Lately it may seem as though coding for kids has become synonymous with Minecraft. In the past few years, numerous coding activities started featuring this open-ended game and teachers started introducing it to their students. In 2016, Minecraft creator Mojang solidified Minecraft’s transition into schools by releasing an education edition of the game. With its increasing presence in the classroom, it is time to learn exactly what Minecraft is and how it became so popular in the educational world.
The use of Minecraft in the classroom all started with a shift in the way we view computer programming. Coding stopped being viewed as a tedious task reserved for a select few and started being recognized as a fun activity anyone can learn and do. With this new approach, the line between coding and games began to blur. Companies started creating game-based activities that teach code and with that, the full-fledged game of Minecraft was remodeled and released as a game that not only entertains but also teaches code.
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What is Minecraft?
Before we continue with how Minecraft is used in schools, let’s dive into what exactly Minecraft is. Minecraft is a user-creation game that was released in 2009. It has since won numerous awards and taken over as the best-selling and most downloaded game in history. What makes it so special and unlike other games is that users enter a virtual world with no rules. In this world, they create their own environment using solely blocks, a structure that ultimately gives Minecraft its distinctive rectangular look. There are also little instructions as users need to go onto other platforms to research and unlock new features. These elements and the fact that for the first time in the gaming industry players could enter a world where anything can be built and broken are what contributed to Minecraft’s huge success.
Minecraft is often described as a sandbox game. Sandbox games are when there are minimal limitations placed on the player. This allows a player to roam through the virtual world and create, modify and destroy their environment at their own will. This setting in Minecraft is often referred to as Creative Mode, which means there is no danger in the game. In this mode, the environment is made up of a flatland where the player has hundreds of different materials, including wood, stone and metal, that can be utilized to create a world. Shortly afterwards, another, more challenging mode called Survival Mode was added. In Survival Mode gamers need to find food, build shelter, craft weapons and wear protective gear in order to shield themselves from any existing dangers and survive.
As time passed more elements were added to Minecraft and caused its following to grow. People have been able to build replicas of different worlds, including Hogwarts, allowing other gamers to download them and use them in their games. Players like that Minecraft has a very simple look and appears to be a basic game at first glance. However, the deeper you get into the game, the more you learn you can do. Even the regular, non-Education Edition resembles aspects that could possibly translate to some coding logic. For example, players use logic gates and make simple machines in order to automate some tasks. Students get a fun-looking environment to test different features out and show their friends. Since there is little to no instruction in Minecraft, the player needs to figure out the rules on their own or use Internet tutorials.
How is Minecraft used in schools?
It is rare that a game made for solely entertainment purposes crosses over and is used so widely in education. However, Minecraft proved to be an exception. Ever since Microsoft bought Minecraft in 2014, it has been used in countless coding courses to teach kids real computer programming. Even with this change, an important question remains – can a game actually be used to teach coding? Well, it turns out that with a few tweaks, it can!
Code.org and Microsoft paired up to bring Minecraft coding to students 7 years and older. Through various activities, students can enter this virtual world while learning different coding languages, including block-based coding. The courses come equipped with tutorials that help guide students on how to build their own worlds using the famous game. These courses utilize the theme of Minecraft to help students learn coding as they explore different worlds.
The amount of kids learning to code through fun games like Minecraft is continuing to grow. The best way to discover how Minecraft can teach students code is to try it for yourself in class!