Kodu in the classroom - A Special Needs Children Experience

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One of the major concerns of teachers, on this days, should be the implementation of educational activities that promote the success of students. The need to create tasks that try to involve student’s interests and knowledge development necessarily, implies that teachers involve students, in their learning process, and to effectively implement the resources we consider to be an asset in the development of learning and cognitive skills.

In this context, in the last academic year, I decided to implement a project that would involve students with special educational needs, two teachers of the special needs and one ICT teacher, to allow the development of concepts and mathematical notions, and simultaneously develop skills in the use of technological tools and the programing of games. In addition, will be referred to the experiences felt, the description about how the activities were making a reflection about what students will have been able to achieve with the set of activities. We intend to still identify the factors considered that have contributed or hindered the achievement of the goals.

This activity is part of the work on the action programme management training of Math basic education promoted by Escola Superior de Educação de Lisboa and teacher trainer Nuno Valerio. The activities with students have the duration of an academic period (third period) with two weekly sessions of 50 minutes, in total, of nine Thursdays.

To develop this project we have to define a main goal and a specific goal in order to respond to the needs and specifications of each student. Our main and principal goal was related with the promoting creativity, the spirit of sharing and mutual respect for others. For us was essential that student work with us and between them, sharing opinions and suggestions according the goal we wanted to achieve. Their so, we defined the following specific goals:

  • Put students as creators of its own game. Instead of just playing it, the idea would be to encourage students to produce their own games, writing programming lines, requiring the need to reflect on the different variables involved in their games;
  • Put into practice mathematical concepts and other areas. Here it was intended that students develop understanding of mathematical concepts. Furthermore we wanted to stimulate students through writing their stories (Portuguese areas), and adapting their stories to each of their games using Kodu;
  • Start programing games and understand the logic of programming and problem-solving without complex codes. With Kodu, students write the behaviors of the characters of each of the games and reactions through some behaviors and events;
  • Develop collaborative skills, logic and creativity, not just programming. We intended to put students acquiring greater autonomy in the use of the tool, help each other and allow them to promote creativity (essential in the students of today and in particular special needs children;
  • Create, Invent, Interact and play! This maxim put students in a proactive role, reflective and interactive, increasingly complex skills to promote in students. WP_000140

The essence of programming is to put students thinking. With the actions programming by the students, it’s required to them to reflect on the different variables that are in the games. For example, the character during the game touch in one object and it disappears. How should we program this action? As a starting point the students realized quickly that the programming logic was When ->Do. When a particular event happens, an action occurs. To schedule the movement of the character in the game the students related the fact that when they are playing they use keyboard arrows, so they have program it that way, and then for that happen they would have to select the MOVE command. 1a When they tested the game and star playing they control the character but realized that when the character touch in other object “Apple” it didn´t disappear, only moves. One of the students quickly intervened and claimed to be necessary to set the action to "disappear" the Apple. In this way the programming line was identical to this: 1bb With this simple two lines of programing it was very important to students understand one important fact, when we design a game it’s important to think in all variables. With this, we intended to transmit to the students the importance of planning before creating.

The implementation of this project, as previously announced, counted with collaboration of two teacher of special education Catarina Carrilho and Paula Ferreira. I believe that, for the success of the project, the best and essential contribution was the willingness of students to produce their games, instead of only playing it. The fact that we have placed the students in the role of creators, applying mathematical notions and concepts, the project allowed us to see the involvement and hard work of the students in producing their games. If we consider that these students are too few motivated to learn process we realized an increasing interest to participate in the activities. The greatest difficulty was the implementation of the sessions (once a week). These students, which reveal great difficulties in acquiring content and difficulty to express his doubts were conditions to the development of this learning activity. In the mathematical concepts, there was no great difficulty unless the concept of volume and in an attempt to find a way to count how many cubes would fit in the pool created for them. It was very important to have the support of the school's director, the monitoring of teachers of special education, referred previously, and the ICT teacher Carla Lázaro, to the implementation of this project.

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