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article imageMinecraft's new feature lets kids build new worlds with code

By James Walker     May 2, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has announced a new feature for Minecraft: Education Edition that's designed to introduce children to coding. Based on a new open-source platform, it delivers the fundamentals of programming in an open-world Minecraft setting.
Unveiled as part of Microsoft's #MicrosoftEdu event in New York City today, Code Builder is part of the latest update to Minecraft: Education Edition. Microsoft said that Minecraft's already being used by teachers in over 100 countries, indicating the impact the game has had on classroom environments.
Code Builder is meant to take this a step further by teaching children about how Minecraft is made. Using basic coding commands, students can navigate, create and build within a Minecraft world. The experience starts with the "/code" command which transports the player into the coding environment.
Within Code Builder, students are guided by a robotic avatar known as "the agent." This avatar is capable of building on its own, based on the commands given to it in code. The idea is that teachers will help learners to build simple programs executed by the avatar. It's similar to the traditional "turtle" games used to teach code since the 1960s.
To help ensure advanced students aren't stuck with the basics, Microsoft's also added underlying complexity that can be used to create more accomplished scripts. Coders with pre-existing experience can put their skills directly to use by giving Code Builder raw JavaScript commands. In this mode, the guiding avatar is also removed, giving the student more independence and flexibility when creating.
Microsoft has worked with popular interactive code tutorial platforms including Tynker and ScratchX to integrate Code Builder with existing systems. The company has also announced a new open source initiative called MakeCode. There are several options available to tailor Code Builder and get it running alongside tools teachers may already be using.
Minecraft: Education Edition is one of many "learn-to-code" initiatives attempting to get more young people interested in programming. Microsoft is using the success of Minecraft, particularly with younger audiences, to try and convince learners to engage with how it's make. The overarching aim is to inspire the next generation of programmers to write apps that could one day surpass Minecraft.
"Microsoft is broadening the game’s appeal further with Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition," said Microsoft. "This new feature is designed to inspire students to learn the basics and the power of coding by combining the open worlds of Minecraft with popular learn-to-code platforms such as Tynker, ScratchX and a new open source platform from Microsoft called MakeCode."
Code Builder is available from today in a limited beta form. Schools and other eligible education institutions can get started with Minecraft: Education Edition and Code Builder by starting a free one-year trial in the Microsoft Store for Education. Code Builder will gain more capabilities and tutorials as Microsoft develops the feature.
More about minecraft, minecraft education edition, Microsoft, Code, Programming
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