On the First day of the Fairfax Computer Camp, a introduction to computer programming camp I’m running out of my home for a week, we started these 9-year-olds off with Kodu. After setting up all of the computers that the kids brought in and hooking up a projector, I proceeded to start teaching these 10 kids about programming. I started off with some simple ground rules about behavior in the camp and what was expected of them – and they all understood pretty well: respect for the house, respect for others, respect for the computers.
We then did a quick name game where each person said “My name is ______ and I can do _____________ with computers.” We went around the table and each camper said all of the previous sentences and then theirs. It was fun and got most of the kids giggling.
Next we had one of the boys, Ethan, become an “Ethan Bot” who could be programmed to move with steps and turns to get to a certain location in our living room. We wrote the set of instructions from the first “programmer” and a third child called out the commands to for the “Ethan Bot” to execute. After a few tries we got the Ethan Bot to go to the right location. They then got the basic idea of programming a set of instructions.
Then we all started Kodu – there were some initial difficulties with navigating around using the mouse but the kids all got the hang of it pretty quickly. I started the kids with a basic “Small World with Water” world where the kids put apples down and then programmed a Kodu to look for them and eat them. It started getting fun when one of the kids decided to put a tree down and have the Kodu eat the tree. I showed the kids a few short lessons on keyboard control, scoring, and “creatables” but they took to it very quickly and started going down their own paths in a beautiful way. I learned something great today with these kids: teach them a little bit and then GET OUT OF THE WAY! Once they were rolling, they were having fun, trying out each others games, and asking lots of questions which I had no problem answering. They were amazingly well behaved and very focused – the worlds and games that some of these kids created in a half-day were amazing. It was a sweltering day in room heated by 11 computers a projector, and 10 excited 9-year-olds – yet no one complained about the heat. They were all having fun with their first programming experience.
Tomorrow we start with Small Basic . This is a blast!