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Increasing Student Interest in Computer Science (CS) Careers Lower Enrollments in ITA Enrollment in our career center’s Information Technology I classes have been decreasing since 2001. 2001 - forty five students with eight girls 2005 - twenty four students with two girls

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lower enrollments in ita
Lower Enrollments in ITA
  • Enrollment in our career center’s Information Technology I classes have been decreasing since 2001.
    • 2001 - forty five students with eight girls
    • 2005 - twenty four students with two girls


negative headlines
Negative Headlines
  • With the news stories about huge layoffs, the dot com bust, and the outsourcing of technical jobs, students and their parents are less interested in considering a career in computer science.
the shrinking cs pool
The Shrinking CS Pool
  • After peaking in 1999 and 2000, interest in CS as a college major has fallen in each of the past five years. All in all, interest has dropped 70 percent over this period. (Vegso, 2005)
  • CS enrollment plunges in bad economy. Offshoring makes tech careers look risky. (Schoenberger, 2004)
  • UCLA survey shows a 60% decline in freshman interest in CS from 2000-2004 (Vegso, 2006)
  • The Taulbee survey shows a 40% decline in computing majors from 2000-2004 (Vegso, 2005)
the shrinking cs pool 2
The Shrinking CS Pool (2)
  • Enrollments in CS courses in Ivy League Universities in the Eastern US have dropped dramatically in the first years of this century. If you won’t take a course in CS, you won’t major in it. (Astrachan, 2006).

Bureau of Labor: Hecker, D. Occupational employment projections to 2014. Monthly Labor Review. November 2005.

gender differences in cs
Gender Differences in CS
  • Nationally in 1999-2000, there were 36,195 computer and information systems bachelor’s degrees awarded.
    • 72% of those degrees went to males and only 28% went to females.
    • This approximate 70% to 30% split has been about the same for more than a decade. (Hankins, et al., 2003)
  • Alarmingly, the proportion of women who thought that they might major in CS has fallen to levels unseen since the early 1970s. (Vegso, 2005)
gender differences in cs 2
Gender Differences in CS (2)
  • Gender differences in several domains strongly suggest that females process information and solve problems in different ways than males do. If a female's early experience with software that is supposed to support her problem-solving efforts is negative and discouraging, how likely is she to eventually choose a career in information technology (IT)? (Beckwith et al., 2006)
alice programming language
Alice Programming Language
  • Object – oriented language
  • Animates 3D objects
  • Enables storytelling
  • Creates Movies or Games
the alice system www alice org
The Alice System (
  • Allows students to learn computer programming more easily
    • Drag-and-Drop editor for creating programs
    • Programs are 3D movies or games
  • Alice has been formally shown to improve learning and retention
  • Alice is highly motivating for students
  • Provided free (open source) by Carnegie Mellon
  • Runs on
alice programming environment
Alice Programming Environment
  • Uses 3D graphics to engage students
  • Has a “smart” drag-and-drop editor that prevents syntax errors
  • Appeals to wide audience
    • Storytelling
      • (young women, minority students)
    • Interactive computer games
      • (young men)
    • Not threatening; Alice builds students’ confidence (Pausch, 2006)
alice programming language17
Alice Programming Language
  • An objects-first strategy for teaching computer science courses is receiving increased attention from CS educators. (Cooper, et al., 2006)
  • In an NSF (National Science Foundation) study, this exciting strategy proved effective with introductory college students in helping to maintain student enthusiasm for computer science and has been shown to improve the retention of computer science majors. (Cooper, 2006).
pedagogically why alice works
Pedagogically: Why Alice Works
  • No syntax-based frustration
  • Data is visible; changes are animated; you can see what is happening
  • Highly motivating
objects are suddenly obvious
Objects are suddenly “obvious”
  • Makes objects something students can see and relate to
instructional materials
Instructional Materials
    • syllabi/calendars
    • lectures
    • labs
    • assignments
    • sample worlds (programs)
    • sample exams
    • sample projects

Steve Cooper

www aliceprogramming net
  • Web pages
  • a live demo was done here of the resources available at

Steve Cooper

sample lesson rolling a ball
Sample Lesson: Rolling a ball
  • We want a realistic motion rather than a slide.
  • The ball must simultaneously move and roll.



Do together

move ball forward 1 meter, as seen by the ground

turn ball forward ? revolutions

Wanda Dann

number of revolutions

one revolution

four revolutions

Number of revolutions
  • The number of revolutions depends on the size of the ball.

Wanda Dann

a function
A function
  • The number of revolutions can be computed using

distance/(P * diameter)

  • Two values are needed
    • the ball’s diameter
      • the ball object has a built-in width function
    • the distance the ball is to travel
      • can be sent to the function using a parameter

Wanda Dann

coding the function
Coding the function

Two values are needed.

Wanda Dann

how alice is being used
How Alice is being used
  • In pre-CS1 or programming logic
    • course for majors and students considering a computing major
  • As conceptual introduction in CS1
  • Introduction to programming course
    • non-majors
    • attract students to become majors
  • Computer literacy
    • problem-solving, algorithmic thinking component
  • Pre-AP in high schools

Wanda Dann

a lot of colleges are using alice
A lot of colleges are using Alice
  • How many is “a lot”?
  • Lower bound: 243 are teaching with PH texts
  • There are roughly 3,000 U.S. colleges*
  • 8% of US colleges are teaching with Alice/PH books
  • Many others are teaching with other or no texts
  • Many High Schools are using for pre-AP or AP

* says 3,176

alice helps at risk cs majors34
Alice helps at-risk CS majors

M. Moskal, D. Lurie, and S. Cooper, Evaluating the Effectiveness of a New Instructional Approach. In Proceedings of 2004 SIGCSE Conference, (Norfolk, VA).


Alice is “real coding”

  • Alice CodeJava Code
the future alice v3 0
The Future: Alice v3.0
  • Been in development for almost a year; will release in 2008.
  • Goal: Alice as the system to teach introductory programming.
  • Driven by Caitlin Kelleher’s findings about storytelling
    • Students are motivated to make movies (or videogames)
  • Real Java
    • Alice v3.0 is a Java IDE, based on eclipse
    • Your students will see real Java (if you choose)
    • Drag & Drop or type -> it’s up to you!
  • Insanely high production values: as good as real video games
  • We are developing a textbook along with the system
    • Just as we did with Alice v2.0
    • Wanda Dann, Steve Cooper, Randy Pausch and Don Slater
electronic arts ea
Electronic Arts (EA)
  • World’s largest video game company
  • EA has given us $300,000* and permission to use the characters and animations from “The SimsTM 2” in Alice v3.0
  • We graciously thank them.
  • EA is doing this because they care about getting more students, especially girls/women, interested in computing.

*From the EA foundation

best selling pc games of all time
Best Selling PC Games of all time:
  • The Sims (16 million)
  • Myst (9 million)
  • Starcraft (9 million)
  • Half-Life (8 million)
  • Age of Empires II (7 million)
  • World of Warcraft (5 million)
  • The Sims 2 (4.5 million)
  • Diablo II (4 million)
  • Doom (3 million)
  • Half-Life 2 (3 million)
  • StarCraft: Brood War (3 million)
  • Warcraft II (3 million)
  • Warcraft III (3 million)
  • Age of Empires (3 million)
  • Diablo (2.5 million)
  • Civilization III (2.5 million)
  • Quake (1.8 million)
  • Battlefield 1942 (1.5 million)
  • Civilization IV (1.2 million)

And the Sims has more female than male players!

setting expectations
Setting expectations…
  • Our first demo; this is an early proof of concept.
  • Alice v3.0 is still in early phase development, and will not be publicly available until 2008
  • Our goals for this demo
      • Prove that this is not “vaporware”
      • Show you Alice v3.0 is really Java code
      • Prove that we are using the SimsTM assets
many fun challenges
Many (fun!) challenges
  • The objected-oriented model and semantics
    • classes, inheritance, overriding, polymorphism, etc.
    • semantically, Alice v3.0 is Java
    • how we express via UI and textbook is a wonderful challenge
    • 3D objects (people) as objects is still the huge win of Alice
  • Transition from Drag-and-Drop to Typing
    • Training wheels that slowly fade away
  • Visibility of Data
    • “variable” is a term for “invisible data”
  • Developing Custom Curricula
    • from the user/teaching community
    • we expect more of this, since it’s Java at the bottom
  • DoTogether
    • Still there, but a little ugly when you see the Java code
  • Lowered enrollment in CS courses since 2001 is a national phenomena.
  • Several colleges and universities have found success in increasing the numbers of students (especially females) enrolled in CS courses with the use of the Alice Programming Language.
delaware area career center students joi doug roy bobby instructor suzanne maclean


Delaware Area Career Center Students: Joi Doug Roy Bobby Instructor: Suzanne Maclean