December 5, 2017 | Code, Mike, MOTW
Last month, you had the opportunity to read about Hero’s Journey, the newest Minecraft tutorial for the Hour of Code! Now that Computer Science Education Week is upon us, it’s the perfect time to give our students that first look into the world of coding.
With literally hundreds of Hour of Code tutorials available for students in grades K-12, it’s somehow still no surprise that Minecraft is the most popular! Hero’s Journey is the third tutorial created by Code.org in partnership with Microsoft. Students are challenged to program the mysterious “Agent” who is their key to solving a set of increasingly challenging problems. It is the sequel to previous years’ Designer and Adventure tutorials. Each provides a unique take on potential overlaps between coding and Minecraft. All are worth playing!
My sincere hope is that classes that try the Hour of Code will be motivated to go beyond that first hour. Whether you and your students are looking to expand to a whole day, a week, or a full course, Minecraft has you covered!
Code Builder is also included with the purchase of Minecraft: Education Edition at no additional cost. It’s a new tool that allows students and educators to connect a variety of coding platforms to the true 3D Minecraft experience. The platforms include Code.org, Scratch, Tynker, and Microsoft’s MakeCode. Each includes a variety of tools, templates, or lessons for getting started. Each one is also unique, so where should you begin?
Unique Feature: Import projects from Hero’s Journey! If your students have completed the Hero’s Journey tutorial, this is the most natural place to start. Students will see a familiar interface to what they used during the Hour of Code and will also be able to import their final creations from that activity! You can learn more about that process here. There are no new lessons, but students have a fairly simple toolbox that allows them to interact with various aspects of Minecraft and to command the Agent to do whatever they would like.
Start your journey into Code Builder right where you left off during the Hour of Code!
In addition to its offerings for Code Builder and the Hour of Code, Code.org is also home to great computer science courses for grades K-12. Although you’ll need Code Builder installed to use it, you can preview the Code.org interface here.
Unique Feature: The Scratch stage and sprites! Code Builder’s ScratchX platform offers all of the same commands as Code.org with the powerful addition of the stage area, sprites, and sounds that make Scratch what it is. While there are no built-in lessons, driven students and educators will find creative ways to connect Scratch projects to Minecraft. For example, you could create a project where clicking on different sprites in Scratch rewards you with different items in Minecraft. You could also quickly write code to do things like control the agent manually using the keyboard! These kinds of projects are especially powerful when you connect two computers together. While one student explores the Minecraft world, another can directly impact what happens around them.
Click the apple sprite in ScratchX; receive an apple you can eat in Minecraft!
ScratchX is the home to experimental extensions not officially supported by Scratch. Beyond Minecraft, there are additional extensions that let you connect to external hardware like electronics or robotics. Although you’ll need Code Builder installed to use it, you can preview the ScratchX interface here.
Unique Feature: The Agent Trials world, TynkerBot, and more programming blocks! The two remaining coding platforms are ready for you as soon as you are ready to take your programming to the next level! Tynker’s Minecraft lessons were made for classrooms. They are student-driven, self-pacing, accessible, and creative. The Tynker platform is also unique has it has its own custom world for Education Edition that students can use to play and explore. The Agent Trials is a world where students complete a sequence of challenges that can only be accomplished using the Agent! This makes Tynker another great jumping off point for classes that have already used Hero’s Journey!
For advanced students, Tynker introduces its own upgraded version of the Agent: the TynkerBot. This invisible drone can move and place blocks like the Agent, but it does so at lightning speed! Best of all, students have access to more event blocks which raises the ceiling for what students can accomplish and create. It is also worth noting that Tynker has its own complete Minecraft courses designed for home use and summer camps alike. Students who use this service get their own personal server for the PC edition of Minecraft and access a selection of modding and game design tutorials.
Use a chat command to rain TNT from the sky!
In addition to its programs for Minecraft, Tynker offers an impressive programming curriculum for schools. The courses integrate coding into many other academic disciplines across grades K-8. Learn more about setting up Minecraft: Education Edition with Tynker here. Although you’ll need Code Builder installed to use them, you can preview the Agent Trials and Tynker tutorials here.
In the very first tutorial, you’ll write code to summon 100 chickens out of thin air!
Learn more about setting up Minecraft with MakeCode here. Although you’ll need Code Builder installed to use it, you can preview the MakeCode tutorials here.
Mike Harvey (@mharveytech) is a technology and computer science teacher for Falmouth Public Schools in Maine. He runs programming camps for elementary and middle school students and has been teaching with Minecraft since 2012. Mike is a member of the Hour of Code Review Committee.
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