I spent some block periods (90 minutes) with my 8th graders, introducing Lua in ComputerCraft. I learned a lot my first period, as in what not to do: don’t let the students roam free and then expect them to bear down and do coding in the computer in Lua. Lesson learned.
The next class I made a flat world, set up each student with a computer next to a sign with his/her name, and used a disallow block to limit the building. Voila. I really should have anticipated that issue but didn’t. So students got into their computers, I showed them the intricacies of the command line, the terminal, the lua editor …. all those DOS-like things that they have never seen in their lives. Yes, the editor is clunky and colorless, and the pixellation of the characters is Minecrafty. Once we got through that we did some HelloWorld, some HelloUser, and even a GuessTheNumber game. So we learned variables, IO, random math, and if statements. Nice!
However, one of my students asked me what it all had to do with Minecraft. Very fair question. Answer: nothing really, but we’re just starting and tomorrow we’ll start with turtles. They know turtles because we went to Turtle Island, a wonderful world/mod made my Michael Harvey.
But that student’s question really started me thinking (btw, thanks, Ben!). We could do almost all of that in Small Basic, which has a much better editor, Intellisense, and turtles (though those turtles are not 3D). So I’ve also had some students dabble in LearntoMod, and that learning takes place in a familiar Minecraft world, and you learn to mod stuff that you use all the time in Minecraft: weapons, tools, zombies, creepers, etc.
Hmm. So Monday I’m going to try a little LearntoMod with those classes, and we’ll see what happens. I have my suspicions, but I’ve been wrong before.