I have been working with my sons’ elementary school classes for the last 3 years and have taught both classes how to write basic programs in Scratch. They can all use loops, ifs, variables, and lists to make games and class projects. It was cool to see many of them use Scratch to create their end of year projects last year. I am positive that many of the students in these classes will consider a career in Computer Science as they all feel very confident about the subject. Having working on numerous math concepts with my sons, I also feel these students now view mathematics in a totally different way after learning Computer Science concepts at an early age. Working with students when they are in the early grades is very important as it helps to reach them before they develop any bias towards a subject often perceived as difficult.
I really like using Jeroo in my AP CS A class to start the year. I have quite a few students that show up after having taken an intro class, but I also have quite a few that are brand new to CS. I use Scratch and Jeroo early in AP CS A to level the playing field. These environments are pretty light-weight and allow new students to pick up important vocabulary and concepts easily.
Images provided by Joe “Subway” Finklestein.
I use Jeroo to teach many important concepts, including repetition, decision-making, Boolean logic, modularity, and recursion before moving into pure Java. This approach of teaching the core concepts before using pure Java really allows me to compress the front-end of the year. While in Jeroo, students master object instantiation, method-calls, and all of the basic Java syntax they will use all year long. All the while, students are having fun trying to make a fake Kangaroo avoid death, make friends, and occasionally fall in love.
I try to present interesting challenges and problems all year long, having students formulate solutions to each challenge. Students learn concepts as they need them based on the problems and challenges presented. This works really well and makes the learning more meaningful as there is clear purpose presented for learning certain things. I like to refer to this approach as problem-centered learning. The problem is always at the center and the concepts are added to the solution as needed.
A new version of Jeroo was just released so go check it out!