Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch Lives on in Alice

[Update: I blogged about this originally on April 10th, 2008, but wanted to promote this to the top of the heap today as Randy Pausch passed away a few hours ago.

Here are a couple of great lines (lessons?) from his famous 'last lecture':

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people.

RIP Randy Pausch...]

-------------------------------Original Post (from April 10, 2008) ---------------------

Or I should say "Randy Pausch will live on in Alice".

55 minutes or so into his now famous "last lecture" (more on that lecture later), Randy Pausch (47-year old terminally ill star professor of Virtual Reality at Carnegie Mellon) states
"To the extent that someone can live on in something, I will live on in Alice."

Well a post on Alice belongs in this blog, since so many posts have been devoted to talking about programming environments that help kids be creators rather than consumers of cool stuff like games, and digital stories and 3D worlds in cyberspace. These environments make it easy for kids to program i.e. make possible what is inherently pretty tough to do. In the process, they also teach kids to problem-solve and learn concepts of computer science like algorithmic ways of thinking and ideas like "messaging" and "objects" and "behaviours" or as Pausch calls it - the classic "head fake" - where you learn stuff without realizing that you're learning stuff (a great way to teach kids stuff that they think is too hard or beyond their reach).

So, what is Alice?
"Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment designed with middle and high schoolers in mind, that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a teaching tool for introductory computing. It uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to facilitate a more engaging, less frustrating first programming experience."
There's a wealth of material on the website on how Alice can be used to teach computer science to Middle and High School kids through creating story-telling and 3D-gaming environments (with characters from the popular PC game 'Sims').

Randy Pausch says of Alice "To think that millions of kids are having so much fun learning something that is so hard (programming)...that's pretty cool ... that's a legacy I can live with".

Of the lecture here's all I will say, it's a must-see for parents, teachers and children (old enough to internalize the import of his lessons on life and living), delivered with the clarity of thought and passion that only comes from knowing that you have but a few months to live, and by a man who has obviously accomplished plenty, lived a rich life, and had a lot of FUN doing all the things he's done. Here it is....

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