It’s back to school time and the battle of getting your kids to play less video games so they can get their homework done begins anew. What if a fun video game can teach your kid a marketable skill like programming? This is the case with the popular video game by Mojang, Minecraft.
Nine-year-old Stanley Strum has been participating in a program which is experimenting with teaching kids how to code by using the popular sandbox title. The program, called LearnToMod, teaches kids how to modify their Minecraft game to perform various actions on command. These modifications (called “mods” by the gaming community) are used to enhance the gaming experience. Some of these modifications include rigging a bow to create a warp point at will, or to make lightning strike when the bow is shot. WIRED magazine describes this phenomenon like “being able to create your own cheat codes,” and kids love it.
The mod will be available sometime in October, but in the meantime, it is restricted to the 150 kids who are participating in the study.
Stephen Foster, the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, the company who put together LearnToMod, claims that “Kids are already spending ridiculous amounts of hours on Minecraft. So we thought this would be a good way to help them learn skills.” And, according to this video, kids are having a ton of fun in the process, all while learning real-life skills that can be used as a jumping point for technology-based careers (eventually). If the promise for a more exciting gaming experience wasn’t enough for the test participants, ThoughtSTEM’s project also offers participants college credit from the University of California in San Diego.
The LearnToMod interface is located separate from Minecraft. Once the kids have finished building their code, they can upload it to their Minecraft account and make it available in-game. Due to the incredible vastness of Minecraft, it appeals to all types of personalities. The creative can build endless, complex castles and mountain ranges, while the more adventurous types can dig into the depths of the earth in search of precious gems and the denizens that dwell within. Therefore, most children will enjoy the versatility that coding can potentially provide for their experience.
Generally speaking, Minecraft only opens the doors for the possibilities of a technology career for children. Professionals are hoping that by introducing them to the wonders of coding early on, they will learn to love technology and potentially make a career out of it. After all, today’s children are the next generation, and even if they don’t become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, they will have skills which they can use to carve a place for themselves in the growing technological industry.
What are your thoughts on using gaming to teach children how to code? Do you or your kids play Minecraft? Let us know in the comments.