Many parents will be all too familiar with Minecraft, the computer game that has taken the world by storm. For the uninitiated, looking in on the clunky, pixellated graphics from the outside, it can be very difficult to understand the appeal of a game with no clear objectives. But the simplicity of those building blocks and the open-endedness of the Minecraft environment are crucial, not only to the game's success, but to its enormous potential as a learning tool.
The Minecraft workshops developed by Fire Tech Camp and Fire Tech Camp Australia Co-Founder Jim Christian harness that creative energy and enable children to learn concrete, valuable skills - 3D design, computer-aided design (CAD), problem-solving or the mechanisms of electronic circuitry for example - while having fun playing their favourite game.
Benefits: Creativity and Practical Computing Skills
The software and main areas for focus all make use of the ready-made testing ground that forms the Minecraft bedrock i.e. build new things, see how they work, play around with them and use mistakes as handy experiences for what you want to try differently next time. This is the modern-day computer developer's mantra - if at first you don't succeed, call it version 1.0 and put those experiences, together with all your practical knowledge, powers of logic and imagination, to create something better next time!
Each student comes away with their own unique projects because the workshops and camp foster independent thinking and customisation. But participants will have got to those very different points using advanced computing skills that they wouldn't have otherwise been able to bring into play. These skills include navigating a 3D design space with MCEdit, topographical 2D mapping or the application of Minecraft's 'electronic' components (traps, machines). It doesn't matter that some of the terms seem like gobbledygook to non-players. Ask your child about what they have created and they will take you into an expansive world all of their own making.
Critical Thinking, Collaborating with Peers, Widening Access to Tech, Equipping Young People for the Future
The workshops at Fire Tech Camp also give guidance and structures within a potentially complex and confusing space, and challenge campers to approach new problems with specialist skills and logical thinking.
In line with the values that Fire Tech Camp apply to all its curricula, the experience is also intensely collaborative. Sharing ideas and relying on peers for support is encouraged. The setting is sociable and tutors have been chosen for their infectious enthusiasm for the subject matter at hand, as well as their expertise.
Students will leave a Minecraft course at Fire Tech Camp equipped with the tools they need to develop and expand the complexity of their game-playing in the future. By using Minecraft to expose them to core concepts in computer science, we hope that they find inspiration and enjoyment in equal measure, and their experience goes on to form a small but significant component of a life-long enthusiasm for tech.
Jim Christian (Co-Founder, Programme / Tech Director) has developed and taught technology curriculum with Fire Tech Camp UK since 2013 and has over twenty years experience teaching technology privately and in international education.
His book with Dennis Publishing, "How to Code in Minecraft" teaches children basic programming skills in Scratch, Python and Lua via Minecraft, and is available now.
Text adapted from an original article on FireTechCamp.com