Thoughts around Kojo

Kojo is an interactive environment where children learn Computational Thinking, Creative and Artistic Thinking, and Math as an applied subject.

Kojo helps kids to learn:

• Computer programming, which I (and many others; for example see - http://www.edutopia.org/programming-the-new-literacy) consider to be 'the new literacy' for the 21st century. To be considered literate in this age, people, in addition to having basic competence in the three Rs (reading, riting, and rithmetic), need to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of how software works, and the principles on which it is based - to have any hope of understanding the world around them.
• Systematic thinking and Computational thinking (practiced and learned via computer programming within Kojo). More information about Computational thinking here: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wing/www/publications/Wing06.pdf
• Creative and Artistic thinking ((practiced and learned via the creation of Art and the composition of Music within Kojo - also through the medium of computer programming)
• Teamwork (with kids working in pairs and bigger teams on Kojo projects)
• Writing and Communication - via the Storyteller module within Kojo
• Computer proficiency, and constructive use of the Internet
• Learning how to learn new things - via the varied projects that kids do within Kojo
• And finally, of course, Math. More on that below.

To play with Math within Kojo, kids do the following:

• To begin with, they play with Mathematical concepts via a computational object - the Turtle. This approach is based on the very important idea that kids learn effectively only when they (a) can relate to what they are learning, and (b) learn-by-doing. In this case they relate to the turtle through their body sense, and program the turtle to do geometry (e.g. make a regular polygon), arithmetic (e.g. construct a visualization of the distributive law), and algebra (e.g. construct a visualization of compound interest)
• They experiment with Math concepts within a Virtual Lab (by, for example, visualizing and manipulating equations, doing geometric constructions etc.). Kojo's Math Lab contains support for both algebra and geometry.
• They write computer programs that involve mathematics. This exposes them to Mathematics as an applied subject, which they learn by doing for specific goals. E.g. - tiling a plane of a given size with the biggest possible square; or animating the motion of a car under a given initial velocity and accelaration; or making a fractal painting; or creating a simple sprite based game.
• They write programs directly about Math topics e.g. - computing the prime factors of a number; or visually showing the addition of fractions.
• They work with Math stories written by experts. This is similar to Salman Khan's framework.

And much more! The above is just the tip of the iceberg! Kojo contains an extremely powerful programming environment (based on the Scala language and the Java runtime) - and the sky is the limit on what kids (and adults) can do within it. To check the truth of this claim, Kojo can be freely downloaded from http://www.kogics.net/kojo - and then taken for a test drive…