Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kodu - is the controller a good idea?

In my previous post, I talked about a control day that took place last week where we introduced Kodu and Scratch to a number of schools.  The feedback about Scratch was universally positive and without exception, every teacher took away ideas as to how they could use Scratch and were keen to get started.  When it came to Kodu however, the feedback was much more mixed.

I believe this was for two reasons.  Firstly, in hindsight (a wonderful thing!), by starting with the creation of a world which many of the staff found tricky (see below) the session got off on the wrong foot.  Having produced a handout introducing some of the basic programs (see here - feel free to let me know if there's anything I've missed or can improve on) the session should have started with these, using one of the built-in worlds instead.  If the staff had seen how easy and quickly they could do the programming, then they may have been more willing to persevere with the building of worlds - that's certainly how I will manage future Kodu sessions at least.

The second reason was we were using games controllers to do the programming. To try and cut a long story short, the games controllers had been the bain of my existence for a while.  Firstly, once we decided to go down this route, we tried to beg, steal or borrow some official xBox 360 controllers with no luck.  We then (budget restraints and all that) decided to buy some 'cheaper' versions from ebay. Once these arrived, we established they didn't work with Kodu, but got them working with the use of an emulator.  Finally we realised the 18 controllers we'd purchased were not even identical (the buttons were in various orders!!) which meant a day of reassembly.  Having gone through all that, we were keen to see them in action but it became apparent that by doing so there was a split within the group - for want of a better phrase it was 'gamers' vs. 'non-gamers'

Those familiar with games controllers were able to create elaborate worlds and progressed quickly with the progamming, those not so familiar found this much more difficult.  We demonstrated that keyboard and mouse could be used as an alternative control method but the 'gamers' in the group moved ahead at a much greater pace.  The 'gamers' were very keen to get back to school and use this with their classes, the 'non-gamers' much less so.  Having used both methods, I find the games controller a much easier way of programming Kodu (but then I do have a PS3 which occasionally gets played if I can get hold of the TV!).  So I throw it out there to those who have more experience of using Kodu, particularly with kids:

Is the controller a good idea?  
Is the keyboard/mouse better?  
Does it matter?