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Minecraft is the best-selling video game of all time, having sold over 238 million copies since its release in 2011. Known for its open-world gameplay and sandbox style, which gives players the freedom to roam and manipulate the world as they see fit, Minecraft encourages creativity and experimentation above all else — particularly in its “creative” game mode.
This has made it especially popular among kids, with over 68% of children aged 9 to 12 playing the game regularly, according to a 2018 study. In addition to being a fun way for players of all ages to pass the time, Minecraft can also be a valuable educational tool for children.
Through its student-focused program, Minecraft: Education Edition, teachers and parents can use the game to teach kids various computational thinking skills such as problem-solving, logical thinking, and collaboration.
These skills are becoming increasingly important in a variety of fields, and Minecraft provides a unique and interactive way for kids to develop them.
Here are five excellent ways your kids can learn coding with Minecraft:
1. Code Builder
One of the challenges of learning to code is that the learning process can be overwhelming. Hunting for rarely used keys and memorizing the vast syntax of a new language can be frustrating for many kids. As a solution, Minecraft: Education Edition offers a fun and engaging way to ease into the concepts of programming through its Code Builder.
By providing players with a visual interface for creating custom commands and modifications (mods) within the game, Minecraft’s Code Builder turns coding into a puzzle game. Kids can drag the pieces of pre-written code and stack them together to form a script that changes an aspect of the game, such as landscape features or objects.
By making coding less wordy and more accessible, the visual interface saves kids time from worrying about spelling mistakes or syntax. Block-based coding is a great beginning coding language for kids. Additionally, Minecraft allows kids to see the results of their coding in real time within the game, making the learning process more interactive and engaging.
Using essential pre-built programming functions, such as Loops and If statements, kids can gain problem-solving skills that will become valuable in their future programming endeavors.
Modding, short for modifying, is the process of changing or adding to the contents of a video game to customize or enhance the gameplay experience. One way to mod in Minecraft, without the restrictions of Minecraft: Education Edition, is to use a programming language called Java, which is still widely used today — although Java is only supported in legacy editions of the game.
With some basic knowledge of Java, players can create new in-game items, blocks, and mobs (game entities) or even modify the game’s physics.
One example of a Minecraft mod that can be made using Java is one that adds a new animal to the game by defining its behaviors and characteristics. For example, the mod could add a new type of animal such as a dolphin, which would swim around in the water and interact with players and other mobs in the world.
Teaching kids to mod in Minecraft can be a fun and engaging way to introduce them to programming, as it allows them to see the immediate results of their code on a platform that they find enjoyable and meaningful.
As players face numerous opportunities to make modifications as they play, they can experiment and iterate on their ideas, which can foster a sense of accomplishment and a liking for bringing their ideas to life.
Modding in Minecraft can help kids develop the habit of coding and explore their creative side as they develop their own unique additions to the game.
When the kids are ready to leave their training wheels, they can try to learn essential programming concepts using a resource in Minecraft called redstone. Like electricity, redstone can be used to teach logic circuits by allowing players to design and experiment with systems that perform tasks based on rules or conditions. These logic circuits can be as simple as a door that opens when a button is pressed.
As kids become more comfortable with redstone, they can even start to create more complex systems, such as automated farms. Automated farms in Minecraft are systems that use redstone and other game mechanics to automatically plant, grow, and harvest crops without the need for player intervention. This can be an excellent way for kids to learn about automation and how it can be used to streamline processes and save time.
Additionally, building and maintaining an automated farm can help kids develop skills in resource management and planning, as they will need to consider factors such as crop selection and irrigation to ensure their farm’s success.
Experimenting with Redstone logic circuits in Minecraft can help kids learn fundamental programming concepts such as input, output, and control structures. Redstone is so handy that the Minecraft resource is used in computer science courses to teach students advanced topics such as logic gates and boolean algebra.
Learning to design and debug using circuits will be a valuable skill for kids interested in it, not just because they can show off their beautiful creations to their friends. Creating and modifying complex logic circuits is a valuable learning experience for aspiring programmers as it facilitates logical thinking.
By analyzing how different components interact and using logical approaches to create contraptions in Minecraft, kids can gain insight into the procedures similarly used by programmers.
Debugging is the process of identifying and fixing errors in code. It is an essential skill for programmers to learn as it allows them to spot problems quickly and ensure their programs run as intended.
Debugging requires patience, persistence, and problem-solving skills and cannot be avoided when creating and experimenting with mods and redstone contraptions.
The debugging process in Minecraft can involve long hours of trying to find the source of the problem, using trial and error to modify the code and researching potential solutions online.
As it often requires large amounts of concentration, children that engage in this process develop their attention to detail and become more skilled at spotting small errors in their code.
This is similar to the way that professional programmers approach debugging, as they also need to be able to identify and fix problems quickly in order to ensure that their programs run smoothly. Those who enjoy this process may be encouraged to pursue programming as a career or hobby.
5. Collaboration and Teamwork
Collaboration and teamwork are essential skills in the world of programming.
Whether working on a small project or a large one, the ability to communicate effectively and delegate tasks is crucial to the success of a project.
As a programmer, it is common to work on a team with other developers, each with their own specialized skills and areas of expertise. If the team members do not communicate and work together seamlessly, the project may become confusing and unproductive — and in many cases, a disaster.
This is where Minecraft can be a valuable learning tool. The game’s collaborative nature allows players to work together to build structures, solve puzzles, and complete tasks, all while developing their communication and teamwork skills. For example, a team of players may focus on building different areas of a building, such as the exterior and interior — similar to programmers on a software project who often divide their coding responsibilities between the front-end and back-end.
Through the process of working with others towards a common goal, kids can learn the importance of effective communication and the value of delegating responsibilities. This will not only be useful in the field of programming but in the vast majority of future careers.
More on Minecraft: Education Edition
Minecraft Education Edition is a version of Minecraft that has been specifically designed for use in educational settings.
It offers a range of tools and features that make it easy for teachers to use the game in their classrooms as a teaching aid, including Classroom Mode, a companion app that allows teachers to monitor students’ progress as they host a multiplayer world where students can work together to complete the task of the lesson; and Code Builder, a tool that simplifies coding concepts and can be used to complete coding assignments.
For example, students can be tasked with creating a custom obstacle course game. This could involve designing the game mechanics, writing the code to implement these mechanics, and then testing and debugging the game to ensure that it is functioning correctly.
In addition to these features, Minecraft Education Edition also includes a Marketplace where teachers can purchase lesson plans, worlds, and other resources created by other educators.
Minecraft Education Edition is available to students who have been provided with an Office 365 Education account or a Microsoft 365 account by their educational institution. For those who are not part of an eligible institution, there is a subscription cost annually to join.
It is an excellent tool for teachers looking to engage and educate their students in a fun and interactive way.
Kate is mom of two rambunctious boys and a self-proclaimed super nerd. With a background in neuroscience, she is passionate about sharing her love of all things STEM with her kids. She loves to find creative ways to teach kids computer science and geek out about coding and math. She has authored several books on coding for kids which can be found at Hachette UK.