During the third phase of my digital technologies learning journey I was asked to explore some alternatives to Scratch. The first program that I chose to explore is called Stencyl. This program is dedicated to the development of games. Games are created through a simple drag and drop method that is similar to that used by Scratch. Stencyl has hundreds of ready to use blocks that assist their users to quickly and easily make games. They also allow users to create and share their blocks and import existing code libraries. While simple games can be created without writing code, users can always access their game codes should they wish to make changes. Users also have the option of writing their own codes during all stages of game development. This would enable them to create complex behaviours and achieve extra functionality. Stencyl has extensive platform support and the current free version, 2.1.0, allows players to access games on Flash, iOS, Windows and Mac. Players are able to use web, iphone and ipad platforms to produce their games and can even have them published and uploaded to the app store for others to purchase and play.
Stencyl can be found at http://www.stencyl.com/
The second program that I chose to explore is called Alice. Alice is a 3D programming environment that can be used to create story animations, interactive games, and videos. Alice users create programs through a popular and simple drag and drop method. This method is effective and allows the users to easily see their animations in action and to understand the relationship between the programming language and an object’s behaviour. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g. people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects. When creating my virtual world I dragged and dropped graphic tiles to create a program, the instructions correspond to standard statements in a production oriented programming language, such as Java, C++, and C#. Alice allowed me to immediately see how my animation program ran, enabling me to easily understand the relationship between the programming statements and the behaviour of objects in my animation. By manipulating the objects in the virtual world, students would gain experience with all the programming constructs typically taught in an introductory programming course. This program would be very suitable for use in the primary school classroom as the teacher has access to a resource textbook and materials and tutorials which they can guide their class through.
The above screenshot is an example from the Alice tutorial page. Alice is available at http://www.alice.org/index.php
Alice would be a valuable digital technology tool in the classroom, which it fits into the Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies for Years 3-4, Design and implement simple visual programs with user input and branching and Years 5-6, Design and implement digital solutions using visual programs with user input and branching.The applicable content descriptions are numbered 2.5, 4.5, 4.6, 6.6, 6.7 and 8.9.
In addition to supporting outcomes in the Technology key learning area, programs such as Alice and Stencyl expose students to programming concepts in an engaging and meaningful way, and they promote the development of logical thinking skills. Creativity and problem solving skills are also enhanced through the use of these kinds of software.