Programming Windows

Easy Coding for Kids With Microsoft’s Kodu

Gavin Phillips 24-02-2015

Get your kids coding 10 Tools To Get Kids Excited About Programming For the average kid, computers and smartphones are fun tools. Education comes much later. Getting a kid excited about programming might take some doing because logic needs a bit of time to develop. It is... Read More . Do it now. Our digitised society cries out for coding excellence to maintain the rapid technological advances we have become accustomed to. Without the unseen brilliance of programmers around the world, many of our favourite technologies wouldn’t be with us today. I mean, imagine a world without the Internet. It’s tough, I know.

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Kids on Computer

The focus has shifted in recent years. Governments realise that their technological ambitions can only be matched by the talent pool on offer. With major multinational corporations scooping up the best and brightest, shifting the emphasis back into their own education systems is a logical transition.

Microsoft’s Kodu GameLab Encourages Kids to Code

Microsoft hasn’t shied away from the challenge, either. Their Kodu GameLab is aimed squarely at encouraging children to engage with coding through a sandbox gamelab with numerous textures, sprites, terraforming, pathfinding and logic trees.

I’m using the PC version, which is a direct Xbox port. It is also still the in open beta phase so some of the controls are a little clunky, and many of the dialogue boxes still feature the ABXY controller commands.

Microsoft have constructed their visual programming tool Learn to Program in Processing: A Language for Visual Designers The 21st Century is open to creativity through digital means and programming. Would you be surprised to learn that there is a programming language out there designed for the artist in you? Read More as a cursory access to coding patterns. Anyone can rapidly terraform a small world, apply a few objects, set a custom path using nodes and a win criteria. I managed it in a few minutes, despite the somewhat irritating controls – zooming in and out, moving the screen, altering object sizes, object rotation, and all other functions are completed using the mouse.

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Kodu MUO Test World

I mean, it makes perfect sense for children, but as an adult, you can feel the Xbox port burdening the system. Perhaps kids used to the Xbox version would notice the PC port shortcomings, too?

An Aesthetic to Please?

The main feature of Kodu is its visually appealing nature. Children never entirely engage directly with code itself, but rather place and instruct objects using WHEN/DO arguments with multiple selectors such as:

Hear – Rover – Shoot – Missile

Or

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Its simplicity makes it engaging, as does its sensory programming features within the simulation environment. It isn’t designed to introduce children to the core of programming 5 Technology Skills You Should Actively Encourage Children To Take Up Crayon drawings still have their place, but technology is no longer only the future. Tomorrow's world is today.Which are the creative technology tasks we should encourage children to take up? Maybe, these five... Read More languages, or key conventions such as variables, branching, looping or subroutines.

Kodu IF/THEN

But it does force them to perform within a rule-based system that cannot be rapidly bent to their will. Satisfactory manipulation can only work with the established system, making it perfect for rapid development, followed by rapid failure, only to come back for more.

Download Additional World Like “Confined”

Other example “worlds” are available for download within the Kodu application. The winners of the 2014 Kodu Kup 12-16 category were Alfie Finch-Critchley, aged 14, with his 12-year-old co-designers Joseph Banerjee and Jonathan Haley. Their Portal inspired game Polarity vs. Portal: Is This First-Person Puzzle Game For Android Any Good? Using the laws of physics, you need to activate the right triggers and switches to collect all the data fragments in a level and reach the exit. Read More , Confined, beat opposition from across most of Europe.

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Kodu Confined

The game is well thought out, balanced and does well to provide a tutorial of what to expect on each level. Kodu doesn’t just provide the kids with a platform for game development, but rather allows them to bring their ideas to life, inspired by the blockbusters they love at home. The entire Kodu platform is weighted toward providing opportunities for learning, as well as pitching ideas, commercialising their IP, and sharing their content on the web.

Download: Confined (via Dropbox)

In short, the kids begin to understand the value in ideating, the value of sharing, the power of constructive criticism, and – of course – the impact of their decisions.

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Other Coding for Kids Options

The recognition that children should be exposed to code and programming What You Need to Know About Getting Started with Raspberry Pi The Raspberry Pi computer is the latest in a line of compact, multi-function devices, shipped as a barebones package so that end users can use the hardware for virtually any computing project that comes to... Read More languages at an earlier age has given rise to numerous dedicated sites and applications:

  • Alice: A 3D environment focused on visual programming through a drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG editor. Variant, Storytelling Alice, has been shown to increase engagement with coding. High level 3D animations and social interactions provide appeal across the learning spectrum, tying directly into the children’s contemporary digital world.
  • Scratch: Another 3D visual programming tool How To Teach Kids Programming From Scratch! Read More , developed by the MIT Media Lab. Since its 2007 inception over 800,000 users have signed up. It’s entirely open, with content sharing the key to the community. All projects are Creative Commons licensed so each project is up for download and modification. There are some damn fun mini-games.
  • Hackety-Hack [Broken URL Removed]: Ruby for teenagers. Teen’s actually engage with the Ruby programming language, learning algorithm structures, commands, strings, basic math functions and more. Calls its users “Hackers” for that ultra-cool feel, and has integration with a desktop social site for idea sharing and help.
  • Daisy the Dinosaur: For the very young. Aged towards 5-8 year olds, but perfectly functional for older kids. Very basic visual programming interface based around moving and interacting with Daisy the Dinosaur. My 5 year old loved it, and the 3 year old was pretty inspired, too. Only available for iOS.
  • Code-Monster: JavaScript with a friendly monster. The monster guides you through a series of JavaScript variables. Each change you make to the code Start Coding JavaScript Right Now With These 5 Great Free Resources Read More alters the appearance of a shape on the parallel screen. Creator Greg Linden wanted to teach his own kids to code: this is the result.

Curricula Reflect ICT Changes

Education is a system in flux. Children are entering the classroom exposed How Computer Technology Will Transform Schools Of The Future In the 1800's, students sat in a classroom, listened to a teacher and took tests. In 2014, students do exactly the same thing. So why is educational technology moving so slowly? Read More to computers, smartphones, tablets, multiplayer gaming and social networks. More digitised than their teachers, students need curriculum that matches their desire 4 Ways Homeschoolers Use Technology to Teach and Educate Their Children What happens when your child's schooling goes wrong? Would you abandon the public schooling system in its entirety and to embrace something radically different -- homeschooling? Read More to learn, through their chosen medium.

Children Computer Bank

The number of websites and applications developed to aid computer learning for children is increasing, and as we have seen the focus is on delivering code-academy style courses Learning To Code Becomes More Fun As Codecademy Reveals New Design Codecademy just pressed enter on a complete makeover. If you are learning how to code, the new layout of the popular website and the extra features could make programming more fun. Read More to engage the next generation in a critical education area.

ICT curriculum is also shifting to match these changes:

It is a shift many ICT specialists have been anticipating for years. There is a growing global skills gap between those trained, in training, and those able to work. The number of jobs appearing in the ICT sector will continue to rise and our children should be prepared for this. Not only that, coding teaches a number of extremely useful life skills: critical thought, analysis, and structure to name but a few.

Toddler on Laptop

Perhaps your child will be the next Bill Gates? There is only one way to find out!

Do your kids use any coding academy applications? Are you a programmer? Do you think introducing children to programming, logic, and critical thought at earlier age will boost skills? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Credits: Code via Pixabay, Child with Laptop via infoworld.com, Children at Computer Bank via Huffingtonpost.com, Children on Computer via Wikimedia Commons

Explore more about: Education Technology, Educational Games.

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  1. dtoebe
    February 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Looks like MS is trying to bring BOB back http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Bob