Greenfoot part 2

turtle game with snakes and lettuces

Turtle game with snakes and lettuces

I’m still progressing with the Greenfoot videos, and my turtle game has now developed to the point where I control the turtle who eats the lettuces, while the snakes move randomly around and eat the turtle.

The code is still straightforward, although I’m already using constructs like If statements, sensing keyboard input, generating random numbers and moving my code into functions called from the Act method rather than writing a very long Act method – I like the way that good code practice is encouraged from the start.  In the same way, documentation via comments is encouraged.

Turtle code stage 2

Turtle code stage 2

Greenfoot definitely has a more grown-up feel than most of the other things I’ve looked at so far, while still being game-based.  The game so far is already open to many variations, both in graphics and in behaviour, even at this early stage.

What I’ll be interested to see is the point where the code can be used more generally; the GCSE syllabus covers many of the basic code constructs, but not generally to use them in a games context.  Indeed, for most of the assessment tasks a GUI is not necessary, and they could be built to use a console.  If Greenfoot gets easily to the point where it can be used for more procedural stuff as well, then it would be a good choice, but if that’s a direction it doesn’t move in very easily, then my impression is that it would be difficult to use it at GCSE level (although of course Java itself could easily be used, I would imagine).  For a computer club, however, it would be great.  And here we come to the argument between teaching things that are useful and/or interesting and things that will get a qualification!

Michael Kölling also has teacher commentary videos on his site, giving tips and advice to teachers who are introducing the concepts to their students, and these have some very good ideas.  I think at this stage the problem can be to keep students focused on what they can do, and developing and practising that, rather than thinking about what they would like to do, and attempting things they’re not up to yet.

Indeed, that’s my problem at the moment as well, in all these different programs!

Michael does make a point of showing how to access the documentation of a class as he goes through his tutorials, emphasising that it’s more important to know how to find information that you need than to actually have it in your memory.  I thoroughly agree with that principle: learning how to learn is the most important skill that someone can learn, because once they know the key to that, they can do anything else with it.



About emmyleigh
Writer/editor/proofreader who loves technology

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