User Comments

From: Richard BronoskyPosted on: MacOSXHints
For those of you trying to learn Java, I have to recommend Jurtle. I am an expert PHP developer, but making the transition to Java was very intimidating. I had tried to learn it several times dating back to before I was a Mac user. Although I use OOP in PHP, I just couldn't grasp it. Having to know what libraries to import and such was always just too much for me. But I finally forced myself to go through the lessons in Jurtle, and I'm very pleased with the result.
From: John Kilkilis, Austin Waldorf SchoolPosted on: JavaLobby Forum
I've seen the references to Turtle graphics and Logo in this thread. I teach introductory programming classes to 10th graders, a great majority of whom aren't the programming type if you know what I mean.
I was thinking of moving to Python to teach my students until I came across a very approachable Java learning environment called "Jurtle". I've been using it in a required Intro to Programming class for the past two years with great success. It's a very simple IDE that doesn't get in the way of a student's curiosity. Technical students can work with any environment, but I had to find something that would interest people who would otherwise never choose to take a programming class and not scare them away.
Jurtle provides an abstract Turtle glass which has 50 or so methods which can be used to draw various figures in the display area. You're also spared from telling your students to ignore that "public static void main..." thing for a while. They just create a method called "runTurtle" and that's it. If you want them to graduate to use a main method, it supports that as well. You don't have to use anything but the Turtle class' methods to learn quite a bit about programming and about Java. It's also multi-threaded so you can have many Turtles active at the same time.
The students can get a handle to Jurtle's display area and add buttons and fields when they're ready to start using parts of the Java API. My students are creating Turtle subclasses with additional capabilities and which override various Turtle methods, such as rendering the veritable turtle object. I'd like them to use the Jurtle's built-in JavaDoc facility so they can learn to use each other's classes solely from the Javadoc comments that their peers provided in their code. This semester I'm also going to have them upload their classes to a shared network volume so they can get familiar with team programming. If I can squeeze it in, I'm hoping to integrate the use of JUnit so they can try to defend against and break each other's code, which I'm sure they'll enjoy.
Jurtle is written in Java. It comes with several Java lessons with corresponding code, and it allows teachers to build in their own lessons as well. I've just burned CDs for my students, so they can install it at home. I want to give them an alternative to mindless gaming, chatting, and surfing. It's shareware and reasonably priced at $15. The demo is fully usable for 10 minutes per invocation. I'm hoping parents are willing to part with $15 especially considering how much they've probably forked out for games and other amusements. Jurtle also allows for network savvy concurrent licenses for installation on several computers in computer labs.
The developer is very responsive and has included my students' feedback on many an occasion. I highly recommend it to any teacher who's working with students with a wide variety of strengths, inklings and interests. I tried BlueJ my first semester of teaching programming, but it didn't have the appeal of Jurtle. I've been having my kids jump out of their seat as if they've just won the world series when they got something working. In this manner I'm hoping I'll be able to light a fire under some who would otherwise run as far away from programming as possible.
John Kirkilis