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Greenfoot 2.0
06 Aug 2010

This month we will be releasing Greenfoot 2.0, a major new version of the software with many new improvements. You can find more information and leave comments in the post in the discussion forum.

We would be interested in your thoughts, and look forward to sharing the software with you soon.

Using your Gamepad with Greenfoot
21 Jul 2010

Looking for additional ideas to make Greenfoot programming more interesting? How about connecting your game console controller to your Greenfoot game…

We have created a library that allows you to work with your game controller from within Greenfoot. Just plug your USB connected gamepad into your Mac or PC, use the GamePad class in Greenfoot, and off you go.

This should work with a variety of devices, including PS2 and Xbox 360 controllers and others of similar design.

Details about how to do this are here on the Greenfoot web site. This page provides a detailed description, including sample programs and a template to get you started quickly.

This work was done by Joseph Lenton.

Greenfoot book in German
07 Jun 2010

The German translation of the Greenfoot book is nearing completion. This should be good news for young learners in Germany, for whom reading English is often a big stumbling block.

The German translation of the book has just been announced in Pearson’s website.

The original Greenfoot book has been translated to German for Pearson Studium, the German branch of Pearson Education, by Carsten Schulte, a long-standing member here in the Greenroom.

It is scheduled for publication around the end of June.

I haven’t held the book in my hands yet, but from what we can see on the website it’s beautifully produced. It has been set and printed in full colour, with coloured syntax highlighting in source code and high quality illustrations.

The Pearson website offers a sample chapter (“Probelesen”) for those who’d like to have a look.

Happy Birthday
31 May 2010

Happy Birthday, Greenfoot! Today, Greenfoot turns four. Greenfoot 1.0 was released on 31 May 2006.

Yes, Greenfoot is really four years old already. If you are interested in its history, there is an online Version History to look at, that shows the dates of all past releases.

So, let’s raise a glass and have a quick drink to a bright future. May thousands more kids discover the joy of programming through Greenfoot and other systems in similar spirit!

A Preview of Things to Come
07 May 2010

Major improvements are on the way for the Greenfoot editor. Code completion, faster navigation, scope highlighting, and more. The official release is still some time off – find out how you can get a preview at the new features already.

Several interesting new features are about to come to the Greenfoot editor. They include:

  • Code completion. Hit Ctrl-Space to see a list of all methods callable at the point, complete with a full signature and comments.

  • Scope highlighting. A novel technique using background colour to highlight scopes as represented by curly brackets. This makes mismatched brackets easier to spot.

  • Auto-indent. An auto-indentation function that lays out the code how it should be. And suddenly debugging your student’s class becomes much easier…

  • Navigation view. A new display area showing a miniature version of your source code for fast navigation.

  • Find and replace. A much improved find and replace function.

  • Many other improvements. A list of other small improvements: Right-click menu, better word selection, and many others.

The changes are not yet available in Greenfoot, but those curious enough can already get a preview at them. Greenfoot shares source code with BlueJ - the editor is one major component that is common to both systems. And BlueJ will be released soon.

Preview 1 of the new BlueJ 3.0 is available now, with Preview 2 expected very soon now. Download it and take it for a test drive, and you will see exactly what to expect from the next Greenfoot editor.

Any feedback you can provide is welcome. And remember: feedback on the BlueJ editor will also directly improve Greenfoot.

Apart from editor improvements, Greenfoot 2 will also include an improved sound API, some integration with graphics editing programs, an option to interactively build and save the initial state of the world, and some other improvements and bug fixes.

A release date has not yet been set, but a release in July or August is likely.

The T-Shirt Giveaway Continues
22 Apr 2010

During April, anyone that creates a new resource will get a free Greenfoot T-Shirt (Large or Extra Large) sent to them. So if you have some material that might make a good resource, even if it’s not polished, why not upload it before the end of April and grab a T-Shirt?

More details are available in a discussion post.

Greenfoot webinar with Michael Kölling
26 Apr 2010

From Monday, 19th April, to Monday, 26th April, a series of three public webinars starts in which Michael Kölling will present aspects of teaching with Greenfoot. The webinars are open to the public, and everyone with a web browser can participate.

Organised by Thomas Cooper and Barbara Ericson, in a cooperation of the GA Tech ICE Program and The Walker School of Marietta, GA, the three webinars will start with an introduction to teaching with Greenfoot, and continue with some more specific issues, possibly brought up through questions and comments by participants.

The events will be hosted on the ‘Elluminate’ platform, a system running in a web browser which allows participants to interact with presenters by following the presentation, asking questions and making comments.

The three parts of the presentation are scheduled for:

Monday, April 19,
Wednesday, April 21, and
Monday, April 26

They will take place live on each of those days at 19:00 GMT. To help with time zone conversions, here are some hints how this translates to some local times:

  • UK: 8 pm
  • rest of Western Europe (Germany, France, etc): 21:00
  • EDT (Eastern Daylight Time, USA East coast): 3 pm
  • CDT (Central Daylight Time, eg. Chicago): 2 pm
  • PDT (Pacific Daylight Time, USA West coast): 12 noon
  • Australia East coast (Sydney, Melbourne): 5 am next day (sorry)

The event will last one hour. It will also be recorded, and the recordings will be made available later for those who could not join the live session.

If you are interested in participating, you can register for the event here.

Then, at the right time, go to

https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2009238&password=M.B66DCFFCF381C2569130E6A5FCD7AF

to join the presentation.

The three scheduled webinars are a start of a longer series of Greenfoot presentations that Thomas plans to organise in the future (see his announcement and call for participation here). If you are willing to do a presentation later in this series, please contact Thomas at Thomas.Cooper@thewalkerschool.org.

John Chapman - Videos
31 Mar 2010

One of the more sophisticated media formats–video–is being used in the resources uploaded by John Chapman. John has produced three videos that accompany the first few chapters of the Greenfoot textbook.

The first resource is titled Introduction to Chapter 1…the wombat world. It provides a video that uses the Wombat scenario, and elaborates on Chapter 1 of the Greenfoot book. The second video is available under the title Create new world and use elementary Actor methods and provides an excellent introduction to some of the important Actor API methods.

With more than 25 years of experience, John is an experienced teacher. Officially retired now, he still works for the Johnson County Community College, Kansas City, where he team-teachers an online Computer Science course with a colleague. He currently uses Greenfoot in the second half of the semester of that course, following Alice at the beginning. John says: “We are having a lot of fun with Greenfoot. It’s a very creative creation. I love it.”

John and his colleague are currently developing material for this course, and he has just uploaded his third video in the series, with the self explanatory title Video…Chapter 2. He plans to upload further resources over the coming semester as they become available. So look forward to more instructional videos in the future!

The Great Easter T-Shirt Giveaway
29 Mar 2010

This Easter, we’re planning to give away some Greenfoot T-shirts. Anyone who creates a new resource between now and the end of April will receive a Greenfoot T-shirt, mailed to wherever they are in the world. Now is the chance for you to upload that worksheet you had lying around, and get a free T-shirt into the bargain.

The resource should have some content (no resources entitled “Give me a T-shirt”, please!), but in accordance with the Greenroom philosophy, we’re not worried about the initial quality.

The only bad news is that Greenfoot HQ is running short on some sizes – in particular, we’re all out of medium T-shirts! So unfortunately your choice will be between Large and Extra-Large. But it’s free – so create a resource and claim yours. (Maximum one T-shirt per person, while stocks last.)

Cormac McClean - Frogger exercise
25 Mar 2010

Software Development lecturer and Free/Open Source Software advocate Cormac McClean uses Greenfoot as a second semester topic to illustrate inheritance and polymorphism. He posted his “Frogger” exercise, based on a classic 1980s arcade game, to the Greenroom in the first week of the room opening.

Cormac teaches Software Development (with Java) and Linux System Administration in Athlone Institute of Technology, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, where he has been working for 11 years. A couple of years ago, he came across Greenfoot and has since incorporated it into his course (which also uses BlueJ).

Greenfoot is being used in the second semester, when inheritance and polymorphism are important topics of discussion, to provide illustrations and examples of these fundamental concepts. Cormac says: “I think it’s a useful tool for discussing inheritance and also provides students with programming practice in a very interesting and rewarding environment. I wouldn’t like to try to teach Java from scratch with it, though.”

His students start their work with Greenfoot by working with the introductory tutorials, then move on to other workshop type exercises, and finally create scenarios from scratch.

His Frogger exercise is based on a famous 1981 arcade game that many people of our generation will know. It has the advantage of being a fairly simple implementation that can result in a fully playable game. Cormac adds: “I prefer to get students to create scenarios from scratch, rather than working with a semi-completed scenario.”

The resource description also contains some suggestions for extensions.

250 members and counting
23 Mar 2010

Three weeks after opening, the number of people subscribed to the Greenroom has grown to 250. This is a much faster growth than we had anticipated.

When we opened the Greenroom on 1st of March, we hoped that enough people would sign up in the first month that we won’t feel completely alone here. Six people here in the room are on the Greenroom and Greenfoot development team, and we thought it might be nice if we were not in the majority. Our greatest fear was that you could feel a cold wind blow through the room, with tumble weed slowly blowing down the hall.

We need not have feared.

Now, three weeks after the opening of the new Greenroom, we have grown to 250 members. That’s much faster growth than we had expected, and we are excited to see so many of you here.

Before the opening of the Greenroom, there was the Greenroom Google group - our first attempt at supporting Greenfoot teachers. That group existed for about six months, and at the end had about 170 members. Of those, about 70 have migrated over here into the new Greenroom.

Why the growth of membership in the new Greenroom is so much faster than in the old one, I don’t know. I can only speculate–wider announcements? better resources?–but really, your guess is as good as mine.

Of the 250 current members, 40% have marked their location on the map and about a quarter have added an image to their profile. If you haven’t done so, I would very much encourage you to do so.

Adding a picture makes discussion feel a lot more personal. It is much nicer to talk to a group of people where one has a (however vague and skewed) feeling for who they are, than talking into a black hole.

Adding your location on the map gives everyone a very useful feel for the geographical distribution of our community. It is very interesting to see where people are. And it’s easy to do. The geographic location may have increased importance in future - we are currently discussing how we can support local Greenfoot activities (such as workshops) and would then add information about local events to the map. Location of members may be used to see where to set something up, and may help you find events close to you.

Even though we are live now, development of the Greenroom is not finished. Most importantly, we are looking into better search functionality and better ways to present and relate resources.

However, to present resources, we first need to have them. And that’s where you come in! A good number of resources have already been submitted, but more is always good. Discussions are fairly quiet at the moment, so if you have questions or comments–feel free to jump in.

Now that we are all here, the question is: How can we create useful interactions between people? What can we do to encourage people to participate in discussions and resource creation? (Any ideas, head over to the discussion section and tell us!)

But first, for now: Thanks for joining us, and I hope we can turn the current momentum into something useful.

Thomas Cooper - Lecture Slides
15 Mar 2010

Thomas Cooper is the Technology Department Chair at The Walker School in Marietta, GA. He has been teaching programming with Greenfoot for one semester. Over the past six months, he has created teaching slides to go with the Greenfoot book, and now started to upload these to the Greenroom.

In his sequence of programming classes, Greenfoot is used in the intermediate class, after a semester of Python and robotics, and before AP CS. Thomas said “I’m adding AP CS next year and plan on using Greenfoot for a couple of advanced projects, such as creating a synthesizer from the piano project. This project will have a number of instrument buttons that will allow the user to toggle between sets of notes for violin, trumpet and other instruments, which were recorded by Walker band students. I have a few advanced math students in the class and they love exploring the abstract classes, such as the Vector and Movement classes.”

Thomas’s slides step through each item in the book and also give solutions to many of the extensions and challenges provided at the end of the chapters, plus some others he has developed in his own classroom.

So far, the following two slide sets are available in the resource section: the Leaves and Wombats Teacher Slide Presentation and the Piano Simulation Teacher Slide Presentation, with more to follow soon. These slides are among the most useful resources uploaded in the first couple of weeks of the Greenroom being opened, and we expect they will be very popular with many other teachers.

Thomas teaches Introduction to Computer Science (Python), Games and Simulations (Java), Robotics (NXT Tetrix), AP Computer Science, and AP Environmental Science. He enjoys camping, hiking, caving, kayaking and rafting with his dog Ginger.

CS Unplugged and Greenfoot
08 Mar 2010

Joe Lenton is a student at the University of Kent who recently developed CS Unplugged-Greenfoot crossover material. CS Unplugged, a great project coordinated at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, has been teaching computer science to school kids around the world for many years now. And without computers! Now we have material that allows you to continue the Unplugged activities into Greenfoot.

CS Unplugged is a fantastic project to bring computer science to kids in exciting ways. It’s clearly one of the best methods to get kids of all ages and all backgrounds interested in computing concepts, and have them begging for more at the end of it. If you have not seen it - check it out.

The CS Unplugged project is run by Tim Bell from the University of Canterbury. (Incidentally, Greenfoot is also placed in Canterbury, but that’s Canterbury, UK. Tim is in Canterbury, New Zealand. Pure coincidence, but kind of funny.)

CS Unplugged is one of the most successful efforts of this kind, and immensely popular. It has been going for many years, and the resources on its web site are impressive.

Joe Lenton has now taken some of the CS Unplugged activities and turned them into Greenfoot scenarios. The goal is to give those kids who get inspired enough by the CS Unplugged activities that they want to go on and do more a chance to stretch themselves, and try out the same concepts on real hardware.

The next step after the Unplugged activity is usually a Greenfoot scenario that lets users play with a finished project which visualises the same concepts as the kinetic activity. Some activities then go a step further and provide worksheets where students can then get their hands dirty and do some real programming. This is when is gets a lot more challenging.

The activities currently available are

Sorting Network
Binary Numbers
Fax Machine
Treasure Island

Who knows–if this works well, maybe someone will be inspired enough to make some more from some of the many other Unplugged activities.

Greenfoot at SIGCSE 2010
04 Mar 2010

At the SIGCSE 2010 conference in Milwaukee (March 10-13) there will be several presentations and discussions featuring Greenfoot, including a workshop and a lunch event. Get a talk about Greenfoot, a free lunch (yes: that really said free lunch!) and other goodies, and chat to the Greenfoot team. Join us there if you can make it.

The SIGCSE Conference starts again next week, this time on March 10 in Milwaukee. At the conference, there will be three events involving Greenfoot: A panel session comparing Alice, Scratch and Greenfoot (jointly with John Maloney from the Scratch team and Steve Cooper from the Alice team) on Thursday, a workshop on Friday evening and a Greenfoot Lunch on Friday.

The lunch will be free for however many people we can fit into the room (probably about 80 or so), and will include (apart from food and some give-aways) a couple of presentations about Greenfoot and a chance to talk to us, comment and ask questions.

A detailed programme is here.

So, if you have the chance to be at SIGCSE this year, make sure to come and find us and talk to us.

The room is open!
25 Feb 2010

We have talked about it for over a year, worked on it for months, and it’s finally here: The new Greenroom has opened its doors. Welcome!

If you are here for the first time, please have a look around. We hope that most things work as intended, but we are aware of a few areas still in progress. As you will have heard before, the main aim here is to support discussion, connect people, and develop and share resources.

Neil Brown and Phil Stevens (pictured) are the two developers behind the new Greenroom implementation. They have done a great job getting us as far as we have. However, I am sure there will be some glitches and hopefully ideas for improvements from some of you. Please tell us if you have any thoughts. You can do that by starting a discussion here in the Greenroom, or by mailing us offline here.

We already have a list of ideas for future extensions of this room, but where this eventually goes will hopefully be driven by input from many of you.

But for now, join in the fun, have a conversation, browse the (currently small number of) resources, help us make this site meaningful, let us know what you think and - most importantly - raise your glass to celebrate the official opening of the Greenroom.

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