Alice" A 3D Graphical Programming environmet to teach algorithm development and control structures

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Learning to program offers many challenges to students, especially the ones with weak mathematical backgrounds. C++, an oriented programming (OOP) language, offers challenges to students to understand objects and related concepts such as inheritance and polymorphism and also memory management.


Graphics and visualization helps students in understanding such internals. This paper is about use of an animated graphics tool, namely Alice, to teach C++ programming.
The traditional method of teaching programming is to use class room lessons (notes, presentations), in-class demonstrations and to accompany them with assignments. Most courses employ a programming language to illustrate coding, starting off with a Hello World program written using that language. Then they move to programming concepts such as control structures, abstract data types, sorting and searching algorithms etc.
The use of traditional memory maps (or sketches) to illustrate the internals of a program creates a "confusing clutter of arrows and boxes on the board or projection screen" (Dann 1). The result is that while students focus on understanding the maze of memory maps, they fail to keep track of the concept of an object. (1)
A more modern approach to teach programming is to use a visual method which employs computer graphics. Such visual tools would readily animate the change of state and behavior offering immediate feedback to the students about the programs they write. Alice, developed by the Carnegie Mellon University, is one such tool.
Alice is an open source programming environment offering a 3D interactive ...
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