Kodu – bringing fun to learning in the classroom

Have you tried Kodu yet? If you’re one of the many who’s always looking for ways to take ICT learners further along the creative road that leads to programming then you should, because it’s designed to do exactly that. kudo

“…a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games – accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone.”

Microsoft Research

Kodu uses the Xbox 360 controller as its input device, and it’ll run on PC or Xbox too.

So how can you take this product into the classroom and use as a learning tool?  In a his recent blog post on the subject, Kristian Still, Assistant Headteacher at Hamble Community Sports College describes his own “in at the deep end approach” of taking fifteen young ICT enthusiasts from Years 8 to 10, giving them the kit and what he calls “No instructions, but an aspiration”.  In this case they were asked to create ‘’a game to collect apples to gain points to reach a target point score with ‘’something’’ getting in your way and be creative’’

Kristian saw his students use their initiative to come up with inventive ways to tackle what he describes as “A multitude of challenges; conceptual,  spatial, logic, mathematical, creative, narrative, a bucketful of problem solving resolved through exploration, trial and error, collaboration, teamwork and peer teaching.”

So, what happens when and if you want to roll Kodu out more generally?

This is currently under discussion at Hamble with he aim  to find a way of preserving the open-ended, creative appeal of Kodu while at the same time providing some kind of framework not only for the children who need it, but also for some of the teachers.

“Most staff would need something more rigid,” says Kristian. “We feel we could construct a six week course”.

Nicki Maddams, a Microsoft Evangelist and SSAT Lead ICT Practitioner, based at Hartsdown Technology College in Margate, Kent, see’s this as important and has developed a seven week scheme of work for developing Kodu with Year 8 students. “You have to have some sort of structure,” she says, in which more information can be found in her blog.

Nicki’s used the scheme in her own and other schools and finds that it works well. She’s hoping to roll it on into Year 9. Like Kristian, though, she finds there’s still a need to support teachers.

“I did a training session in my own school, and those teachers with no programming background struggled to understand the concepts.”

Teachers do need to make the time to come to terms with Kodu, she emphasises.

“Play with it, be familiar with it, have a go at home, familiarize yourself with the whole environment. Try recreating existing games like Pac-Man. That’s a good way to practise.”

Kodu is available for free download here.

On Twitter. @KristianStill and @GeekyNicki

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