Microsoft's new Minecraft tutorial wants to program a generation of coders

Microsoft's plan to train a generation of coders
Microsoft's plan to train a generation of coders

Tech giant Microsoft wants to encourage more children to develop an interest in coding. It's pitch? Try an hour-long online coding tutorial developed by the team behind the popular game Minecraft.

The free online tutorial, called Minecraft Designer, allows a user to program their own Minecraft game in a visual drag-and-drop workspace, where they learn basic concepts such as debugging and repeat loops.

After launching the tutorial, users navigate through a series of tasks - the first couple of tasks make chickens move around a Minecraft map. Users arrange a sequence of commands to make the chickens turn, move forward, drop items and even cluck and then test out their "code."

"The tutorial is a game that children play to learn the principles of computational thinking," Daiana Beitler, Philanthropies lead for Asia at Microsoft, told CNBC by phone.

There are no actual lines of code on the workspace and it does not promote any specific programming language, rather there are "visual illustration of codes so it's easier to understand," according to Beitler.

Microsoft acquired the Swedish company Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, in 2014.

The Minecraft tutorials is one of more than 170 offerings as part of an annual, international movement called Hour of Code, which was started in 2013 by an U.S. non-profit organization to make coding more accessible to the masses.

Source: Microsoft

It is an hour-long introduction to computer science, where users participate in a variety of online tutorials and offline activities around the world. The initiative has reached more than 300 million people to-date and is supported by some of the biggest names in tech including Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Apple.

"The aim of it is we want to make (coding) attractive," Beitler said. Another tutorial called Minecraft Adventurer allows users to move characters on a map using a sequence of movement-related commands.

Hour of Code takes place annually during the Computer Science Education Week, which falls on the first week of December; for 2016, it is between 5 to 11 Dec.

Microsoft also provides resources for educators to organize Minecraft tutorials within their communities. They are provided with PowerPoint decks, step-by-step guides on how to run the tutorial, an explanation on objectives and outcomes and the principles guiding it.

Job seekers with computing knowledge have become a hot commodity in today's digital economy.

A LinkedIn study released in October showed the top 10 skills that employers sought in potential candidates this year were mostly technology-related. The ability to mine data and conduct statistical analysis was the second most sought-after skill while knowledge in cloud computing topped the list.

"The purpose of the (Hour of Code) campaign is to close the gap between the demand for computer science and programming skills in the market and the pool of graduates that are getting those skills," said Beitler.

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