Kids Programming Language

Unless you're a kid or teacher, you've probably not heard of the 'Kids Programming Language' (KPL).

KPL is not a Microsoft language like C# or VB, but a language Microsoft started to support and promote 'officially' last year after some Microsoft folks such as Scott Wiltamuth met with the KPL folks, Jonah Stagner, ex-Microsoft program manager Jon Schwartz and former NCR engineer Walt Morrison.

Since then, there have been a few KPL aticles on MSDN and now there's a Channel 9 video with Jon Schwartz demo'ing Kids Programming Language. Here's the KPL site.

Currently, the KPL IDE language translations include Chinese, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Romanian, Czechoslovakian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Greek and Catalan.

It's great to see this happening. Last year I read a paper submitted for Bill Gates' Think Week urging that we support KPL and loved the idea -

"The original catalyst for the development of language, Morrison said, was Stagner's desire to give his 10-year-old son and kids like him a worthwhile language with which to get started. "The idea for us was, let's get them going. Let's give them lots of examples of how games are written that are sound and audio and visually interesting to them, so they'll stay interested," Morrison said. "We think learning is best when learning is fun, that’s our most important reason for the game and sound approach in KPL."

Which language should kids use to learn programming concepts? It is a question that comes to mind for me as my 5 year old starts to grow up. Too young now, but not long. If he's interested, I'll support him, but which way to go? I learnt BASIC on my ZX81 at 11 or 12, but times have moved on.

I think Microsoft's interest in KPL is fairly obvious and transparent. Since the KPL code can directly translate into C# and VB.NET, it makes KPL an attractive proposition for Microsoft - it's a great way to get kids started on programming and then graduate to .NET programming using C# or VB.NET.


Tags: , , , ,

Comments (4)
  1. Ron McMahon says:

        I’ve downloaded KPL and have taken a look at it as a possible ‘first introduction’ language for my 8 year-old son.  Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that this language meets my perceived need.  It could be perhaps that what I am looking for just isn’t available anymore, or I simply have the wrong expectations vs. what the creators of KPL intended.

        I am a professional software developer, and I’ve been building applications since 1980 in a very wide variety of basic-derivatives.  (I even wrote small programs on my Atari VCS and its Basic Language cartridge – which was an even worse experience than working with my Sinclair ZX-81!)  My son is no stranger to computers either, as I bought him his first computer (an iMac) when he was 18 months old.  Although he is already learning about computers in school (grade 3), he has yet to do any programming at all.

        What I was hoping for in a children-focused language was something that would be more accessible to a pre-teen, an environment that would provide a quick win in regards to having something happen with minimal time spent programming (to begin with).  Although I’ve never actually used LOGO, what I read about it in the 1980s gave me an expectation about what a good children’s computer language should be like.  I expected KPL to provide a similar accessibility, and I don’t think that it does.  After trying KPL, I’ve been tempted to build a LOGO-like environment in VB (my development tool of choice) for my sons to give them an initial experience with computers – experiencing the computer obeying commands in an interactive and graphical way.  Or I could just go on eBay and pick up an old Atari 800 setup with LOGO and let them experience computers in an environment that isn’t so cluttered as modern languages have become.  

    I think that the primary focus of a children’s introduction computer language needs to be visually based with the ability to easily and quickly integrate sound, movement and graphics with a minimal language set.  The learning that a child needs to take away from a first experience with programming a computer should be ‘I can make that machine do what I want it to, and it was fun and easy!’  Perhaps what I seek is a CPL, a Children’s Programming Language….

  2. MSDNArchive says:

    Thanks Ron,

    I remember other kids at my school learning LOGO, but like you I never actually tried it out. I also haven’t tried out KPL myself, so I can’t really comment. but thanks for the feedback, am forwarding internally.


  3. Sjoerd Verweij says:

    Wow, it’s LOGOBASIC!


Comments are closed.

Skip to main content