-based tutorial for students. Storytelling is a natural way to introduce the fundamentals of object-oriented programming and also addresses the five basic programming topics that 9th and 10th graders should be familiar with. In the workshops, the girls were able to add complexity to their story by using methods, parameters and loops. They were able to express themselves and the issues that they have encountered, and were ultimately able to share their stories with their peers. Using storytelling to introduce programming proved to be effective in attracting more girls to the field. Now we must work on retaining such students and attracting even more students of both genders. 

Integrating Computing into K-12 Education using Alice

Click to access 2011_elizabeth_liang_final_thesis.pdf

Elizabeth Liang published this paper as a part of her CSURF project at Duke University and its content was very similar to Chris Brown and Professor Susan Rodger’s papers. She highlights the necessity for core subjects to be combined with technology since many curriculum requirements for K-12 education are being updated to create a foundation for students to continue their studies in CS education. Liang also mentions other projects similar to the Alice project – including Scratch and Robotics – which all work on integrating computing into core subjects. But because schools lack the resources and teachers don’t have enough time, it has been hard for teachers to implement CS into their lesson plans.

The Alice team at Duke University started in 2008, and researchers are working towards taking content from teachers’ lesson plans and updating them with materials that use Alice, which students can learn on their own or in classrooms. After students work on the beginner tutorials, they can use Alice to work on specific projects that focus on certain topics. Alternatively, they can view example worlds to see what other people have done with Alice. Researchers also can get feedback from teachers who take workshops so that they can further improve the tutorials and also create more tutorials.

Liang helped with creating tutorials and projects, specifically those that incorporated CS with science. Alice is especially effective in science because users can create interactive models in science to collect data and conceptualize science concepts. Currently in Alice there is a lack of objects that students can use to create such models, but Liang has created some tutorials and example worlds involving science. For example, she created a lac operon model with Alice and was also able to stimulate labs that were done in classrooms using Alice.

In the future, Liang advocates for educators to use Alice more extensively since it has had a positive impact on child learning. Additional steps to revise tutorials, gather more feedback, and have teachers attend follow-up workshops are also listed in her paper. She hopes that the creators of Alice can work on developing new charting applications and better visualizations like charting objects so that students can apply computing to subjects like science.

day 6 – tuesday

Today I worked on the Harry Potter Challenge and found some changes that we could make to the instructions. I enjoyed working on the challenge a lot, and I thought that the way that they incorporated some of the mathematical concepts into the project were very unique and interesting. Additionally, I looked at some of the Example worlds that have been created in the past to see what other people have done.

Professor Susan Rodger took the team out to lunch and afterwards, I looked at some articles. I read Liz Liang’s CSURF thesis and I am working on writing up the summary for it. I hope to read some other papers later this week to see what other people outside of Duke are doing to help incorporate computing into K-12 education.

day 5 – friday

Today I finished all the project tutorials! I finished up Scene Change from yesterday, and completed BDE Events, Repetition Everywhere, Simple Quiz, and Changing Camera Views. Afterwards, I started to look at the other projects that people have done to give me some inspiration as to what I want to work on this summer. I looked at some of the helper objects and will probably work on some of the project tutorials next week. In addition, I hope to work on some of the tutorials that are accompanied by video tutorials and see how they were made. 

I also activated my email today and talked to Professor Rodger about my progress. 

day 4 – thursday

I did some more tutorials today – today I completed Texture Maps, Sharing Alice, Changing Color, Inheritance, Making Folders in Local Gallery, and Bunny Eats Broccoli. Further, I started Scene Change and will hopefully be able to finish up the rest of the workshop tutorials tomorrow. After I finish up the workshop tutorials, I will look at the other projects, such as the Harry Potter challenge.

I also read a paper on computational thinking. Most of the papers that I’ve been reading deal specifically with Alice, and I found this paper by looking through Chris Brown’s references. This paper gave some background as to why many people are so focused on improving CS education and the importance of it. It was very interesting to read about how computational thinking can be applicable to other disciplines.

In addition, Samantha and I met with Professor Rodger today. We went over some logistics, what we have been doing, obstacles that we’ve encountered, and what Professor Susan wants us to do for the rest of summer. It was nice to check-in and get on the same page. After working with Alice a little more, I’ll start brainstorming ideas as to what I want to work on this summer.

Computational Thinking

Click to access Wing06.pdf

Computational thinking is the thought process behind problem solving. As systems get more complex, we must figure out what humans do better than computers and what do computers do better than humans. Computational thinking is about ideas, and focuses on ways that humans solve problems. Jeannette Wing describes what computational thinking is and advocates for it to become a universal skill for everyone, not just computer scientists.

Through computational thinking, we have the ability to solve problems that we cannot do alone. It is about modifying a large, complex problem and simplifying it into a something that we can solve, even if all the details are not understood. Wing predicts that in the future, computational thinking will become almost an innate skill when CS and related terms become a part of everyone’s vocabulary.

Many of the concepts of computational thinking are fundamental to CS – the study of what can be computed and how we can use computers to solve it. Although people believe that CS cannot be applicable to many things, computational thinking influences all disciplines, such as statistics and biology. It combines math and engineering and its concepts are used in such a way that problems everywhere can be solved. Thus, Wing argues that we should expose younger students to computational methods and models and make computational thinking more common.

day 3 – wednesday

In the morning, I did some reading and writing up summaries for the papers that I read. I read a report that Chris Brown referenced in his thesis published by the Association for Computing Machinery and Computer Science Teachers Association. It recommended suggestions for the policy makers to make in regards to CS education at the K-12 level. In addition, I looked more at Bootstrap’s website and wrote a quick review of it, highlighting what the project is doing, which is very similar to the Alice project. 

I also started working on the workshop tutorials. Today I completed How Tall are You, Headshots in Alice, Kangaroo Visits Friends, and Making Objects Move in Unison. It’s very nice to be able to delve into Alice and learn more about the functions that I can do with it. The tutorials are pretty straight-forward and easy to understand. Hopefully, I’ll be able to teach these concepts to the teachers as easily later this summer.