Minecraft for education has been around for a while now, all the promise of providing an immersive environment for students to access all kinds of learning opportunities is still there but the process needed some definition and direction.
Minecraft has the player place and break blocks and is one of the most popular video games in history. It has wide appeal but leveraging that into useful education experiences is the trick.
‘Coding in Minecraft’ is a computer science credential program with supporting curriculum, delivered through Minecraft: Education Edition and Prodigy Learning’s skillify; online assessment platform.
The solution is taking off in the US and Europe. In Florida, ‘Coding in Minecraft’ was adopted as a CAPE Digital Tool Certificate by the Florida Department of Education in late 2019 (one of only 20 certifications recognised and funded by the State to improve learner outcomes). ‘Coding in Minecraft’ was piloted in North Carolina in 2019 to great success and Prodigy Learning are now working with the state to rollout to middle-school students to underpin assessment of their computer science standards.
“Our vision for ‘Coding in Minecraft’ was to democratise computer science instruction in schools across the world, using the appeal of the game to engage diverse learners at a younger age and break the stereotypical path to a computer science career,” says Prodigy Learning CEO Andrew Flood.
Students undertake learning activities in the Minecraft world and prove their skills by completing assessments in-game.
“Students submit evidence of assessments to our online assessment platform where teachers can grade and provide formative feedback. Upon successful submission of assessments for every course, the student is awarded a micro-credential,” Flood says.
At the end of the pathway is the proctored Capstone Credential exam. This online exam, tailored for the age range of the student, proves students coding skills. The ‘Coding in Minecraft’ pathway provides an onramp for students to continue their learning by undertaking higher-level industry certifications or further computer sciences courses at high school and university.
“As students are typically already familiar with the game the learning curve to engage successfully in the credentials and curriculum is minimal. For those that may not have had experience of Minecraft before, the gameplay mechanics are easily learned and typically teachers will find that other students in the class are eager to show any non-players the basics.
“Making the solution easy to teach is key to achieving our aim of breaking down barriers to computer science education in schools. Keeping this in mind, the curriculum is student led and teacher facilitated. Students can learn at their own pace by exploring the Minecraft world where they complete learning activities either individually or collaboratively.
“Teachers do not need to be Minecraft, coding or computer science experts to use the curriculum as it has been developed to be very easy to teach and break down the barriers to introducing coding in schools. The comprehensive solution includes curriculum, Minecraft worlds, assessments, micro-credentials, capstone exam and teacher resources,” he says.
“‘Coding in Minecraft’ is delivered on a product-branded version of our ‘skillify’ online learning & assessment platform. This highly functional and extensible online assessment platform hosts many other assessment programs worldwide including digital skills assessments and assessments for education, state and government clients,” Flood says.
“Utilising the skillify platform allows ‘Coding in Minecraft’ to take advantage of the latest assessment technologies (including accessibility) while custom branding ensures the look and feel is engaging for the target audience (and in keeping with the Minecraft game). On the platform students and teachers access the curriculum, submit evidence of assessments (students), provide formative feedback (teacher), undertake the Capstone Credential exam (students) and award/access credentials.”
The platform enables the use of both formative and summative assessments within ‘Coding in Minecraft’. At the end of each lesson students undertake an assessment in the game of Minecraft to prove they understand what they have learned in the lesson.
This assessment is evidence-based, the student submits evidence of the completed assessment to the online platform where the teacher can then grade and provide feedback to the student using the formative assessment module within the platform. This feedback could be either positive reinforcement in the case where the assessment fulfils the grading criteria or used to support the student to complete the assessment successfully.
Upon completion of the pathway the Capstone Credential exam is a summative assessment which takes the form of a proctored online exam. This exam has been designed for young learners and comprises of multiple choice and drag and drop type questions.
Teachers act as facilitators when students are completing tasks in the Minecraft world. There are comprehensive course outlines and lesson plans included for teachers to make it as simple as possible for them.
Lesson plans include learning objectives and learning outcomes for each lesson so teachers know exactly what their students are doing in the Minecraft world. In these lesson plans are example/guiding questions teachers can ask to get their students to think critically and aid them to complete their tasks. There is also documentation on the correct answers.
A free demo of ‘Coding in Minecraft’ is available by completing the form on https://codingcredentials.com if any teachers want to take a deeper look.
“For ‘Coding in Minecraft’ to be impactful, we knew it had to be more than just another STEM curriculum/learning solution. Providing evidence-based, standards-aligned credentials would prove the students’ skills and could be integrated into state / national curricula around the world was central to our vision.
“Upon successful completion of each evidence-based assessment within a credential the student is instantly awarded a certificate on the online platform which they can download and print. When the student successfully completes the Capstone Credential exam the student is awarded a certificate and digital badge instantly which they can download and print or share. The Capstone Credential provides validation of the student’s skills,” Flood says.
“These credentials have been well received and recognized in the markets we have launched ‘Coding in Minecraft’ including being aligned to Ofqual regulated units (UK), recognized as a Cape Digital Tool Certificate (Florida, US) mapped to a national Digital Competency Framework (Wales, UK) and the UK National Curriculum for CS.”
Prodigy Learning is the developer of the ‘Coding in Minecraft’ credential program with supporting curriculum. Prodigy Learning owns, hosts and provides the ‘Coding in Minecraft’ program including hosting the SaaS solution and providing the student licenses, curriculum, assessments, credentials and supporting instructor resources including professional development content. Individual student licenses or volume site licenses are available for schools.
“We entered the Australian market in October 2017 with the opening of our Sydney office. Since then, Prodigy Learning has supported a number of large transformative education programs, including partnering with Microsoft Australia to launch the Microsoft Traineeship Program and providing our digital skills certifications and learning solutions to education institutions across Australia,” he says.
This webinar with North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (https://certmatters.com/certmatters-live-2020-highlights/#cim-session) gives some first-hand feedback from the State’s Director of Computer Science and a middle-school teacher about the program.