[ExI] Logo on Steroids: The new video game Kodu will teach you (or your kid) about programming. It's also actually fun.

jameschoate at austin.rr.com jameschoate at austin.rr.com
Sun Jul 12 01:57:28 UTC 2009

You should spend some effort in looking into the current state of Logo, it's thriving and many of the current implementations support parallel processing, multiple turtles, etc.


I like and intermittently use,



You should also introduce yourself to Squeak.


GWBASIC is also still around...


---- Emlyn <emlynoregan at gmail.com> wrote: 
> I'm always on the lookout for programming environments that might
> capture my kids' imaginations. My son really got into MIT's Scratch
> for a while, but unfortunately it has two major problems. Firstly, you
> hit the walls of what you can do very quickly (or what you can do
> without serious programming evil). Secondly, and more importantly,
> it's trapped in MIT Scratch land. Your stuff goes online on their
> site, but you can't embed it into your own site (a huge mistake on
> their part). That second thing is what really doomed it for my 9 year
> old son. He hates a walled garden.
> Kodo looks interesting, but I can't help thinking the walled garden
> thing again applies to anything on a console. Still, it could be fun.
> Hmm, actually, isn't this exactly the same concept as Little Big
> Planet?
> --
> Logo on Steroids
> The new video game Kodu will teach you (or your kid) about
> programming. It's also actually fun.
> http://www.slate.com/id/2222546/
> The first computer program I ever wrote, in the second grade, was
> composed in pencil and ran on the platform known as my friend
> Nicholas. We were about to start learning Logo, the program that
> teaches kids how to draw things on the screen by writing out commands
> for a turtle. Before we got some face time with an Apple II, we had to
> act out the simple commands—Forward 10 steps, Left 90 degrees—in real
> life. I eventually succeeded in programming Nicholas to walk in a
> square.
> Logo is the most memorable in a lineage of games that have tried to
> make programming fun and intuitive. I was reminded of it recently when
> I saw a demonstration of Kodu, a newly released video game from
> Microsoft aimed at the 9-and-over crowd. Kodu is light years beyond
> Logo, with modern 3-D graphics, a world players can landscape to their
> liking, and a cast of characters that isn't limited to the Terrapene
> genus. But the mission is pretty much the same: to place kids in an
> open-ended environment and arm them with a simple language that lets
> them build things. At the risk of blaspheming my youth, I dare say
> that Kodu is more fun than Logo. It's also a reminder that the mission
> of games like these is not actually to teach kids how to write code.
> It's to teach them how to think like programmers.
> The first thing you should do in Kodu, before any of the programming
> stuff, is build a little world. To start with, you pave out a bit of
> earth and do some decorating, building mountains, digging holes, maybe
> filling a lake or two. Then you populate that world with trees, rocks,
> buildings, and other inanimate objects. Next come the characters.
> Among your options here are the eponymous Kodus, which look like
> porcine, floating submarines.
> Once the props and characters are in place, you start composing rules
> for your denizens. This is where the learning begins. First, you
> choose what object or character (an apple, a Kodu, a rock) your new
> rule will affect. Next, you choose the situation that will prompt the
> rule to execute (a collision or a press of a button). Last, you
> dictate what the object in question should do when this situation
> occurs (run away, fire a missile, change color). All of this is done
> using on-screen, graphical menus—no writing required. The end result:
> a command like When something bumps into this tree, make the tree glow
> orange or When the Kodu sees a green apple, run away. (You can watch a
> video demo that shows all of this in action.)
> Kodu offers enough different commands and characters that can be used
> to make games within the game. UFOs can be programmed to shoot
> missiles and dodge enemy combatants at the press of a button,
> accumulating points toward a "win condition" that ends the game when
> you reach a certain total. If you want to make a side-scrolling game
> like Super Mario Bros., you can alter the camera perspective. Equally
> satisfying, I found, was to build peaceful worlds that change and
> evolve according to my rules—a digital terrarium in which trees launch
> glowing fruit and little creatures mingle peacefully and multiply. As
> you build your world, it becomes increasingly likely you will get
> strange and unexpected results when all of your rules interact. In my
> first game, I unwittingly created a never-ending cascade of exploding
> apples as two of my trees perpetually provoked one another—a fantastic
> demonstration of the dangers of coding an infinite loop.
> The marriage of games and coding has often felt forced. Most attempts
> err on the side of being educational, which is probably why they're
> more often associated with school than home. The graphics in these
> programs have gotten progressively better since Logo's heyday, but
> most of them—Alice and Scratch, for example—still involve writing
> code. (Lego, which used to collaborate with Logo, now offers a
> sophisticated robotics line with a more graphical programming
> interface.) I loved playing Logo, but I was always aware that I was
> learning. Super Mario Bros. had come out three years earlier, and not
> too many of us would have chosen turtles over their mutant cousins the
> Koopa Troopas. Kodu's pedagogical mission, in contrast to its
> predecessors, doesn't feel contrived because it doesn't require any of
> that pesky writing and it has the same production quality as any other
> video game for kids.
> What are kids who play with Kodu actually learning? While Logo puts
> code in the foreground, Kodu deliberately keeps out any mention of
> variables, functions, recursion, or any other programming argot. In
> fact, the interface is so friendly that players can be forgiven if
> they don't realize that they're learning anything at all. There is not
> currently any obvious bridge between the game and traditional
> coding—you aren't taught how to write out commands, and there's no way
> to look under the hood to see your rules translated into traditional
> code. What you are learning is how to build an environment.
> >From a programming perspective, this is an advanced concept. Most
> software is still written sequentially, like Logo, with one command
> running after another, the same way you read a book line by line. Kodu
> is more like a piece of orchestral music, with lots of individual
> parts all playing at once. The characters you create do not patiently
> wait their turn to act—all of the UFOs react to all of the other UFOs,
> all at the same time—which is why delightful complexity is almost
> unavoidable after you've written a few lines of Kodu legislation.
> Without making any bold predictions about the future of computer
> science, this feels like a useful way to think about how to write a
> program, particularly as we move to a computing environment in which
> lots of parallel processors are running in tandem. That being said,
> Kodu's built-in language probably won't escape the bounds of the game
> anytime soon. Matt MacLaurin, the game's creator, says he's thought
> about expanding Kodu to allow players to write their own rules in code
> when they want to do something that's not included in the game's
> considerable library of tools. (By way of analogy, think of blogging
> platforms that let you write posts in a word-processor window but give
> you the option of messing with the HTML directly if you're trying to
> do something fancy.)
> While this is a sensible thing to offer down the line, it's not an
> essential part of Kodu's mission. Even without tinkering with code,
> kids will develop reasoning skills by simply messing around. That's
> why I recommend the game even for those of us who are over the age of
> 9. There is something innately appealing about dabbling in a
> mechanical world of your own making. Building a game forces you to
> think of complicated situations as the sum of simple rules. It also
> makes you realize that, even when you write the rules yourself,
> understanding the whole system isn't as easy as understanding each
> individual part. Predicting how lots of pieces will or won't work
> together is a central question in any number of fields, and Kodu is a
> surprisingly good microcosm of this problem. Give it a shot, even if
> Logo lost you at Forward 10.
> -- 
> Emlyn
> http://emlyntech.wordpress.com - coding related
> http://point7.wordpress.com - ranting
> http://emlynoregan.com - main site
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Venimus, Vidimus, Dolavimus

James Choate
jameschoate at austin.rr.com
james.choate at twcable.com

Adapt, Adopt, Improvise
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