Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

October, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Kodu Kamp for Educators


    OK so you know I am a big fan of Kodu. Perhaps you read about the Kodu workshop I did for students last weekend. Perhaps you just heard about Kodu from some random place. But where ever you heard about it you asked yourself “How can I as a teacher learn about Kodu?” Well if you are in the Boston/Cambridge MA area you are in luck. Yes, Kodu Kamp for Educators is coming!

    Kodu logo

    Kodu Kamp for Educators

    Are you interested in having your students learn problem solving, logic, and storytelling skills along with the basics of computer programming that are essential in today’s world?

    Educators and students can attend a FREE Kodu Kamp at the Microsoft New England R&D Center. Teachers can learn to use Kodu in the classroom and kids can practice important skills while building their own Kodu video game!

    What is Kodu?

    Kodu Game Lab is a free, simple to use visual programming language from Microsoft designed to teach children how to make video games while practicing important skills. It introduces the logic and problem solving of programming without the complexity. Kodu builds real world skills while having fun by enabling students to build video games that require them to analyze problems, structure their logic and tell their story.

    This Kodu Kamp is open to Boston area educators. We will offer a Kodu Kamp for grades 4-6 students November 18, 2010.

    Lunch will be provided.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    What does your school need?


    The What Our School Needs contest is being run by the Bing team at Microsoft. You are using Bing for your Internet search needs right? Well even if not (and you do what to check it out) you will be interested in this contest. Microsoft wants to hear from teachers and students about what their school needs most. Look around your school and think about how it would benefit from winning $100,000.

    There are a number of entries there already and it is interesting to see what schools need. I expected the requests for new computers or more technology. On the other hand schools are also in need of better playgrounds and better cafeteria spaces. I think we often underestimate the importance of those environments for students and how they learn. Entering is not complicated and in fact may be something you can involve your students in.

    What To Do

    Students can work in groups, classes, or even school-wide to write an essay and take pictures finishing the sentence "Our School Needs: ___________." To enter:

    1. Write an essay (500 to 800 words)
    2. Take pictures (3 to 5 photos)
    3. Film a video (not required, but fun! Maximum of 3 minutes in length)

    Who Can Enter

    Any student or teacher from a K-12 school can enter. While students under 18 are encouraged to create the entry, a parent, legal guardian or a teacher must submit it.

    What Could Our School Win?

    Bing will award a quarter-million dollars, divided among four schools—$50,000 to three first-prize winners, and one $100,000 grand prize.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Kodu Programming For Kids


    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.

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