Kayakers and Shark in Alice 2

Alice 2 Project Notes
Jeanne Stork
for Blue Marble University’s course:
Virtual Worlds Two

Development Process:
For the most part, these notes were written as I worked on the virtual world project. I want the reader to see my process and the resources that I used in the order that I used them. I did very little cleaning up of this document to enable me to present a more authentic presentation of my process. I decided to include the entire URL for each of my links. These URLs serve as a quick list of my references.

Alice 2, by Carnegie Mellon University, was downloaded from https://www.alice.org/get-alice/alice-2/.

This project began with the “Shark Attack!” tutorial then gradually expanded. Occasionally, a few of my students participated in helping to create this world, but it was too complicated for most of them, especially given the brief amount of time that I had to instruct them in what needed to be done. I had to do most of the problem solving, research, and reading myself, but I think that two classes could have participated more fully if I had the time to break down each step into a separate lesson and could spend a semester teaching the students how to create a project in Alice 2.

My computer lab is an English Language Arts lab and the same students who would benefit from an Alice 2 unit also benefit from their reading program, Imagine Learning. Imagine Learning is only instructional if students use it on a regular basis, so I do not interrupt their routine very often.

My notes and reference materials are listed below. I decided against organizing the information into a formal paper because readers me be helped by seeing the order that I found materials and reading my side notes as I wrote them. I also decided not to include a copy of my html export because the purpose of Alice is to learn the logic and basic procedures behind basic programming. I do not want anyone to copy my printout and claim this world as their own, but I would be honored if my work helped someone and was included in his or her references. Likewise, I have included all of my sources below and mixed in my personal notes where appropriate.

 Alice Tutorials: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials.php#essentials
“Name: Shark Attack! (2013)
Level: Beginner
Time: 30 min.
Date: July 2013 (Updated June 2015)
Corresponding Tutorials: Shark Attack!, An Introduction to Alice, and/or Getting Started with Alice
Description: An incomplete “Carnival” world challenges students to write in or fix code to make the world work using concepts learned in the introduction tutorials. There are also five short multiple choice assessments.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/sharkAttack/SharkAttack_v2_handout.pdf

Quad View: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice08/MotionOrientation/movement.pdf I quickly noticed that none of my shells and seaweed were rooted in place. They flew off into the air and escaped the island when I moved the kayak. I was unable to find a tutorial for attaching items to the land, but this tutorial included information on Alice 2’s quad view, which helped me very much.

Sunset:
I thought that the background was boring, so I added a sunset. Then, everything was too dark, so I lightened the scene. Lightening the scene turned the kayak red, and I decided that I liked the contrast of a red boat on a blue sea. I also like that the sky is a little grayer during the opening sequence when the camera is focused on the shark than when the camera is focused on the island.

True/False Decisions:
“Name: How Tall Are You? Introducing Decisions and the use of Functions
Level: Beginner
Time: 30 minutes
Date: July 2008 (Updated June 2014)
Prerequisites: one-hour beginner tutorial, or 4 part beginner tutorial
Description: This tutorial shows you how to make a decision by asking a question whose answer is true or false. If the answer is true, you can do one action, if the answer is false, you can do another action. You will make a decision with an IF/ELSE statement and using functions height and distance. You will help the guy and the penguin figure out who is the tallest. The tallest will then indicate they are the tallest.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/introFunctionsTutorial/introFunctionsTutorialHandout.pdf

Avoiding Collisions:
“Name:
 Checking for Collisions (2 objects)
Level: Intermediate
Time: 30 Minutes
Date: July 2008
Prerequisites: 4-Part Introduction Tutorial, Introduction to Functions
Description: This tutorial explains how to create and use a function that tests for the collision between two objects in Alice. Concepts used include functions.” https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/checkCollisionsTutorial/checkCollisionsHandout.pdf

Another Collision Method:
https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/simpleCollisionDetection/simpleCollisionDetection.pdf
These directions use lists and While the World Is Running instead of multiple collision functions (island, shark, and lighthouse) and an infinity loop.

I was unable to move the Move Kayak method into the if/then statement, so I devised a system of combining both sets of collision detection methods.

Two of my advanced students get very angry when they think that they have made a mistake; this can lead to anything from breaking the headphones to pounding their own heads with their fits. I thought about showing this project to their classes before adding the collision detection method. After consulting with one of their teachers, I decided to try the collision but I did not add any indicator of incorrect motion. I was informed that even a simple “nice try” or “try again” could bring on aggressive behaviors. I also have the scene wait a few seconds before the collision method begins to allow for a potential initial collision. Both students were fine with this approach.

My original attempt to modify a previous method did not work, so I hid my previous method related to the collision and started again by adding a new method. I then ran into another problem – the directions said to find the object’s width in the properties tab, but I found width in the functions tab. As with many of the tutorials, specific instructions may not have been updated but a creative person can often find a solution.

Loops: https://www.cs.bu.edu/courses/cs101/slides/CS101.Lect22.Alice.Repetition.pdf
This method worked well when I stopped pressing an arrow during a collision but allowed me to steer the kayak through objects so long as I kept pressure on one of the computer’s arrow keys.

 Adding Music: https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/advancedTutorials/sound/soundTutorial4.pdf
A problem with some mp3 files is mentioned. I switched to the wave format, and the sound now plays throughout instead of stopping after only a few seconds.
https://www.alice.org/resources/alice-2-audiolibrary/

Jaws music was purchased in iTunes and the bird-song was downloaded from https://www.bird-sounds.net/blue-grosbeak/. I edited both of these sounds using Apple’s Garage Band so that they were a length and format (.wav) that Alice 2 could easily use. I will remove the Jaws theme music from the version that I post on YouTube because of copyright issues. I have recently read many articles warning teachers about posting even educational videos with background music. This article explains the issues in easily understood (non-legalese) language: http://schoolvideonews.com/Copyright/Copyright-issues-when-using-music-in-videos.

Walking: I had some extra time, so I decided that my people should walk into place along the edge of the island rather than simply gliding with the move motion. The scuba diver had a walk function, so I began with him. I only had to figure out how far to make him walk, how to get him to follow the land’s curve (not go off into the air or drop into the sand), and how to walk both forward and sideways (so that he could get into the boat later on as realistically as possible). The following tutorial helped me with the ballerina, but I had to greatly modify it. https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/web/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/methodsTutorial/methodsTutorial.pdf

Sometimes, one refinement disrupted another formally finished movement. For instance, when the scuba diver just moved into place at the edge of the island, I had him lower his arms as the ballerina was lowering her arms. Once I had the scuba diver walk to his location, the movement that was used to lower his arms made him cross both of his arms behind his back so that his hands stuck out on the opposite sides from where they once were. This was fixed by locating and removing the previous arm-lowering commands.

Last (or so I thought), I adapted the walking procedure to make the bird flap its wings.

Student Interaction with this Virtual World:
At this point, several of my classes tested my Alice 2 virtual world. Students interacted with Kayakers and Shark Virtual World in Alice 2 between one and five minutes each; depending on their age, abilities, and interests. When I showed the project to one of my students who can talk well but does not remember academic concepts such as letters and numbers, he promptly declared, “This is boring.” Students today are used to games with richer visual and animation aspects. Many of the educational games that are used by both non-readers and students who can read are more immersive than a simple Alice 2 project. My more advanced students who could participate in building the world and follow its story and directions enjoyed the project very much. One nine-year-old student with severe autism who has only been talking for about a year recognized the Jaws theme music. Another student in his class who knows how to read told the characters to “stay island;” he agrees with the original tutorial that the people would be safer on the island than in the water, but the coconut that flew up into the tree and the shell that flew into the ballerina’s hand did not phase him at all.

Several of my students discovered that the sunset and water do not last forever. First, the sunset disappears then the water disappears if the kayak is moved too far from the island. This happens when students press the forward or backward arrow too long. They also discovered that before they run out of scenery, the kayak moves too far away from the island to find its way back again. A couple of students even kept the kayak going until it ran out of sea (blue water).

Alice was developed to help students learn coding basics and not for teachers to use to develop their own activities. Although it can be used for the latter if a teacher has enough time, I strongly feel that its strength remains as a tool to introduce students to coding concepts.

My Final Improvement:
I showed this project to my mother and she wanted to see the shell hit the shark. Originally, the ballerina threw the shell in the direction of the off-camera shark, and the shell flew out of the scene toward the shark. Even though none of my students complained (they probably never even noticed), I decided that this would be a nice challenge to see the shell hit the shark. It took a bit of work to make this happen in a method that I liked, but I finally succeeded in having the shell hit the shark, making the shark react, and having the camera watch the event then return to the island.

I think that I am finished with this virtual world, but one can never be sure. I may make additional modifications in the future or I may use this as part of an Hour of Code lesson and allow my students to make modifications. I will make sure to keep this original just in case the students’ “improvements” cause something to fail.

Video:
I am unable to upload my Alice 2 world to WordPress, so I decided to create a video of it in motion. This also prevents anyone from completely stealing my ideas because I never show the entire code. While I am grateful to the numerous people who post Alice tutorials and offer their assistance, I would not want anyone to copy my entire project.

I had to record the video and the audio separately because Alice has started overheating my personal computer. The activity monitor says that Alice 2 uses anywhere from 90% to 107% of my CPU (central processing unit) capacity even though I have a quad i7, 16 MB RAM MacBook Pro that exceeds the operating requirements of Alice 2. This appears to be a known issue, but the fix listed at http://www.alice.org/community/showthread.php?t=7216 is not available in my version of Alice (2.5). For now, it is enough to know that I do not want my computer’s fan to be recorded with my voice.

YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/lyWc7Ucm8oE

Questions?
If you have specific questions about how I did something, submit them using the comment section below. I am not willing to give anyone my entire coding printout, but I will answer simple questions.

Student Worksheet:

Kayakers and Shark in Alice Challenges, Jeanne Stork, Adapted from https://www2.cs.duke.edu/csed/alice09/tutorials/gettingStartedTutorials/sharkAttack/SharkAttack_v2_handout.pdf

 Challenge 1: Return to the front of the island.

Challenge 2: Use the arrow keys to move the boat around the island.

2A. Circle just the island by going between the lighthouse and the island.

2B. Make one large circle around both the lighthouse and the island by keeping both items in the center of the circle.

 Challenge 3: Use the arrow keys to make an eight or an infinity sign as you move the boat around the island the island and the lighthouse. You will have to go around the island in one direction and around the lighthouse the other way.

Advanced: Complete challenges 1 – 3 without bumping into the kayak into the island, the shark, or the lighthouse.

 Challenge 4: Move the boat to the front of the island so that the bird clearly faces you. Figure out what letters move the bird.

Letter              Bird Moves:

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

____               ____________________________

 Challenge 5: Open the coding blocks and change what the characters say.

Practice Building Quiz Questions: Contact Forms, Shortcodes, and Polls

Five Qustion Quiz Built Using WordPress.com’s Contact Form Creator:

 

One Quick Question Built Using the Quiz Shortcode:

(shortcode found online at: https://en.support.wordpress.com/quiz-shortcode/)

Who would need to know about light’s color wheel?
Oil painting artists
Painters do not generally create using colors of light.
Children learning about primary and secondary colors for the first time
Children typically first learn the traditional common color wheel’s primary and secondary colors.
Stage electrics specialists who want to increase the visual tone of the production

 

Two Quick Questions with the Included Polldaddy Poll Function:


	

K-12 Online Learning Platforms

I looked at five of the online learning platforms that are currently being used by schools. What I discovered is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The platform that a school or school district chooses to use will be determined by a number of factors such as course accreditation, teacher individualization, teacher-created content, target students, home versus school use, and the ever-elusive price. Before recommending any online learning platform, I would need to have additional details about how the service would be used and I would need a more thorough hands-on evaluation of each company’s product(s).

Click anywhere on this sentence to open my report in a new tab.

Virtual Reality Exploration

I conducted a lesson using virtual reality (VR) with my students the week of Halloween. Everyone had a wonderful time! Many of my students learned to use the goggles independently while working on their communication skills in a novel activity. Although this lesson was a success, I will not be using VR on a regular basis because I generally work on more targeted individualized English Language Arts, fine motor, and technology skills. Click here for Jeanne Stork’s paper about using virtual reality with my students with significant disabilities, “Gaming 2 Interactivity and Engagement Lab.” I am very excited to be adding virtual reality content to my teaching toolbag.

Jeanne Stork’s Virtuality Exploration on YouTube:

Struggles with “Not”

Many of my students have difficulty learning the concept of “not.” If you show them four spoons and a plate, they can find the plate. If they have four spoons and a plate, they might not be able to show you which one is “not” a spoon. I have seen this problem in students who are on the object level of communications, use pictures or picture symbols, and who know how to read written words. True, some students have learned to follow “not” directions, but it is a struggle with many of the children I see each week.

This particularly interferes with some literacy activities that track progress. Some of my students will have success when the computer asks them which words are action words (verbs) but will be incorrect if it is turned around so that the question resembles “Which word is not an action word?” The last thing they heard was “action words,” so that is what many students will click on. The computer program interprets this as meaning that the student needs more assistance and practice with learning action words. Every program I’ve seen so far assumes that the problem is with the vocabulary they are assessing and not with the way the question is worded.

I am just mentioning this as a caution against using computer-generated results as a teacher’s only means of determining student strengths and academic needs. Academic software and Web sites are wonderful teaching tools, but they will never replace my observational skills. Language learning is a complicated process that must be generalized to a wide range of environments. Students who are learning a new concept, such as “not,” need to use it in different locations and activities (i.e. classroom, computer lab, cafeteria, gymnasium, home, etc.). Working together, teachers and speech therapists can help students to fill in the gaps in their understanding and use of language, including the pesky word, “not.”

Creating A Screencast: Setting Preferences for Students with Disabilities

The description that I included on YouTube is not visible when the videos are embedded into WordPress (click here for the page with another embedded videos). I have included that information here and added more information about the video’s content.

The screencast portion of this video was recorded in Camtasia’s trial version, and I edited the entire video in the trial version of Camtasia, so the watermark is highly visible. I am evaluating this software to determine if it is something that I would like to purchase. So far, I’ve found the zooms easier to manage than in iMovie, but iMovie fully integrates the videos and photographs in my MAC’s Photos application. I may decide to purchase Camtasia for projects that require many post production zooms, although up until now all of my zooms have been done with my camera’s optical zoom.

These directions are for Apple’s Macintosh computers running MAC OS 10.11.6 (El Capitan). Other Apple operating systems have these functions, but they may look a little different. Below are the basic steps that I demonstrated in the video.

Screencast Introduction Transcript:

Hello! I’m Jeanne Stork. I teach in a computer lab for students with significant developmental delays due to severe autism or intellectual disabilities. My students use Macintosh computers, either iMac desktops or MacBook Air laptops. This is how I make some adjustments to make the computers easier for them to use.

            System Preferences: The system preferences are located under the apple in the upper left corner of the screen.

            Accessibility Preference:

Display: Shake Mouse (Some students play with shaking the mouse, but it helps students with attention and visual perception difficulties who often lose track of where the cursor is located on the screen.)

Audio: Play Stereo As Mono (for students who hear better with one ear than the other and would miss a stereo channel)

Increase Double Click speed (to reduce accidental double-clicking from my repetitive clickers)

Mouse:

I do not use wireless mice because many if my students pound the mouse. Wireless mice break easily.

I increase tracking speed to reduce the need to pick up and reposition the mouse.

I make the two major buttons the primary click (left-click) and turn off all other buttons because the vast majority of my students do not know how to click one button at a time or how to differentiate when to only left-click.

I turn off scrolling to further simplify the mouse for my students. The scroll function can also interfere with the educational software that I use.

My students enjoy playing with the mouse, so the more options that I can turn off the easier it is for them to complete their work.

Trackpad Preference:

Point and Click:

Turn off all options

Increase tracking speed

Scroll and Zoom:

Turn off all options

More Gestures:

Turn off all options

Screencast Conclusion Transcript:

As you saw, I spec up the mouse and trackpad so that the cursor moves fairly quickly and the mouse and trackpad don’t have to move all that much. This prevents students from hitting each other with the mouse as they are moving too far to the side, moving the mouse off the table as they are dragging the mouse toward them, or even dislocating the mouse from the wire if they get frustrated because they need that extra inch and the mouse just won’t move. With the trackpad, sometimes my students will actually move their finger off the pad onto the frame of the computer itself and wonder why nothing’s working. Well, of course nothing’s working, they’re not on the trackpad, but the students don’t understand that, especially in the beginning. As students progress, I can give them fewer adjustments, but I tend to keep the adjustments on just because it makes my life easier. I don’t have time between classes to readjust computers. But if necessary, I can always make individual adjustments. Feel free to explore and see what works best for you. Thank you.