Minecraft – teaching coding and the 1.8 update

learntomodMinecraft remains the go-to game for parents and teachers. In spite of the fact that many kids have turned it into a first-person shooter there’s something in that blocks and building approach that makes everyone involved feel safe. LearnToMod has developed a clever idea to take advantage of the Minecraft popularity – use it to teach coding. In itself that’s not entirely novel; we wrote about doing just that at the Powerhouse Museum a while ago. LearnToMod, however, has ambitious plans which, on their face, will overcome most of the tricky problems we encountered last year.

LearnToMod will be a subscription service – $10 per month gives you access to a four-person server hosted by them. That has immediate advantages in that it does not involve fiddly software set-ups and it appears to involve a much fuller Minecraft experience than the local set-up we used last year. You’ll be able to program mods using Blockly or Javascript – both much more accessible choices that Python, which we were limited to last year. And there are extensive tutorials around the process, which sounds good as a teaching and learning environment.

On its face, LearnToMod ticks a great many boxes, the concept is clearly well-thought through. Right now though it’s all conceptual. The service doesn’t launch until October, although you can sign up for a beta now. The beta doesn’t give you early access as such, it just guarantees that $10 pricing. That pricing may be a sticking point as time goes by, but right now there’s certainly enough potential in LearnToMod to justify giving it a try. All the blocky details are at LearnToMod.com.

The other indication of Minecraft’s enduring appeal is the continuing update cycle. Our Senior Junior Minecraft Correspondent, Declan P, has filed this report on Minecraft 1.8:

Minecraft, the world of blocks is back with Minecraft 1.8. It comes with newly-added sea dungeons, bunny rabbits and giant fish. Have you always dreamed of building a granite house, we’ll here it is. Along with many other features in the new Minecraft, additional materials give a new sense of realism and a refreshing variant on the old Minecraft styles. Minecraft now has better villagers which will actually farm and harvest crops for you! But the main new addition is the sea monument – a giant underwater complex with eight gold blocks in the center. It contains three mini-bosses and swarms of guardians, that will even try to kill squids that approach the temple. Sponges have also been given back their old ability to suck up water, making it much easier to assault a Sea Monument.

Minecraft has also added a new decorative item perfect for a castle, the banner. It is a two block tall item which you can decorate with many different designs and colors, allowing you to customize your own. Once you’ve built banners you can make a granite tower to put them on and populate surrounding farms with villagers to truly rule your own kingdom. So making a castle has become much easier, but there is more.

There are rabbits. Rabbits are a cute addition which are much like wolves and ocelot except they are purely decoration: They cannot fight and a single carrot makes them love you.

I’m really looking forward to finding out if LearnToMod will allow me to turn a rabbit into the Killer Bunny of Caerbannog.

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