Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND
I asked my son to check out Kudo, the Microsoft Research software for game development, available cross-platform and on X-box. He is 13 and a Minecrafter, so he found Kudo to be fairly elementary, although I did notice that Kudo tries to teach basic programming principles; Minecraft does not. Kudo might be right for our 8 year old, if he is so inclined to start building his own game world. Seems to me like a motivated kid could make pretty steady progression through Kudo, Minecraft, and up to Second Life or other environments if he / she was particularly interested in world building / sandbox games rather than FPS, WoW, and the like.
My son, however, also talked to his friends about game development and one of them recommended Alice as better than Kudo. Storytelling Alice seems like a potentially good fit for us in English. We’ve been messing with E-toys as a storytelling program, and Scratch gets evoked in these conversations as well. As with the world-building pieces of software, there are also these programming environments that could scaffold kids into CS and the kinds of literate abilities appropriate for the communicative environment we live in.
To pull these many pieces together into a coherent education, however, would require a “Computing Education for the 21st Century” grant from NSF.