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‘Minecraft’ Hour of Code tutorial headlines Computer Science Education Week

Every year, various computing companies associated with Code.org help promote and manage the Hour of Code campaign aimed at inspiring students to learn programming. The campaign is held during Computer Science Education Week and is usually successful in generating interest from students in considering careers in software development.

Microsoft’s Minecraft has been a significant part of the Hour of Code for a few years. This year, the company is working with Code.org to promote an updated coding tutorial dubbed Minecraft Hour of Code Designer will focus on how the ever-popular gaming title can be even more effective in showing kids how exciting coding can be.

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The tutorial shows beginning coders how to create and share a simple Minecraft game and aims to provide anyone with the tools necessary for problem solving and critical thinking in an increasingly technology-oriented world. Microsoft is responding to U.S. Bureau of Statistics data that shows 1.4 million computing jobs will be generated just in the U.S. by 2020, while 40 percent of U.S. schools do not teach computer science at all.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been a supporter of Minecraft initiatives within Microsoft and he had some strong words to say in support of Minecraft’s involvement in Hour of Code. “We are partnering with Code.org again this year to make computer science more accessible to millions of youth around the world with Minecraft and Hour of Code. I am inspired by the Minecraft generation who view themselves not as players of a game, but as creators of the new worlds they dream up. This is the generation that will imagine, build and create our future, and together we can equip them with the computational thinking and problem-solving skills to seize the opportunities ahead.”

The Minecraft Hour of Code Designer tutorials are designed for anyone ages six and up and uses Code.org’s drag-and-drop coding interface to impart computer science concepts including object-oriented programming, event handlers, and repeat loops. The web-based tutorial is available for free at code.org/minecraft and is available in 10 languages with support for 50 languages by the event’s start date. There are 12 challenges for players to overcome, with the end result being a simple game that can be shared with other players.

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As Mike Harvey, a technology teacher in Falmouth, Maine, puts it, “The 2016 Minecraft Hour of Code tutorial builds on the success of the original in a great way. By programming familiar game events themselves, learners will be able to experience computer science in a way that is authentic as well as fun. The open-ended challenges help to show that our favorite games (like Minecraft) are ultimately created with code.”

Computer Science Education Week runs December 5 through December 11 and Microsoft will be hosting events in more than 60 countries. Hundreds of free workshops will be hosted by Microsoft Stores in various regions and students can sign up for sessions by visiting Microsoft’s YouthSpark site. Minecraft has always been a great educational tool and it will become even more valuable with its formal inclusion in the Hour of Code initiative.