Kodu Kabooom

With Prof Sugata Mitra’s keynote comment and often tweet quote gently ringing in my ears…

a teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.

…I took a slightly less traditional approach to investigating the curriculum value / potential of Microsoft’s Kodu game design platform. Here is how we are making the judgement…..

Take fifteen digitally enthused students (Digital Leaders) from Year 8 to Year 10 and offer up Kodu, make eight X-box style PC controllers available (I will explain why only eight), no instructions but an aspiration….

Create a game where you to collect apples to gain points to reach a target point score with ‘something’ getting in your way. Be inventive.

then step back and be enchanted.

I am believe in ‘challenging and inspiring’ learners, it my educational philosophy and boy, did Kodu challenge them. In just one hour  (and an additional twenty-five minutes) I witness 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. The process of developing a Kodu game, so attractive and open ended, was inherently inspiring, I learn so much from just watching.

Observations

  1. Some students simply got stuck in, learning through exploration and error. Quite a few highlighted their frustration that YouTube was blocked,  with one or two going in search of instructions within Kodu, with some mixing and matching their approach. I don’t recall anyone watching the Kodu official videoes??
  2. Only a few of the learners started programming with controllers, most opting for the mouse and keyboard. However, the student that arguably made the most progress was a ‘controller king,’ his eyes never left the screen as he manoeuvred the Kodu platform with impressive speed and confidence via the toggles and buttons.
  3. Laying the game surface and ways to accelerate that process was completed without delay by all students. Surface topography was also mastered without any difficulty and was of real interest to the students for some reason. I dont know why?
  4. Water and the ‘restrictions of water’ was the first fun distraction and perhaps left a few gamers short of time at the end.
  5. Students then deployed their apples. Little or no thought was attached to the apples scoring at this point.
  6. Setting the controls for Kodu (in game character) were solved with some trial and error or with a little online searching. Learning was quickly shared throughout the group. Peer teaching coming into play with novices readily accepting help from the ‘experts.’
  7. Backwards was not considered a necessary movement. This could be achieved through turning….. I wonder if this will change with more advanced game design.
  8. Character paths were used in some instances.
  9. Poor game play regularly lead to further exploration, conversation and collaboration.
  10. Subsequently, more advanced control settings for the Kodu character were uncovered. Without any real understanding, the settings were tested ad hoc.
  11. Game testing was short-lived and as soon as errors occurred, students would quit the game to resolve the issues one at a time.
  12. The cannon launching enemy (Kaboom) was the ‘something’ of choice with one exception, here the game ‘something’ was a race against time.
  13. Pride in game development / progress, rather quality design, was the motivator.
  14. Students predominantly returned to the ‘aspiration,’ only once the game environment had been built.
  15. Gameplay and game resolution was very experimental at this point.
  16. Students typically shared their progress with the students sitting either side of the them only, rarely did they get up to chat and review games. Kodu appeared to be very engaging.
  17. Some students created very basic games, that quickly met the aspiration and then went onto designing random games.

All this in just an hour after school one Wednesday afternoon. Really you need to set it up and see it for yourself.

We are planning to give the students one more week to develop their game, before returning to the drawing board to actually plan out and think through a game design, construction and evaluation.

A Different Approach.

The Kodu Classroom Kit is a set of lesson plans and activities for teachers to download and a range of video tutorials can be found on the ‘GETTING STARTED’ tab here. If you want to teach Kodu skills, then that is all well and good, however IMHO, in the first instance, the game is the teacher. Take an opportunity to really watch your students learn or even join them in their learning.

Judgement

Kodu has excellent potential for digitally enthusiastic students but I honestly believe it would also engage most Key Stage 2 or 3 learners. 

Models of delivery.

Kodu as teacher. Students could be set missions and left to explore solutions leaving you to…. observe / facilitate / prompt / question.

Kodu also makes great teachers out of learners. Set small missions, with the group only receiving the next mission, once all learners have been successful.

The Apprentice style – Define small groups or work as individual on set game tasks or aspirations.

Kodu groups, set differentiated tasks or aspirations to differentiated groups.

Teamwork Kodu – Designers, design the game. Programmers, programme the game in Kodu. Marketers, package and market the game. Gamers, evaluate the game.

What Next

Get stuck in, download Kodu and explore it with your students. I may have been a planetkodu subscriber for over a year, like you, I am at the bottom of a very exciting, but steep Kodu learning curve.

For real Kodu expertise and advice visit Nicki Maddams over at  interactiveclassroom. She is a really genuine and talented educator who also happens to be a Microsoft Evangelist and Aspiring AST, who used to offer Kodu training courses, well at least she did the last time we spoke.

14 Comments

  1. Fascinating read Kristian, nipping off now to look more into Kodu!
    best wishes

  2. This is great Kristian.

    I’ve used KODU with a small group of Y9s and they love it. I missed a succession of lessons due to hospital appointments and was repeatedly impressed with their learning and progress.

    Like you I’m at the bottom(ish) of the learning curve and need to get up to speed. Awesome finger lickin’ fun.

  3. Btw, meant to ask, how have you got on with uploading games to xbox accounts and play on xbox? Any joy? We’ve not got that working yet. Will check the link recommended.

  4. Pingback: links for 2011-04-29 | Kristian Still's Blog

  5. Hi Kristian – thanks for explaining your experiences so clearly – interesting to hear your reaction regarding the game as the teacher.

    • Kristian Still

      Somewhere in my memory, I can remember a keynote speakers / writer (Daniel Pink / Malcolm Gladwell) espousing the importance of emotional connect with the learning experience. Experiencing difficulty in order to overcome a ‘challenge’ serves to heighten that connect.

      I felt that standing aside observing, prompting, as opposed to teaching the required skills to solve the challenge, created a very different learning vibe / atmosphere. More importantly, when the challenge was solved, the students appeared extremely proud of themselves. It is not a simple task to quantify that impression but I hope to investigate further in practice.

  6. Kristian, this is a really great post. What an interesting way to teach Kodu. I have always gone with the more structured approach but I am definitely going to try your method, it sounds great! (PS, thanks for the mention! :-D)

    • Kristian Still

      Thank you, Nicki, you were the inspiration for using Kodu in the first place and I always recommend / reference your talents with Kodu. I am really curious to find out where they go next.

  7. Hi I’m one of the Digital Leaders at Hamble College that Kristian Still has been teaching how to use kodu and I have taken a great intrest in it because it’s very easy to program the charaters and create the world itself. Week 1 of the 6 week course was all about getting to use to the programing and gaming of Kodu. we did that by playing around with Kodu until we got use to it then Kristian gave us a goal to achieve which was to create a world with a moving charater that you can control and a charater that shoots missiles at you when in reach, also place apples that your charater can eat to win points. Kristian then came over to my computer to see what I’d had done and we started looking at the gaming side of it by letting my character shoot missiles, giving it more health and making it quicker. When I got back from school I downloaded Kodu on to my home computer and got my older brother invovled in helping to create a game with 2 players that try to shoot at each other and you win points by killing the others players character, the winner who gets 5 points. Kodu can be useful in a ICT classroom because it’s a fun way to learn programing and it’s easy to pick up on. I will keeping writing about my journey of Kudo every week.

    • Kristian Still

      It is far to say that you took to it like a duck to water. The speed at which you plumbed in your commands on the XBox controller was quiet impressive. I still think the curriculum Kodu needs your input.

      I was unable to make it yesterday, how did Week 2 extend Week 1? Is there a chance you could write an actual post for this blog?

      How has you focus changed? Are you map focused? Game-play focused? How is your interests and skills evolving.

  8. Hi, I have been working along side J Irvine in making a Kodu game in a Digital Leader meeting which has been very interesting as neither me or J Irvine had ever used Kodu before. Nethertheless after working with Kodu for two weeks we have achieved skills we did not have before and now have confidence to keep making games.

    I am looking forward to the upcoming coming weeks and learning more skills and becoming more knowledgeable about Kodu.

    I have throughly enjoyed the two weeks and will be commenting throughout the course.

    Kristain, would it be a good idea for me to bring in my controller next wednesday.

    • Kristian Still

      I am pleased you are growing in confidence. Where will it take you? As for your controller, why not.

  9. In week 2 of the Kodu program we first looked back on what we did in week 1 and talked about how we could expand or improve on that some of the digital leader weren’t there in weer 1 so we had to help them out a bit and that is one good thing about the way we’re teached Kodu at our school because the students can take the lead and not the teacher. The students can control at what pace they want to go at and not be affaid of asking for help however this will not work for everyone because some people need a more structural approach to things. I believe that the game-play is as just as important as the learning part of Kodu because then the students get fun out of it aswell as the learning point of view and if a student isn’t interested or think they can’t get anything out of it than they will refuse to comply and if the students aren’t interested than this program will not work because it’s all about the students taking the lead. The reason why I think I took Kodu like a duck to water is because I have a interest in gaming aswell as that I have many programing skills and they both came into play a lot. Kodu isn’t just focused on 1 thing like a normal game because you have to make and program the game first which is a challenge on itself so the main goal of the game is to make the game if you know what I mean however i’m more of a gamer than a programer so was more focus on the game play but that is my view on it. Please reply and I will be happy to comment back

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