As the academic year starts to wind up for many schools, teachers are often looking for engaging activities to motivate tiring students who have an eye on the summer break, whilst still delivering robust learning outcomes.
Enter the newly revamped Hour of Code inside of Minecraft: Education Edition.
With a highly relevant topic focused on using AI technology to fight forest fires, students need to use coding across a series of tasks to train a bot that can first recognise fire-risk shrubbery and then deploy the bot to save a village in a fire-risk zone before an impending lightening storm strikes. The Hour of Code runs between December 9th and 15th and you can register here to officially participate.
Here’s an intro video to the new Hour of Code lesson inside of Minecraft: Education Edition:
Currently, I’m working through a large amount of internal professional development focused on topics such as Azure Cloud Services, Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365, so in the spirit of being a “life long learner” I completed the Hour of Code activities too:
If you’re interested, it took me around 20 minutes to complete the ‘required’ elements of the lesson, but there are more extension activities inside the lesson that get students thinking deeper around coding.
There are a few key things in this Hour of Code that are especially valuable for educators:
- It’s self paced: students can work through it in a heavily scaffolded world with clear, easy to comprehend and follow instructions.
- It’s in the full version of Minecraft: Education Edition: previous contributions from the Minecraft team to the Hour of Code have focused on a browser only version in 2D (see them here), whereas this uses all the goodness of M:EE and the inbuilt Code Editor.
- It does not require a login! The Minecraft: Education Edition team have added the one-off Hour of Code lesson to the main landing page when you launch the application, meaning there are no barriers to getting started! Even if your school or students have never used Minecraft:EE before you can run this lesson, and you can download the free application here.
- There is a Teacher Walk Through Video: Many educators understandably want to learn what they’re getting into before committing the time to planning how to add a new resource into their limited and precious teaching time. To help with this, the Minecraft:EE team have created a walk through video – see below:
Once your students fall in love with coding inside of Minecraft: Education Edition the good news is that there is a LOT of additional coding content they can use. Check this link for all the information.
If you’re downloading or updating your version of Minecraft: Education Edition, make sure you’re on at least version 1.12.15 (see below) as this has the “Try a Demo Lesson” content in it.
A Few Things To Note:
I really rate this lesson because it is topical: students around the world are expressing a unified voice that we need to care for the environment we have here on earth.
Additionally, the idea of training a bot is relevant in a lot of real-world AI scenarios that developers are working on all the time. In this series of AI For Good lessons one of the activities requires students to train an Azure Vision service on various photographs showing cats and dogs. In this Hour of Code lesson, students need to train their bot to destroy dry and dangerous bushes but not to remove healthy greenery, creating a strong link between their coding and the real world environment they need to protect.
Lastly, because the new lesson plan is delivered inside the application itself, there are a few URL that are required to be open on your school firewall or proxy – here are the links to whitelist if it’s not working for you:
If you end up wanting to go deeper with Minecraft:Education Edition you may want to read my Ultimate Getting Started Guide here.