Eclipse IDE for Education

Dwight Deugo and I have been relatively quietly pounding away on a new “Eclipse IDE for Education” component in the SOC project (though I did blog about this a few posts back). The idea is to try and reduce some of the complexity faced by first time users of Eclipse who are in the process of being overwhelmed with classwork.

So far, most of the work has been on just getting things started. First, Dwight created the “JavaLite” environment which includes a new perspective, new view, and a couple of wizards that streamline the development process a bit. I’ve been spending a lot of time (too much, really) getting those pieces that we do have to build into a coherent update site and a downloadable package. In the process, I’ve come up with a few ideas about a common build infrastructure, but that’s a story for later…

I’ve been testing the Windows and Linux versions. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a Mac, so I can only hope that I didn’t screw that package up. Here’s a screen shot.

javalite.png

I think that we’ve managed a reasonable first cut, but there’s a lot more to do. For starters, I don’t like the name “JavaLite” (sorry Dwight); I prefer something more along the lines of “Assignment Explorer” (but I’m still not happy with that). Your comments are welcome on bug 244644. I’m also convinced that we can do more than just strip down the existing wizards; I think there’s a better paradigm and am looking forward to experimenting with this a bit. In the meantime, I’ve opened a bunch of other feature requests and bugs if you’re looking for something to do…

Dwight’s going to unleash this on his unsuspecting first-year students this term (he’s a professor at Carleton University). We’re going to carefully monitor their use of the environment and drive their feedback into evolving the IDE.

More information about the component, including download instructions are available on the component’s wiki page.

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3 Responses to Eclipse IDE for Education

  1. Ian Bull says:

    One of the goals for Gild (an old project with similar goals) was to create an environment to help educate students. For example, we didn’t want students to think you “play” programs. Instead, you write them, save them, compile them and launch them. Just like you would not give a 2nd grader a calculator to teach multiplication, we didn’t want to give them a full blown IDE to teach software development. Of course, once they “understand” the fundamentals, they could graduate to the full IDE.

    Is this something you are considering for JavaLite?

  2. Neil Bartlett says:

    The Mac OS package works, and it looks good.

    I think you probably need to build your own “New Java Project” wizard, because the existing JDT one is quite complex and it drops you into the normal Java perspective on completion rather than JavaLite. You could probably get away with just asking for the project name and defaulting everything else.

  3. Wayne Beaton says:

    Ian, we’re looking for input from GILD veterans. Our immediate plan is to provide a stepping-stone environment for students. In my conversations with students and professors, the concern is that the full-blown Eclipse is just too complex for first-timers. They want something to ease the students into it. I’d like to capture some of the use cases in bugzilla.

    Neil, thanks for testing the Mac version. I’ve created bug 246087 [1] to address what I think is the real problem with the wizard; correct me if I’m wrong.

    [1]https://bugs.eclipse.org/bugs/show_bug.cgi?id=246087

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