What do we teach? How do we teach? Who do we teach? These three interrelated questions are not necessarily new, but are fundamental in terms of reshaping the teaching-learning process in order to accomplish the educational needs of a digital native society. Current solutions rely on merging traditional ways of teaching with modern approaches such as e-Learning, interactive teaching, open-ended questions, collaborative team-work, professional challenges and competitions in order to require student's brainpower. The concept of learning by doing is extended to learning by gaming.
The main goal of this paper is to propose a solution to a fundamental problem in Computer Engineering Education: attracting students, capturing the interest and retaining them in order to acquire a profession in this area. Specifically, students will learn the fundamental concepts of procedural and object-oriented programming in Java by developing games in Alice 3.0 - a 3D interactive animation environment which uses text-based programming in order to create visual programming blocks. Based on advanced hardware-software technologies, our game represents a pleasant learning alternative to the traditional education system. Although it is suitable for beginner learners of any age greater than 8, this software application may be especially engaging for girls. The software application is free, easy to extend, and additionally, being built as a game, develops specific skills such as ambition, desire to win, strategic thinking, motivation and perseverance in order to improve player's performance, understanding the solving methods and the joy of discovering new things.
The usefulness of this paper is twofold: first, for teachers who, starting from the John C. Dana quote's "who dares to teach must never cease to learn", will be able to implement new teaching methods, applying thus the concept of lifelong learning in their didactic, scientific and pedagogic activity; second, for students, who can become active in the learning process by creating interactive educational games.