Mediating Transfer with Alice – Bridging
By Eric Brown

The art of teaching for transfer, known as mediating transfer is an active research field. 

Perkins (Harvard Graduate School of Education; Forgarty, R.; Perkins, D.; & Barell, J. 1991. The Mindful School: How to Teach for Transfer. Palatine, IL: IRI/Skylight Publishing. ) and Salomon (University of Arizona: Salomon, G., & Perkins, D. 1988, September. Teaching for transfer. Educational Leadership, 22-32)  define two broad categories of techniques that teach for transfer. 

The first category is bridging, in which the teacher helps students build a bridge from the context in which a concept was learned into other potential contexts. Bridging can be software independent, and often involves analogy and story. 

The example problems that we use in class are for us fundamental in helping build the bridge for students from Alice to Java. This image shows an astronaut’s encounter with an alien as she explores the Mars landscape in the Alice IDE. Using this example we may may introduce a loop for the first time.

In this second image we see that we are working on exactly the same problem, but this time we are in the Java IDE (Netbeans), and we can now look at what a loop in Java looks like. Compare and contrast, seeing what is the same, (the execution of the story), and what is different, (the loop syntax).

In this way we are encouraging students to abstract the concept and recognize other contexts in which it may be applied, even if those other contexts may require or take a different form.

In the next post, I will try to show how the Alice 3 software attempts to implement the second category transfer techniques defined by Perkins and Salomon, hugging.