Programming is a difficult and time-consuming activity. Sometimes, a tiny mistake prevents a program from running properly, and it might take hours of debugging to determine the cause of an error. Middle School students expect immediate gratification, and if their projects don't work right away, they easily get frustrated and expect the teacher to fix errors immediately.
I always search for books, tutorials, and software to make teaching programming exciting and learning fun for Middle School students. Today, I’ve tried a free programming language Alice designed to teach object-oriented programming to children. It is developed by Carnegie Mellon University research group. Alice doesn’t require any previous knowledge of programming. The latest version 2.0 of Alice is available for free download.
Programming in Alice is easy. Students have to “drag-and-drop words in a direct manipulation interface.” Object can be added from the online gallery or created in 3DStudio MAX. A 3D world can be saved as a webpage applet.
Furthermore, I was impressed by a substantial list of available textbooks. Alice has an introductory video tutorial and the forum. In general, the newly released programs rarely have textbooks for teachers and students.
In my opinion, Alice is a good choice for Middle School computer classes. Also, it is open source software and could be implemented into High School computer classes. Students can download the source code and modify it.