Kodu – why teach kids programming?

My favorite project ever was Kodu. This is a code development environment and world design tool design for young children + everyone.

Kodu is still growing at Microsoft. Some folks tell me that installs are over 600,000 in numerous countries. It’s been ported to several languages including Spanish, Hebrew, and Polish (Poland is a hotbed of sophisticated software design talent.) I was always delighted to see that we had at least a few downloads in Yemen – I like to think some activist teacher somewhere is helping little kids who may not have an xbox to program their own video games.

Why is programming good for kids?

Programming teaches people to design, predict, test, and modify complex systems. It also gives insight into how complex systems can arise from very simple input.

People today are surrounded by complex systems: from home theaters to government to the world economy. In the digital economy, creation of new complex systems – like Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube – requires an insight into how to grow and manage such systems. Increasingly, casting a vote correctly requires a degree of sophistication about what you want government to do and not to do. Teaching people to understand systems, you could argue, is a basic survival skill. This type of design is not static; it is algorithmic. Programming is the art of algorithm design. (Yes, I said art an not science. Programming is an art which, like painting, can be improved by science.

If you are a programmer, you are probably nodding; if you haven’t programmed, you might have difficulty understanding my point. Which is itself part of my point. In today’s academic curricula, math and writing are seen as the primary tools for thinking about systems. That’s fine and good. But when you design a game world with multiple actors each trying to achieve different objectives, and modify that world to create a larger narrative, and then, finally, run that system and watch it do things you never imagined, you are doing something very, very different from deriving the angles of a right triangle.

Learn more about Kodu here: http://www.kodugamelab.com/

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