The argument could be made that coding will be the skill set that defines the next generation of labor. Software engineering is so ubiquitous and so increasingly relevant to the fabric of our everyday lives, but figuring out how to convey those skills to the next generation isn’t always easy.
Coding is a young enough field that we’re still learning how best to convey the information to kids and young adults. In terms of how it functions, it’s similar to both a foreign language and mathematical logic. Creating even more challenge is that traditional coding languages can look very intimidating, even to adults.
Many enterprising educators have turned to the idea of turning the learning process into a game — but some educators are finding surprising success through an existing game platform. The popularity of Minecraft has made it an obvious way to educate kids on coding, but the possibilities for learning might surprise you.
The Building Blocks of the Game
Minecraft is less a game than it is an endless sandbox. The base components aren’t complex, basically amounting to various boxes with their own properties. But these properties can interact with each other in increasingly complicated ways.
Functionally, that’s not that different from how coding works in the first place. That’s especially true when speaking about the idea of block coding, which is predicated on the idea of linking together basic words to create functional coding language. Block coding offers decent flexibility for new students without being intimidatingly complex — and it keeps kids engaged with the notion of block programming because that’s inherently at the heart of the gameplay loop.
But there’s a more direct way the game allows users to get involved in coding as well. Thanks to extensive support for mods and the sandbox nature of the platform, users can transform the game and what they can accomplish in it through the use of coding. Players can create a modded Minecraft server to play together online, and it often involves playing around with game files and ensuring compatibility between different mods – something that will come in handy for any future developers. It’s certainly not the first game to build out a healthy modding community — but it’s one of the most popular and arguably the most appealing and accessible for kids.
A Platform That Scales
One of the most significant issues when building a coding curriculum is determining a methodology that can carry students from the very basic fundamentals all the way through sophisticated concepts. Microsoft teamed with Code.org to construct a block programming drag-and-drop interface a few years back, and it continues to be an excellent introduction to coding that offers tangible and immediate results in the world of the game.
And as players get more comfortable working with the internal logic of coding languages, the game is capable of growing with them. MC supports Java. Java is a great introductory language. It teaches the basics of coding syntax without making things overly complicated, and it’s ubiquitous enough to have direct real-world application.
Supported by a Wealth of Resources
Minecraft is a game that’s perfectly tailored to teach coding, so it’s especially exciting to see Microsoft release a specialized Education Edition of the game. It gives educators a wealth of controls they can use to create an exciting environment for learning, but what’s impressive is how enthusiastic and resourceful the community continues to be.
There are many educational modules available for teachers. They cover practically any subject you could hope to learn — and that’s in addition to its value as a tool for learning to code.
Minecraft isn’t going to turn kids into expert-level programmers all on its own, but it offers one of the smoothest transitions from complete inexperience into comfortable competence. A kid who finds coding through the game and continues to stick with it will hone their coding skills and also develop a valuable understanding of how to think in more nimble and creative ways.