I’ve demoed Kodu a number of times and I’ve showed it to individual children briefly as well. Last Saturday I did a workshop for kids at HacKid at the Microsoft office in Cambridge MA and that was different. I had about a baker’s dozen young people between about 8 and 12. About half girls and half boys. So quite a mix. We had some trouble getting came controllers to work on the borrowed laptops so were restricted to using keyboard and mouse. I wasn’t sure how that would go but it turns out kids are amazingly adaptable. In fact near the end of the 90 minutes when someone with admin rights got the controllers working kids moved over to them with no visible transition time. I guess controllers are something kids are good with.
There are a number of possible lessons in the Kodu classroom kit but the one I used was called Single Session Introduction Curriculum for PC and Xbox. The main thing we wanted to do in this session was show the students how to add and program objects in a virtual Kodu world. Specifically we wanted them to add a robot to go around and pick up and eat an apple. I figured that I would start with a demo – and I did. It went well but the kids were clearly itching to get started so the demo was not that long.
Then we went step by step though the first exercise. There were a few kids who needed a little help and we explored the “undo” function which is, as with most applications, a life saver. And then they were off and running.
In theory I had a second exercise but these kids were off and experimenting in directions I had not thought of. And it was a Saturday. And my classroom management skills for this age group (I taught this age group for one year about 15 years ago) are rusty so I let them go. I spent some time one on one helping when needed but largely just letting the kids show off what they had created. In a real class rather than one whose goal was just to get kids started and experimenting I would have reigned things in a little better of course. But since building excitement about the possibility of programing computers was this goal this seemed to actually work.
We did spend a little time near the end on creating and modifying the land mass of the virtual world. In all honesty most of the kids had figured that out on their own. At the end of the session some of the kids would have stayed. One boy said “this is the most fun. I could do this all day.” Many of the parents were promising their children that there would be a download when they got home. And at least one child was promised an Xbox controller for use with Kodu.
I came away even more convinced that Kodu is a great tool for getting kids excited about programming. And more things as well.