Squeak Etoys – Students Build Their Own Games In Four Days
9 May, 2008
The Software Architecture Group at the Hasso-Plattner-Institut (who have produced a great online Seaside tutorial and associated book) have recently been involved in using Etoys in the classroom. They kindly sent us this report about the experience of two of their members when introducing Squeak and Etoys to high school students.
Pupils of the “Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Gymnasium” (high school) in Potsdam, Germany learned about Etoys and the basic principles of programming in a four-day workshop. Under the supervision of two student tutors of the Software Architecture Group at the Hasso-Plattner-Institut (Robert Krahn and Michael Perscheid), the 14- to 16-year-old pupils have implemented their own ideas and games in very short time using Etoys. All of them had no or little prior experience with computers and programming.
On March 25, the workshop started with an introduction to the subject matter. The tutors introduced themselves and provided a first look at Squeak and Etoys. Afterwards, Robert and Michael presented brief tutorials in which the pupils participated. The first tutorial involved drawing a car and letting it drive along a road according to some small scripts. The second tutorial dealt with implementing the Lunar Lander game. For increased fun, the pupils were encouraged to be creative, resulting in a wide variety of car and rocket designs. In the course of implementing the car and lunar lander games, the pupils also faced the problems of adequately modelling physical phenomena, such as gravity, in which process they were guided by the tutors. At the end of the first day, all workshop participants had grown accustomed to the development environment and were well prepared for their own projects.
The second day started with a brief introduction to object orientation, which put the knowledge and experience gathered during the first day in a broader and theoretically founded context. Over the following two days, the pupils worked on their own Etoys projects. The tutors had given some hints as to what kinds of games could be implemented, but the pupils came up with ideas of their own as well. Many beautiful and creative results were produced. Robert and Michael were always available for individually attending to the pupils.
On the final day, participants were asked to present their projects in 10-minute short presentations. Michael gave a brief introduction to presentation techniques, so that the pupils were well prepared for this. Everyone proudly presented their achievements. Although none of the participants had prior knowledge in computer science, they achieved astounding results in short time. As a gift, all participants were given a CD containing all projects and the Etoys environment.
Michael Perscheid, Michael Haupt