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On a New Road

Greenfoot rocks!Friday July 15, 2011
I've been talking about BlueJ and Greenfoot for years. They're tools for teaching people to program who have never programmed before. BlueJ is a special-purpose IDE that's all about teaching. Greenfoot is a collection of scenarios layered on BlueJ that provide the framework for assignments based on simulations and games. They each have books (bluej and greenfoot) that are designed for classroom or independent use.

It's summer and one of the items on my to-do list has been to teach my youngest daughter how to program. I was planning to spend some time in the evenings with her. But before I could get started, my wife handed her a copy of the greenfoot book and my daughter started reading. While I was off at work she downloaded and installed the IDE and started using the book the way it was intended: reading it cover-to-cover doing the exercises as they came along. I've helped her a couple of times when she got stuck, but mostly she's just plowed ahead on her own and is having a great time. The exercises are all very visual and engaging. Greenfoot makes it fun to learn programming. It starts out with very logo-ish exercises (moving a wombat around via method calls to find food), then automating the characters so that they can find their own food, and progressing to a variety of video games. The scenarios really absorb kids.

Thanks to everyone on the GreenFoot team!! You've made a difference in at least one young girl's life.

Comments:

I have a 4 year old daughter. I started programming in Atari Basic in 1988(i was 8) i found it difficult and challenging. I was wondering how young is to young to teach programming? Should I try and teach her now?

Posted by Nathan Evans on July 15, 2011 at 11:23 AM PDT #

Good lord, they want $65 for that book on amazon! Is it printed on gold leaf?

Posted by Lee on July 16, 2011 at 07:34 PM PDT #

You are good man James.

Posted by Software development perth on July 16, 2011 at 11:50 PM PDT #

Thanks for the kind words James. It's always good to hear about successes! If you want more ideas for things to do, you could join our teacher's community: the Greenroom (there's a link on the Greenfoot front page). It's mainly for teachers in formal situations, but we're always keen to see home-schoolers there. We keep students out so that teachers can discuss solutions to quizzes and exercises without ruining them! @Lee: There's tutorial material on the Greenfoot website and videos on YouTube. All free. But we have little control over publishers :-(

Posted by Ian Utting (Greenfoot team) on July 18, 2011 at 04:10 AM PDT #

Hello, have a look to Squeak: http://squeak.org/ or EToys: http://www.squeakland.org/ Squeak is a pure OO virtual environment suited for teaching children to program computers. Why reinvent the wheel? Best regards, Dan.

Posted by Dan Corneanu on July 18, 2011 at 06:40 AM PDT #

'Why reinvent the wheel?' What an odd thing to ask. Different wheels do different jobs and are good at different things. Different wheels suit different people for different reasons. The Greenfoot wheel has been fitted with 2-D Java bearings so that it doesn't squeak anymore ;)

Posted by Clive on July 19, 2011 at 12:13 AM PDT #

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