Minecraft in the classroom?
Last week I ran a short session at Campus London with a roomful of students from local schools. Only one of the students had seen a Raspberry Pi before and only a couple had used a command line interface or seen a computer program. In just over an hour they learned how to set up the Raspberry Pi, did a bit of Linux and then hacked Minecraft using Python. Here’s what they thought of it:
“I used a raspberry pi and it showed me how exciting and useful new technology can be. Also learning simple coding was very useful and made me want to learn more. It made me more interested in technology and coding. It made me really consider my careers options involving technology.” —William
“This has pushed me to finish my game I am currently developing.” —Joseph
“It has made me interested about learning coding. I have realised coding isn’t as hard as I thought.” —Lara
“I want to learn more about programming, because it was really interesting.” —Ellie
“The most important thing I learned was how to use Raspberry Pi.” —Finley
“The most important thing I learned was how to change the commands to Mine Craft.” —Harjoat
“We had a go using a device called a Raspberry Pi which let us hack into a game and let us give it commands. It was really fun and exciting to learn all these new things.” —Jasmine
Reading these comments makes me smile, it was a fantastic session and shows what you can learn in short amount of time. A few lessons jump out from the feedback:
- When given the opportunity, most young people find computing to be a powerful and exciting thing.
- Everyone gets something different out of learning how to tell a computer what to do.
- Play is a powerful way to learn and computers are a good way to play.
These lessons are hardly new—it’s where Logo, Scratch and Lego Mindstorms come from—but what has changed is the accessibility and opportunity. With a £30 computer and a free game you can learn computer science in a beautiful, constructionist sandbox. (“Why dig when you can code?” “Are you an Alpha or an Epsilon?” “Hack with your brain, not with your pickaxe.” And other rubbish aphorisms coming soon to a T-shirt near you.) Quite simply, you can teach yourself to think in powerful ways while messing about. I don’t know about you, but as a teacher I think that this is quite profound.
I’m going to blog more about Pi Minecraft in future; I think that its potential as a teaching and learning tool is huge. I’ll be writing lesson plans for it and hopefully not just computing lessons: Martin O’Hanlon’s analogue clock for example would be a brilliant to teach trig and geometry in the constructionist stylee. If anyone out there—teachers, programmers, Notch, whoever—want to help then get in touch. The School of Minecraft has a nice ring to it don’t you think?
P.S. Campus is an amazing place: if you are a tech start-up or entrepreneur (or would like to be!) and can get down there, check it out. I love it.
Hi Clive. I agree there appears to be loads of potential for Minecraft. I was excited when I saw the Minecraft tutorial in MagPi edition 11, just out. It looks like a great thing for kids. I know that the year 6 students I teach Science to, love it. I am starting a Coding Club with them next week (I am secondary normally but guesting with Year 6) but will be using Python Basics. When finished we will look at Minecraft and see if we can now hack it productively. Is it only Pis that you can use Python on as we only have two – we will be working in our PC labs on coding?
I think the kids might go a bit nuts and start demanding many Pis when they realise they can use Python to get ahead of their friends. (The year 6 students seem a bit competitive to me.)
I would be interested in supporting in anyway I could. Get in touch if you need some support, ideas, materials, whatever.
I have recently developed the game , I love the idea of a game in a game and it seems like a great way to get gamers to take the leap into coding.
Raspberry Pi Staff liz
Thank you Martin – we’ll definitely be in touch! (Loved your Snake-in-Minecraft, by the way; it only didn’t get featured here because I didn’t feel we could legitimately have three of your projects on the front page in a fortnight!)
I’m a grown man but I still want to take these lessons….
My programming teacher allowed me to plug my Pi into her projector and show the entire class Minecraft on the Pi. We also have a school wi-fi network that a lot of people use for ‘non-educational’ things like Minecraft Pocket. So we hopped on their servers and messed with ’em :P
When I assigned my sixth grade science students to construct dioramas of the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles, some of the kids surprisingly asked if they could do it in Minecraft on their game systems, mobile devices, etc. At first, I couldn’t figure out how they would be able to do that, because it required labeling everything. Then, it clicked – signposts resize to fit whatever text you want to put on them, and with the programmability (which is something in the Pi Edition that I don’t think is in the Pocket Edition), the sky is literally the limit.
I was flabbergasted by what the kids were able to accomplish in just a few days of part-time digging, filling, routing waterfalls, signpost scribbling, etc. Some kids who had frankly been giant “pita” (any teacher knows what that acronym means) discipline cases suddenly had a reason to live, and that reason was Minecraft, Minecraft, and more Minecraft. Did I mention that the kids absolutely LOVE Minecraft? If its nickname isn’t Minecrack, it should be – it’s so addictive some kids wouldn’t even eat or sleep until they had solved how to accomplish each required diorama task. Their parents were wide-eyed with wonder at how excited they were, too.
If a site doesn’t already exist for Minecraft use in education, I was going to grab domain names like Minecrack.com or Mineclass.com, but they’re already taken (and not being used, “Booooo” – dopey cybersquatters). If it doesn’t already exist, I’ll come up with something for educational use and let everyone know … with an emphasis on the Pi Edition, of course ;)
Thanks for the comment re the magazine :) Python is available on many computer operating systems including Windows and Mac OS X as well as Linux. The installation files are available at:
Minecraft Pi obviously needs a Pi to run on though. I don’t know if non-Pi Minecraft has an API for Python. Tried googling but got only Minecraft Pi search results ;)
Oh and [quote]I am starting a Coding Club[/quote] earns you much kudos.
I gave a talk at my son’s grade 5 class this week about the Raspberry Pi, with a little bit of history thrown in showing them a Timex/Sinclair 1000 (North American ZX81). They thought it was quite interesting, but when I put up Minecraft on the projector, they went nuts. They could really see a use for it then. They want me to come back for another talk, and I suspect it will all be about Minecraft. Time to brush up on my python skills.
Here’s something they might like…
The code works but plenty of room for improvement so a good exercise.
Great job. I have also been using Minecraft in the classroom for the past few weeks. I would love to share notes and ideas.
I am on LinkedIn, Google+ and Edmodo.
Raspberry Pi Staff liz
*Points up* – folks, this last post was from Tom from Charlotte Latin School, whose excellent class of girls we featured here last week, when they gave a talk about their Raspberry Pi projects at TedX.
I am 11 years old. I made my first website at 5 using a GUI creator and I created a SUSE Linux-based OS at the age of 8. You can imagine how frustrated I am at the ICT curriculum when we are taught how to ” Colour text in Word ” or ” Snip our writing using Snipping Tool ” when I would much prefer to be working at a bash shell in a virtualised Ubuntu Linux. Go Raspberry Pi! Long may coding in schools continue!
Hey I am 16 and also get annoyed at school ict. However we do have a progarming club which I enjoy. I also find the lack of software package annoying at my school. I was wondering how would you show kids coding for the first time. I don’t think that you would ever be working on shell at school
A pity, but I have to agree! The closest thing my school has to coding is Scratch. For a bunch of 11-year-olds, I take pity on the IT industry.