Some Free February Appy-ness with a new piece of free software for teachers from Microsoft every day in February. Many of these items are unknown heroes, but they all share two things in common: 1) They are useful for teachers or students and 2) they are free.
Kodu lets students create games on the PC and XBox via a simple visual programming language. It can be used to teach creativity, problem solving, storytelling, as well as programming. Any student can use Kodu to make a game, from approximately Year 3 upwards , and they can start with no design or programming skills. The programming environment for Kodu runs on both PC and Xbox, and you can programme with either a standard PC mouse and keyboard, or an Xbox controller (which can be connected to the PC).
It’s a great way to get students hooked on the processes of coding, without making it too daunting in the beginning!
Create a programmatic game quickly and easily
Kodu is a rich tool for narrative creation and storytelling, which demonstrates that programming is a creative medium. It helps children with critical thinking, breaking a complex goal into manageable steps, and iterate on the design process – an approach applicable to all academic subjects, business and personal relationships. By introducing the logic and problem solving of programming, Kodu introduces conditions and sequences, which teaches cause and effect. Whilst using it, students learn about cooperation, logic and creativity in addition to programming
The impact of Kodu in the Australian classroom
In 2010 DEECD in Victoria produced a report on the use of Kodu in a pilot program in their schools, which looked at classroom relevance, teaching practices and the impact on student learning. In it, teachers frequently reported that it was especially powerful in engaging disengaged, low achieving students. Here’s a paragraph from page 8 of the report:
In a relatively small country based school, for example, a Year 3 student, who was totally disengaged and ‘could not stay on task for more than 5 minutes’ became a key member of the ‘expert team’ selected from across Year 3 to 6. The role of this team was to support teachers and students in the classroom as they worked on Kodu. The team spent additional time learning how to use Kodu and dealing with any associated technical issues where needed. During these times this student was sharing ideas and problem solving and, when faced with difficult problems, he showed remarkably high levels of persistence until he found the solution. He was also developing video tutorials, by directly recording his explanation for solving a problem, and worked effectively in the classrooms when needed, teaching and assisting both students and teachers across all year levels. In another school, a student who found it very difficult to pay attention in class and was regarded as ‘a behaviour problem’ was give the controller for Kodu, without any instructions, and within 10 minutes had created a game. The teacher was amazed at this most incredible turnaround, highlighting the need to relook at the learning experiences she needed to use with him in the future.
I’d recommend reading the DEECD report to see the impact they reported in the classroom: “The impact of web 2.0 technologies in the classroom - KnowledgeBank: Next Generation research report - Kodu excerpt”
Where can I find out how to use it?
The Kodu classroom kit for teachers is a set of lesson plans and activities for teachers, after-school instructors, parents, peer mentors and administrators. The entire kit is available as a single zip file for download here or as single lesson plans available below:
- Getting Started with Kodu: Keyboard and Mouse
- Getting started with Kodu: Xbox Controller
- Single Session Introduction Curriculum for PC and Xbox
- Kodu Curriculum: Keyboard and Mouse
- Kodu Curriculum: Xbox Controller
- Kodu Math Module Curriculum
I’d also commend Kodudes, just one of many teacher blogs about Kodu that you’ll find on the web.
Where do I get Kodu from?
Get the download from Kodu Game Lab, as well as being able to join the teacher discussion forum and download other people’s Kodu game worlds that have been shared.