The tools below are what we use in Technocamps to get young people enthused about computing. So far our feedback has been really positive. For ideas on how to incorporate these into the classroom please go to: http://www.technocamps.com/resources . Do you use other tools? I would love to hear about them. Feel free to comment below.
Scratch is aimed at 9-11 year old students, although we also use it for 12-14 year olds. Scratch is a fun program to teach. Its drag and drop and does not expose the user to errors. It does not take much to get things happening. E.g. getting a cat to move forward 10 steps is a case of using two drag and drop boxes and pressing start. This is great for younger pupils who are impatient and looking for results straight away. It is free to download and does not take too long to learn. For my experiences on teaching scratch click here.
Alice is very different to Scratch, in that the application deals with concepts such as objects, methods and properties and relies on the user being able to think ‘independently’. It is a drag and drop program, so it’s a good follow on from Scratch. The approach we have used to teach Alice is by getting participants to go through the Alice tutorials before getting them to make their own 3D animation. This is an excellent way of getting participants to get to grips with its concepts and the vocabulary involved in object-orientated design. It is satisfying when 15 year olds are leaving the room discussing objects and methods! Again this is free to download and it helps with concepts. For my experience on teaching Alice, click here.
Greenfoot teaches object orientated design using Java. It is recommended that this is taught to students who have had prior programming experience and/or doing A-level / A/S Level computing. They allow users to create ‘actors’ which are in ‘worlds’ to make games, animations and simulations. Its interactive and interaction tools are built into the Greenfoot environment. Unlike the two above, this introduces students to common syntax errors and is a lot more real than the other two.