Programming: the “new” back-to-school subject

More than 65 years ago, in 1955 to be exact, the first primer was published, which has been the magic book with which more than 35 million children in several countries have learned to read and write. Today, Alice has been added to that primer, so that current generations can learn the other language, that of programming, which the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands today.

Alice is a teaching tool designed to be the first contact with object-oriented programming. This means that it is not necessary to have previous programming knowledge to learn from it. This software, which can be considered as the new “digital primer”, is understood as an innovative block-based programming environment that facilitates the creation of animations, the creation of interactive narratives and the programming of simple 3D games.

For young people it is a way to learn while creating: “I started programming with Alice when I was 10 years old and it was a very good experience because it is designed to teach you. I came to Alice without any knowledge of the subject, looking for tools that would help me to program because I was already interested in going beyond the game alone. It was a very good first entry into this world because besides being easy, it teaches you in a very simple way basic concepts that you will later use in more complex programs,” says Dominican Alejandro Almánzar, who is currently studying Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

For professors, as for him, it is a way to involve students in the world of computing. As computer science teacher Luz Roldan says: “With Alice, we introduce young people to the right skills at university. This type of development environment allows us to show students not only that they are users out of necessity, but also that they learn to solve situations with these computers.

Teachers like Roldan assure that the teaching of this new language is very simple, since students learn fundamental programming concepts with which they achieve the creation of animated movies or simple video games. The tool provides a series of three-dimensional objects (people, furniture, vehicles) that populate a virtual world to develop a program to animate them. And it is achieved by dragging and dropping.

It’s just as easy as learning to read and write: by putting letters together to create words to build sentences. Design instructions help students understand from an early age the relationship between code and the behavior of objects.

This is another advantage of learning programming with this method, since it also shows the path of the sequences created by the students to make errors visible and solve them. To give an example: if the student gives instructions for an object to turn right, but instead it turns left, he himself can identify the problem and immediately fix it or look for alternatives.

This leads to the formation of problem-solving skills, abilities that are required for today’s world and for the reality in which these students will develop. For this reason, different professors agree that “computational thinking seeks that students learn to solve problems, design systems and understand human behavior, through the fundamental concepts of computer science”.

The truth is that the adoption of new technologies in the business world has made the skills required in professional profiles increasingly specific and focused on meeting new market needs. Data from the World Economic Forum show that, by 2025, critical thinking and problem solving, self-management of active learning and the design of technologies and programming will be part of the 10 skills of the future.

In the Dominican Republic, the software is part of the curriculum of Oracle Academy, the company’s philanthropic program for education, with which they have impacted more than 120 educational institutions in the country, more than 250 teachers and more than 700 Dominican students, offering them new programming opportunities.

The motivation and participation of young people in their learning processes has been another of the great benefits that teachers have seen by including Oracle’s educational software in the education model, says Luis Marrero, Oracle’s manager for the Caribbean. And he adds that “by introducing Alice, we do it because we understand the importance of the new generations having the right skills for the reality they are going to live in a 4.0 economy environment. This is the time to initiate them in that future so that they can create infinite possibilities with technology”.

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