One of my projects this month is looking into tools I might use in a very-introductory course organized around the theme of games. I’m still circling in on the exact set of capabilities I’m looking for, but since one goal of the course is to warm people up for a more intense Java programming course, exposing them to simple programming in a visual manner is appealing.
One possibility is Blocky from Google. Web-based drag-and-drop programming where constructs are puzzle pieces. The maze demo gives a nice starting point for thinking about solving problems, using ifs and loops, debugging, etc. You could make a nice little one hour “so you want to know what it’s like to program” activity just out of that. I’m less clear on how easy it would be to go a step further and use it extensively though.
Next up – playing around with GameSalad.