Video games: Educational AND fun? Believe it!

It’s pretty amazing how far technology has come in such a short time, just in the past 10 years or so. Remember when we (my fellow 30somethings) were kids and our cool educational games were things like Simon and Merlin? MerlinAnd our choice of computer educational games consisted of Lemonade stand and Oregon Trail? And what about regular video games? I don’t know about you but I thought Pitfall was pretty much the end of the rainbow as far as home video games went. Computer programming wasn’t even a blip on the radar. I remember in Junior High taking a computer class where we “learned” (and I use that term loosely) Visual Basic. Let’s be honest, I didn’t actually learn anything about Visual Basic. All I knew is if I followed the instructions in the book, eventually all of the little letters and symbols I was entering into the keyboard eventually turned into a smiley face on my screen. pitfall

Fast forward to this weeks TechFest, where a “game” was introduced – which can be played on PC or Xbox – that teaches young children about the principles of computer programming. According to atthew MacLaurin, one of the creators of Boku, he “wants kids to approach the programming tool like a puzzle game. Soon, like with World of Warcraft, they’ll realize they can mess with it. Once kids figure that out, they’ll want to start getting creative,” he says. “Then we’ve got them.”

I couldn’t agree more!

(So let’s recap just for the sake of argument – Purchasing video games to teach science and technology = good use of dollars. Purchasing video games as a way to get kids to exercise = bad use of dollars)

Read on below for more info about this amazing new game….

Boku: Programming for KidsBoku

Matthew MacLaurin took the stage during today’s TechFest keynote to show us his Boku project, a programming environment for children.

Boku turns programming into a game — it runs on an Xbox or a PC. There’s no typing, so you can use the Xbox controller by itself, and the user interface enforces syntax (no syntax errors) so kids don’t get frustrated.

The main character in the “game” is a robot named Boku who lives on an island. Players give Boku different instructions that vary in complexity to make him do different things. Each programming task represents a level in the game, and the programs get more sophisticated as the player advances through levels.

In about a minute, Matthew created a simple program that instructed Boku to run around his island eating all the red apples.

Matthew says that his young daughter plays this and explains to him that Boku only eats red apples.

He skipped ahead a few levels to show us a soccer game where a team of Bokus try to kick green apples through a soccer goal made by two palm trees.

The idea is to teach kids logic, analysis and design as well as the practical skills learned by putting programs together. I must admit that Boku looks like a lot of fun. If they put it out as an Xbox game, I’d pick it up. <link>

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