Sunday, 16 March 2014

Kano Gamifies the Raspberry Pi experience

I had mixed feelings about installing Kano on a Raspberry Pi. I'd read mixed reviews and wasn't sure how well it would work.  However let me cast away those initial misgivings.  Kano is awesome! Kano is built largely upon the excellent Open Source software that has gone before it, but what it does is to Gamify the whole experience.

When you start Kano it plays a game in DOS reminiscent of the Matrix.  It's a great way to get children in and then when you press StartX it all comes to life.  Naturally it doesn't matter what you put on a menu, when a 10 year old sees Minecraft, that's what they are going for!  What is especially nice about it, is that it presents Minecraft with a Scratch like interface and so children can make their own sculptures and in-game commands via the interface.

For parents who are not technical, this is probably as simple as a Raspberry Pi gets. The gamified experience takes you through the steps and it is not long before children are coding!   As a teacher, this provides the introductory point that 8 to 12 year olds need to get started and get interested in the Pi.   A fantastic job all-round and what is especially nice is that for existing Raspberry Pi users, the whole kit is free.

I have a few reservations as a teacher, I feel the choice of videos is a little inappropriate. Yes, we want to encourage children to get inside PCs but a monkey destroying a Macbook isn't the best way to go about it and something I know a lot of teachers will strongly object to, we're not here to replace Tablets and Computers, but to provide another tool.  I hope that the kit will include a WIFI module, because without it the inability to complete levels feels unfair. These are minor points that I hope will be taken on-board before final production.

I would stress this is not a kit for hobbyists, who have already found a 1,000 ways to use the Pi, GCSE or A-level students who've already cracked the basics of Computer Science.  This is about giving children their first taster and getting them into CS!