With support from the National Science Foundation, Duke University computer scientist Susan Rodger and collaborators nationwide are using the power of storytelling to draw younger students into programming, Duke University reports. An animation program called "Alice," invented by the late Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon University, allows student programmers of all ages to create their own worlds without realizing they’re actually writing code. At Alice summer camps for middle-schoolers at Duke, "students were very engaged with Alice and were always asking for more time to work on their own worlds," Rodger reported at the March 2009 Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education in Chattanooga, Tenn. "After five or six hours of Alice each day, we still had difficulty getting them to stop, turn off their Alice worlds, and log off at the end of the day." Interestingly, those camps were "50 percent male and 50 percent female," she said. Attracting females is key to the future of computer science, Rodger says. In 2008, only 11.8 percent of U.S. bachelor’s degrees in computer science went to women, according to the Computing Research Association. And Duke’s showing is hardly better, said Rodger, who is trying to turn that around by making programming fun to learn…

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