Learning to Program Robots and Computers
Last spring, our students were introduced Minecraftedu, a modified version of the globally popular 3D computer game Minecraft, in which players can explore, mine, build, and collaborate in vast 3D environments.
Minecraftedu is designed to provide security and structural tools for teachers to maximize the games incredible educational potential.
The game instantly caught fire with students, inspiring diverse classroom applications and projects. Students constructed scale replicas of Civil War battlefields, collaborated via online servers in group-building projects and adventures, and designed elaborate structures and buildings that were later brought into the physical world with our 3D printer.
|Sydney's Minecraft-designed Eiffel tower replica
Our school is one of approximately one thousand schools worldwide that are using this new and exciting teaching tool.
Very recently the developers of Minecraftedu announced that they were going to begin beta testing a new Minecraftedu modification designed to teach computer programming, and that they were looking for pilot schools to be among the first in the world to use it. In remaining at the forefront of educational technology advances, our school was selected as one of these pilot schools.
This new modification is called ComputerCraft. With ComputerCraft, students will be able to build and program functioning computers, monitors, modems, and robots (called “turtles”) within Minecraftedu itself. ComputerCraft has existed as a downloadable “mod” for standard Minecraft since 2012, however it has only just become available for Minecraftedu as a tool for educators.
Students will be engaged in actual coding with ComputerCraft, programming their creations using the programming language Lua. Lua is currently the leading programming language in game development, used in the creation of such popular titles as World of Warcraft and Angry Birds.
Using the new tools provided by ComputerCraft, students will be able to explore the fundamental aspects of programming, such as variables, conditional statements, functions, loops, and tables.
Why is learning to program so important for students? Programming is the means for creating the eloquent and functional systems of the 21st century, be it the next popular IOS app or a database used by pharmacies to catch dangerous medication mixtures before prescriptions are filled. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 913,000 computer programmer jobs in 2010. That number is expected to jump 30 percent from 2010 to 2020. Meanwhile, the average growth of all other U.S. jobs is predicted to be just 14 percent. The need for basic computing knowledge is becoming more ubiquitous across nearly all industries, and that need is only going to increase with time.
Minecraftedu and ComputerCraft provide a means to introduce students to programming in an intuitive and fun environment. As a school, we are extremely excited to see what our students can come up with once it is put into their hands. Stay tuned!