Microsoft introduced Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition earlier this Tuesday at its Microsoft EDU event in New York City. The tool is currently available as an open beta which schools and institutions using the platform can join for free.
The announcement came after the company unveiled the new Windows 10 S, a version of its existing operating system aimed at students and schools. The Surface Laptop, also presented at the event, is the first product to ship with the lighter OS.
The idea behind Windows 10 S is closing the platform a little so students can’t get distracted by downloading unauthorized third-party apps and games. Companies like Acer, HP, and Samsung will also develop cheaper tablets and laptops that run the new OS.
What is Code Builder and how does it work?
Code Builder is a new feature available in Minecraft: Education that does pretty much what its name states. Young learners can put together blocks of code, and a new character named the Agent executes the commands within the game.
Microsoft is working together with Code.org to bring Code Studio to the game later this year, but for now, users can tackle code learning packages like Tynker, ScratchX, and a new proprietary platform called Microsoft MakeCode.
These kits come with lessons and tools to help students grasp the basics of programming in an interactive and intuitive way. For instance, writing a string of code that makes the Agent build a wall or dig a pit will have the robotic character do it in real time.
Melissa Wrenchey, an educator at Tesla STEM High School, described her experience using Code Builder in her classes:
“IT ALLOWS FOR THE STUDENTS TO STILL THINK ABOUT ALGORITHMS AND HOW TO SOLVER PROBLEMS, AND TO DEMONSTRATE IT WITH THIS AGENT. THE FUN ELEMENT IS OFTEN WATCHING WHAT SOMEBODY HAS DONE THAT YOU NEVER THOUGHT OF.”
A new Minecraft: Education Edition expansion is coming soon
Developers of the game-turned-education-platform also announced that an update and expansion were scheduled for later this spring. Version 1.0.1 of Minecraft: Education Edition will not include Code Builder just yet, but it will introduce some cool new features.
Mojang and Microsoft will add support for more languages, texture packs, new kinds of blocks, villager trading, and llamas. Classroom Mode will also get updated with more controls the teacher can tweak during lessons, including chats, more blocks, and mobs.
Microsoft will include a one-year license for Minecraft: Education Edition with some devices running Windows 10 S or Windows Pro starting now until January 31, 2018.