'Minecraft' news: Coding tutorial for kids could be key to getting more girls involved in computer science

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Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit, and Microsoft are collaborating to bring kids a coding tutorial based on “Minecraft,” a popular block-building-sandbox game. The new tutorial could be a way to get girls involved in computer science, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told a group of teachers at the company’s Redmond, WA campus on Monday. 

Nadella, who is a father to two daughters, believes “Minecraft” is a tool that could attract a more diverse population into computer science. 

“The reason I love Minecraft is because it’s a game that brings boys and girls,” Nadella said, as quoted by GeekWire, “The fact that it’s an open world environment, it’s not constraining in terms of what you would want to build. It’s not constraining even in terms of the cultural bias sometimes you have depending on which country you want to be able to use the tool in. So, therefore, it’s a very, very rich tool.” 

On Sept. 16, Microsoft announced its partnership with Code.org for the annual Hour of Code event in December where “Minecraft” will be the theme. The annual event aims to help kids learn the basics of computer programming principles. 

In the “Minecraft”-inspired tutorial, kids will learn the basics of programming without actually writing codes. They will instead use drop-and-drag command boxes that represent a certain command code. The objective of the tutorial is for kids to move around either Steeve or Alex in a simulated “Minecraft” environment and help them complete tasks like gathering wood or shearing sheep. 

Microsoft has given more focus on efforts related to computer science recently. The current partnership with Code.org will help the company achieve its goal of encouraging more students to take up computer science-related courses. 

Prior to this, the company had announced that it will give $75 million in support for organizations to bring coding classes to more schools. The number of schools that offer programming in their science classes currently stands at only one in four, according to this Gallup research study (commissioned by Google). 

These efforts aim to bridge the gap between current capability in schools to teach computer science and the need for computer science professionals. There will be an estimated 1.4 million computing jobs available in 2020 but only 400,000 students will be studying computer science, of which girls comprise less than 50 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.