I must admit I was a bit underwhelmed when I first saw Kodu. At first glimpse I couldn’t see how it would help to teach people how to program.
It turns out that this is because it is not really a teaching tool as such. The point that I seemed to miss was that the intention was to put people in touch with the experience of making a machine do a fairly complex task under their control. Rather than teaching programming, they were aiming to teach the joy of programming. Then, with a bit of luck, folks who find this fun will move into more formal ways of making this happen and turn to real coding.
I downloaded the free Kodu Technical Preview which runs on the PC (you can also get the program on Xbox Live for 400 credits) and had a play. It is great fun. In no time at all I had created a world and had my little creature running round after the ball and picking it up. I want to have another go with this.
I can see this being one of those things you show your kids and then after a while they will grab the gamepad and kick you off the machine so that they can have a go at finding all the things you can do with the environment. At first I was comparing the system with Little Big Planet, which also offers a way you can build your own worlds, but I think Kodu is better in this respect. It is presented from the start as an environment where you create behaviours, rather than as a platform game you can add things to.
From a teaching perspective it is great in that it gets you thinking about a program as a sequence of actions and decisions, and that is fine by me.