Playing Minecraft Leads Kids to an Interest in Learning How to Program

Playing Minecraft Leads Kids to an Interest in Learning How to Program

Minecraft is the game everyone is playing these days. It’s really impressive how such a simple game, with so few rules, has gathered such a massive following. There are 40 million registered players, with more joining every day. Many of these players are kids – nearly every student Breakout Mentors works with plays the game!

For those unfamiliar with Minecraft, here is a 1 minute trailer that is sure to pique your interest:

[if you’re reading in email, click here to view the video]

There are many interesting aspects that entices people try the game and then keep playing. But rather than examining what makes the game fun, let’s explore how it makes kids interested in learning how to program.

With so little structure to the game, players are able to build whatever they want. This can range from humongous castles and famous buildings all the way to beautiful scenery. This establishes in the player’s mind that time spent on the computer can be creative.

The game also features “pistons” and “redstones” that allow you to make complex moving contraptions. These can act as a circuit and memory storage of an in game computer. They allow you to make trap doors, elevators, digital clocks, and way more. This is essentially programming, although in a very weird environment.

Those are the in game features that give players an introduction to programming concepts, but just as important is the Minecraft software itself. If you want to play multi-player with your friends and your own rules (more on this in a second), you have to setup a server to play on. This server / client relationship is how the internet functions and gives kids exposure to being a publisher of content online rather than just a consumer.

By far the most obvious way Minecraft entices kids to learn how to program is through mods. Minecraft is written in the Java programming language and anyone is able to mod, or customize, their game to create new rules, objects, blocks, and more. Yes, kids are actually figuring out how to access the source code of the game and tweaking things to change how the game works. They might not understand a lot of the Java code, but the exposure to it makes them want to learn more.

If your student is interested in learning how to make Minecraft mods, let us know by email or leave a comment below. Breakout Mentors is currently investigating offering small classes in the Bay Area that use Minecraft mods as a way to build excitement to learn more programming. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted by Brian Skinner / Posted on 07 Sep
  • Post Comments 12

     Kenya Ziegenhagen
    • Sep 10 2012
    Reply  
    Hi,   I have two children, both of whom are homeschooled and would love to be able to program their own Minecraft mods. They would love to take a class.   Please keep me posted on whether or not you decided to offer a class.
       Brian
      • Sep 10 2012
      Reply  
      Thanks for your interest Kenya. I'd love to follow up during our planning to be sure to cover your interests. Is it OK if I email you?
     Mary
    • Sep 10 2012
    Reply  
    Hi, I homeschool my 11 year old son and he would love to learn how to create mods, so let me know if you will offer a class. Mary
     Marielle
    • Sep 10 2012
    Reply  
    Hi Brian, Still figuring out our homeschooling schedule and are just getting back into the swing of things. Hope to start to set up some sessions with Esme as soon as she is good to go. Love this idea and think Esme would too, though I think you said Scratch was a better mode for her at this point.
       Brian
      • Sep 12 2012
      Reply  
      Great to hear from you! My hope is to use Minecraft to drive a greater interest in programming, whether Scratch (something the student can understand more thoroughly in a short amount of time) or Java (to do Minecraft mods, but won't understand the whole program). This Minecraft idea is definitely in the early stages, but I'll let you know any updates.
     Jaime
    • Sep 10 2012
    Reply  
    Also homeschooling and have a 12 yo who would love this! Please contact us if you start a class in the Bay Area, especially mid-day!
     Misa
    • Sep 10 2012
    Reply  
    Me, me! Well, my son. We are homeschooling as well and he'd love a Minecraft programming class.
     Neha
    • Sep 10 2012
    Reply  
    My 12yo son has been big into minecraft for the past 18 months and would like to learn to make mods. We also homeschool. We would be happy to host a class at our home. We live in SF. Please email me.
     Dawn
    • Sep 10 2012
    Reply  
    I homeschool my 10 year old son, who is a big Minecraft fan. I think he'd be very interested in this - please let me know if you get a class together!
     Heather
    • Dec 1 2012
    Reply  
    Definitely interested! But please make it virtual so we on the East coast can participate. My 10 year old son desperately wants to learn how to make mods.
     Lorena
    • Aug 18 2013
    Reply  
    My son is crazy about Minecraft and would love to learn more about programing. Ple, let us know if any class available in the future. Thanks!
     Kurt
    • Sep 18 2013
    Reply  
    I taught my kids (ages 10 and 8) programming with Scratch last year and they are both crazy about minecraft and I'd love to leverage that interest to get them into Java programming. I've programmed in Java before, but I have no idea how Minecraft works from an architectural perspective and would love to know how to get started with making very simple mods. Any suggestions, classes or tutorials would be much appreciated!

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