Adventures with Alice

Tonight I started a new adventure. I’m taking my first online class. I’ve been working with computers for over twenty years, I’ve taken quite a few computer classes, and done a fair amount of self-study. But although I’ve known about “distance learning” for a long time, this is the first time I’ve paid money to take an online course.

I like being able to talk to someone in person. Email works when there is straightforward information to communicate, but as soon as there’s uncertainty or confusion, I prefer to leave my desk and go talk to the other person face-to-face. So if there is a topic I want to study that I think is difficult enough to want someone else to teach me (instead of teaching myself from a book or online tutorial), I wonder how well it will work when I’ll never meet the instructor.

I’ve wanted to learn object-oriented programming since I first learned that it was well on its way to replacing structured programming as the standard approach in the industry. (If you’re not a programmer, I’m not sure how to explain either one in a nutshell, but let me just say that they are very different.) I’ve tried the teach-yourself-from-a-book approach, but got bogged down on the first chapter that required actual code (the theory is easy enough). Of course, it didn’t help that I’m used to writing applications that deal with customers, orders, products, and employees – not computerized card games, as that book used for its exercises.

Then I found Alice 2.0 in the local community college’s continuing education catalog. “Learn the principles of object oriented programming while creating rich, interactive three dimensional worlds filled with characters, sound, and other exciting elements.” Now that sounds like a fun way to learn programming. (Which is exactly why Alice was developed, as a teaching tool that students would really want to master.)

The course includes a pretest, so that I can compare my score now and when I finish the course. I  scored a 42%, simply by guessing based on my knowledge of programming in general (and perhaps whatever little I picked up in my teach-yourself book before I gave up). The first lesson was pretty easy (the hardest part was downloading Alice 2.0, since I couldn’t find it on my hard drive when the download finished – I next opened the file instead of saving, then dragged the contents to my hard drive). I hope this just means that they don’t want to scare anyone off with the first lesson, but that it will be more challenging later on.

Well, I’m off to go create some more “worlds” with Alice.

One Response to Adventures with Alice

  1. modestypress says:

    I would prefer face-to-communication with a live teacher, also.

    However, my daughter, a very smart person and a very good student, applied for graduate school (after leaving it early 15 years ago) and was rejected. They told her if you take two years of calculus, we will consider you again, though no promises.

    She did two years of calculus by distance learning. The process seemed to work reasonably well for her. She gained her credits. She was accepted by the graduate school (which now seems eager for her to attend). When she told her employer (who had been treating her with casual disregard) that she was going to go to graduate school, they asked her to tell what her job was worth and to stay for another year to help prepare for her successor. She named a new salary. They gave her the salary. The graduate school said they would wait a year.

    So I have two formulas for economic success:

    1) My cousin learned Chinese in Taiwan and became a millionaire. (I am not making this up.)

    2) My daughter studied through distance learning (without any personal contact with a teacher). Although she did not become a millionaire, she did get a raise and more respect.

    Your mileage may vary.

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