From 2005-2017 Professor Michael Kölling alongside Neil Brown, Davin McCall and Ian Utting developed Greenfoot. The goal of the software is to make programming enjoyable and satisfying for schoolchildren aged 13+ by enabling them to create animated projects and even simple computer games, whilst learning. Michael calls these interactive 2D scenarios ‘micro-worlds’.
Despite its initial simplicity, because Greenfoot uses Java (an almost universal programming language within computing), the system can be scaled up to suit the learning goals of more advanced students. This means that the software can easily be used in college and higher education, increasing the scope of its impact.
‘From the student’s perspective, the goal is to make programming engaging, creative and satisfying. From the teacher’s perspective, the goal is for the environment to actively help in teaching important, universal programming concepts.’ Michael Kölling, ‘The Greenfoot Programming Environment’, 2010.
My pupil was never a good student until I taught him Greenfoot.
The software has gained over 3.4 million users in more than 49 countries since August 2013. Greenfoot is also supported by its own YouTube channel with simple tutorial videos for users to follow, and the channel now has over 5000 subscribers.
Teachers can communicate on Greenfoot’s discussion forum ‘Greenroom’, to support one another in their teaching of the programme. Students themselves have multiple similar sites offering social interaction and enhancement in their learning, including The Greenfoot Gallery where scenarios can be published, rated, and commented on by other users.
One teacher from Sutton Grammar School noticed an overall increase in her student’s attitude to and engagement with learning after introducing Greenfoot to the curriculum. She commented on one student in particular:
‘My pupil was never a good student until I taught him Greenfoot. He got so inspired that he asked his parents to buy him the book, read the whole thing, and shot up to the very top of the year group in my subject with exam scores averaging 90%. He will be in my GCSE course next year, and I could not be more proud!’
Greenfoot is helping to bridge the gap between complete computing novices and programming professionals. By removing the complexity associated with programming, many more students can engage with and develop their computing skills, whilst having fun.
Further information is available at: School of Computing - Research - University of Kent