Programmable Toys and their Re-Presentation as Computer Programs: An Introduction to Programming Paradigms

By W. Brett McKenzie.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Any medium of expression can re-present the world through its limited pallet – painting through color, poetry through sounds of words, or prose through rhetoric. However, only computer programs re-present the world through action. This paper introduces the procedural and object oriented programming paradigms through commercial programmable toys, then develops their re-presentation in the Alice programming environment. Toy manufacturers have used computer chips in their toys to give interactivity and control. These toys recapitulate the trends in computing and reflect the changes in paradigms for writing computer programs that model, or re-present, the real world as a computer program. Reflecting on how one plays with these toys lowers barriers to understanding fundamental concepts of computer programming. To supplement play with toys, this class uses Alice, a 3D programming environment developed at Carnegie Mellon University, funded by the National Science Foundation, and distributed without charge. Alice is designed to build virtual worlds that can be either animations or games without the cognitive burdens of the syntax and procedures of a traditional programming language. This paper is a companion to a workshop delivered at the 4th International Conference on Teechnology, Knowledge, and Society, Boston, 2008 and describes an implementation in an undergraduate classroom similar to the experience of workshop participants.

Keywords: Animation, Games, Computer Programming

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.85-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 792.930KB).

Dr. W. Brett McKenzie

Associate Professor CIS, Gabelli School of Business, Roger Williams University, Bristol, USA

Dr. W. Brett McKenzie, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, has worked in technology in education since the mid-eighties after studying at Harvard and completing his doctorate at Clark University. He introduced ALICE at Roger Williams University and has presented at NSF Workshops on ALICE at Haverford College, PA, Duke University, NC, and for the NSF sponsored NCTT conferences. His research interests are in computing as a means of expression, especially in the current media rich environment.

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