We recently launched our Online Mentoring program that offers a one-hour solo session with an expert counselor. So, what is learning to code one-on-one in Minecraft like? Let’s take a look.
To be able to code in Minecraft, we use ComputerCraft which adds ‘turtles’ to a student’s Minecraft world. Then, the student can write instructions through commands and code to make the turtle destroy, place, and interact with blocks in Minecraft.
“For the students unfamiliar with coding, the beginner turtles are great for teaching the basics of code by allowing them to drag and drop their commands into their programs using a visual editor,” Lukas Lohden, a lead counselor said. “Once the kids are familiar with some coding fundamentals such as loops and conditionals, we introduce them to the more advanced turtles which require the kids to write their code in a programming language called Lua. This reinforces the coding basics they’ve learned as well as gets them familiar with the syntax-based coding that is used in professional programming.”
To make sure a student is prepared for his or her one-on-one session, we schedule time with a parent to make sure ComputerCraft and TeamSpeak, which allows us to talk to the student directly and securely during the session, are set up properly. We also provide a catalog of projects so that the student can select activities that match his or her skills and interests.
Once the one-on-one session begins, the counselor and student discuss the different skills they’ll work on together. Counselor Lohden provides a great breakdown of how the hour long session goes:
“At the beginner level, we go over the basic idea of executing commands and how code works. This advances into some of the fundamental code structure like loops and conditionals. Once kids are familiar with these basics, we work with them on the concepts of functions, and the modularity of code. That is, how we can break our tasks down into small, segmented parts and put these parts together to create a problem solution. Then, these skills are integrated into projects with some kind of goal. For example, a student will come to a session and say they’d like to teach their turtle how to cut down trees, so we take the task in steps to work on each skill set incrementally. First, we work on the task of cutting down the tree (the concept of looping, repetition), then we work on dealing with leaves that may be in the way of our turtle (the concept of conditionals, logic) and then use the same code we’ve just created on a larger scale to create a program that manages a whole grove of trees (modularity, scalability of code).”
The mentoring program is different from learning from other players, because our counselors are trained in computer science and understand the fundamentals of code. This allows them to approach the topics with the students in a way that focuses on teaching coding fundamentals and not just completing a task or overcoming a particular obstacle. The goal of the counselor is to teach them how programming works both in Minecraft and in the real world.
Here’s what a parent of one of our first one-on-one coders said:
“The program was fun and engaging. I loved the fact that you [the counselor] explained, then showed me, and finally I got to do it myself. We, [my daughter] and I, think she received a valuable education from the sessions. With her input, she feels that she learned more about coding overall.”
Now that you’ve got the inside scoop, learn more about the program. Coding isn’t our only focus. We also have animation, engineering, and modding sessions, and Spanish language immersion will be coming soon.