Deploy & Code In Minecraft


Minecraft has become something of a global phenomenon, engaging users of all ages both in and out of the education sector. The official Minecraft site lists sales figures of the original Java edition exceeding 27 million, and this won't include Minecraft on other platforms or the Education Edition released earlier this year that adds some unique features for schools.

In this blog post I want to share two key messages:

  1. How to deploy Minecraft:Education Edition and links to the best resources to ensure a smooth roll out.
  2. Code Builder - explain what it is and provide some great resources to enable you or your students to get coding in Minecraft:Education Edition

Deployment:

The best place for up to date information is the official Deployment Guide web page which covers off:

  • Purchasing Minecraft: Education Edition
  • Managing Minecraft: Education Edition licenses
  • Getting Minecraft: Education Edition support
  • Running a Minecraft Family Night event
  • Purchasing Minecraft: Education Edition merchandise
  • Finding Minecraft: Education Edition lessons and worlds

If you're in a real rush, I encourage you to get the PDF version directly from this link here.

The content in the downloadable materials should be explored in detail, because as the bullet point list above shows, there is some helpful resources to kick start engagement in your school. Whilst the technical elements of purchasing and assigning licenses is important, I call special attention to the Running a Minecraft Family Night Event. This is a key way to increase parental buy in and help them understand both the pedagogical benefits of Minecraft as well as the inherent appeal of game based learning.

Play is our brain's favourite way of learning

Diane Ackerman

The idea that we learn through observation, trial and error and play-based practice is reinforced through Minecraft. It can be daunting, however, for new users to learn when there is no "instructions" or "best practice" in terms of how to build and design things in Minecraft - you need to give it a go, fail fast, and try again.

Additionally, you need to be super collaborative to achieve things at scale and it is no coincidence that PISA is now looking to assess how well students collaborate together. These are key skills required in the work force, as identified by Jeff Healey (MSNZ Public Sector Director) when he was interviewed about the recent project between MSNZ, NZ Parliamentary Services and three Wellington Schools who used Minecraft:EE to build their own versions of New Zealand's parliamentary buildings.

To assist you with your rapid deployment, here are some key links you should check out:

 

Code Builder - Getting Started:

Code Builder was announced back in May 2017 as being available for Minecraft:EE and then subsequently in October 2017 it was launched for Minecraft for Windows 10.

The official description of Code Builder is:

Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition is a brand-new extension that allows educators and students to explore, create, and play in an immersive Minecraft world – all by writing code. Connecting to learn-to-code packages like ScratchX, Tynker, and a new open source platform called Microsoft MakeCode, players start with familiar tools, templates and tutorials.

I've done a bit of work in Code Builder and love the fact that it introduces users to the concepts of coding through the use of familiar "block based coding" techniques. The key, in my view at least, is that as the skills of users progress they can easily switch into programming directly in JavaScript, a ubiquitous language.

Consequently, students get to leverage the high interest of Minecraft while simultaneously learning core concepts of computational thinking and the introduction to programming concepts like loops and arrays.

Reading the blog post from Microsoft Research when the launched Code Builder for Minecraft Windows 10 is useful to understand the background to the "why" it was developed, but I've embedded the best video from the blog post below:

The video is instructional because it provides a few tips on how to get the best out of Code Builder (e.g. starting with a "flat" world is just easier, as is keeping it "always day time"), but also provides code snippets for two popular scenarios:

  • Raining chickens (using a few lines of code to spawn chickens falling from the sky)
  • Zombie apocalypse (building a walled environment with code, then using arrays to create variable zombie type characters)

While neither of those may necessarily appeal to adult audiences, I can assure you that kids go crazy when they realize that through the use of code they can automate their creations. Helpfully, Code Builder allows students and educators to share their code with each other, either through exporting it as a Code Builder file (.mkcd) that can be imported by another user, or even easier: uploading from within the app itself and sharing a shortened URL with a user:

makecode share.PNG

Publish and share your code snippets easily through MakeCode.com

If you are seeking instructional documents and guides for Code Builder then click below:

Code Builder for Minecraft:EE Help Docs

You might still be asking "so what? What is the big deal with coding?" Well, many countries, including New Zealand, is pivoting their curriculum to align with future ready skills where Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is a major component. The following graphic comes from the proposed changes to the NZ Curriculum for 2018:

Dig-Tech NZ Curriculum.png

The first two rows of the Technological Areas are new:

  • Computational thinking for digital technologies
  • Designing and developing digital outcomes

It's easy to see how these two can be taught through the creative processes students use in Minecraft:EE with the added benefit of Code Builder.

If you are interested in giving Minecraft:EE a go, download it from the above links - you can sign in for a limited number of times free before you need a paid license. If you're already using Minecraft:EE in your school I'd love to hear how it is going - feel free to drop a comment below or share your code snippets.

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