Kodu: see apple red, move toward quickly

September 21st, 2010

The New York times has a short article, The 8-Year-Old Programmer, on Kodu, a programming environment intended to help young children learn to write programs.

“Kodu, built by a team at Microsoft’s main campus outside Seattle, is a programming environment that runs on an Xbox 360, using the game console’s controller rather than a keyboard. Instead of typing if/then statements in a syntax that must be memorized — as adult programmers do — the student uses the Xbox controller to pop up menus that contain options from which to choose. Kodu itself resembles a video game, with a point-and-click interface instead of the thousand-lines-of-text coding tools used by grown-ups.”

You can also read about Kodu in the Wikipedia article Kodu Game Lab or Kodu project page at Microsoft Research, from which you can also download a free version for the PC.

Kodu is an rule-based, event-driven language with a simple context free grammar that lets you write rules like “see apple red, move toward quickly”.

Kudu takes it’s place in a long history of programming languages developed to teach programming to children, starting with Logo in the late 1960s. None of these have ever truly caught on, although Logo was taught in many elementary schools in the 1980s. As a computer scientist, I believe that being able to write simple programs for one’s own use will eventually be a skill that all educated people will have, just as being able to basic numerical computations and write effective text are today.