On day 2 of our investigation into useful tools for teaching Computer Science I would like to point out a web site that makes teaching several different aspects of Computer Science a breeze…CodeAcademy.com
The next item on my all-time list of favorite tools is a program (not software) created by Microsoft and labeled Imagine. This program, recently known as Dreamspark, provides professional grade coding tools and software to students for, basically, no charge. Where else can a high school student, learning to code, find a copy of Visual Studio Professional with a legal license, at no charge. The school or academy that uses the program pays a token fee of $99 per year and can make items like Visual Studio, SQL Server, and many other professional Microsoft tools available to their students at no cost to the student.
Well, that is day 2 of our top 10 list. Only 3 more days to go until completion. If you have questions about any of the programs or tools listed, OR if you would like to add your favorite application to the mix, please use the comment section below, and don’t forget to “like” and subscribe if this sort of topic seems worthwhile to you.
Thus far I have been concerned with reporting on programs for teachers and students to use in the education process. Now I am going to mention a pair of programs that work together with an energy much greater than the sum of their parts. The hardest part of game development is creating the assets to use in the game. The code syntax is fairly easy to master but creating the sprites or images to be used in the game as well as backgrounds and character design is tough. This package provides all the tools you need to completely design and build games that can be shared online or compiled into a desktop application. I’m talking Greenfoot and GIMP. Introducing GIMPFOOT. Both of these applications are portable. It is possible to create a game or simulation from start to finish with these applications installed on a flash drive. This is very convenient when one is unable to install applications on a PC or when using a public computer that is incapable of having software added.
Both of these applications are open source. They may be downloaded and distributed for free. This is a huge plus when starting up a development class because it is possible to put professional quality tools in the hands of students at no charge. In fact, given the cost of a flash drive, it is possible to provide students with multiple copies of the software, one for school and one to take home. The programs will run on just about any flavor of Windows and it is possible to build flash drives for Linux and Mac as well. All in all, this is a great way to get kids started developing for almost no investment.
This is not a perfect solution. While Greenfoot is easy and intuitive to learn, GIMP requires a bit of practice. It will, given appropriate training and effort, rival Photoshop in its capabilities. There are plenty of tutorials and training material available on the Internet to bring anyone, teacher or student, up to speed. Greenfoot may be downloaded from http://www.greenfoot.org While GIMP is available in portable format from Major Geeks. Both may be downloaded and install on any flashdrive and both take up no more than about 400 M of space. They will seem a bit slow to run the first time they are activated from the flash drive but will speed up considerably after that.