New Minecraft Modding Software Revolutionizes the Way We Teach Kids Coding

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A new e-learning software, developed by San Diego education start-up ThoughtSTEM, teaches K-12 students how to code by allowing them to write mods (“modifications”) to the popular video game, Minecraft. The software, called LearnToMod, was recently tested by over 1,000 Beta users and 100 teachers, and the final release of LearnToMod is slated for January 15, 2015.

Example LearnToMod Project Code

LearnToMod Project Code: Pig Enclosure

In the past two months, over 100,000 lines of code have been written by LearnToMod Beta users. We’ve never seen kids so motivated to learn coding.

LearnToMod, a software that allows users to learn programming inside of the popular computer game Minecraft, is now available to preorder for $30/year at http://www.learntomod.com. The software will be delivered Jan. 15.

LearnToMod seeks to inspire a new generation of young programmers by allowing students to explore their favorite video game, Minecraft, in a new way. The software allows students to learn the fundamental concepts of programming while they add new features (called “mods”) to Minecraft.

“Students have been coming into our classrooms for years raving about Minecraft. It dawned on us that the video game could be the perfect tool for teaching kids how to code,” explains Stephen Foster, CEO and lead software developer of ThoughtSTEM. ThoughtSTEM has been teaching kids across the greater San Diego area how to code for the last two years. More recently, ThoughtSTEM has put their energy into developing LearnToMod, a software for teaching kids how to mod (i.e. code) Minecraft.

With LearnToMod, students learn how to code through hundreds of video tutorials and puzzles that teach them everything from how to create houses at the click of a button to how to design games within the game, like Portal or Tetris. Students can even create custom blocks and items within Minecraft by importing new textures. Soon, the software will allow students to program the artificial intelligence of entire “bot” armies.

“Kids all over the world love Minecraft. Unlike most other video games, Minecraft is completely moddable, which gives it the potential to be a great educational tool. Now, LearnToMod is teaching kids around the world to code through Minecraft,” says Sarah Esper, CTO of ThoughtSTEM. “In the past two months, over 100,000 lines of code have been written by LearnToMod Beta users. We’ve never seen kids so motivated to learn coding.”

For the last three months, over 1,000 kids from 44 countries have been Beta testing the LearnToMod software. LearnToMod is also being tested by over 100 school teachers in classrooms across the United States. “We’re developing tools to make the software really easy for teachers to use. We want to empower teachers to be able to create classroom activities and custom lesson plans inside of Minecraft,” says Foster. ThoughtSTEM is currently offering the software for free to low-income schools, encouraging them to teach coding in the classroom.

The LearnToMod software implements the best practices learned by the Computer Science Education research community in its coding tutorials and puzzles. LearnToMod developers, Stephen Foster and Sarah Esper, are PhDs specializing in Computer Science Education, with over 15 years of experience developing curriculum and writing software and games for teaching coding. The software aims to make the act of learning how to code as active and engaging as possible.

More information about LearnToMod can be found at: http://www.learntomod.com.

About ThoughtSTEM:
Founded in 2012 by three PhD students with a dream, ThoughtSTEM had humble beginnings teaching after-school and summer camp coding programs for kids around San Diego. Today, ThoughtSTEM develops innovative educational software for teaching coding to K-12 students worldwide. In addition to LearnToMod, ThoughtSTEM was recently funded on Kickstarter to develop a 3-D immersive video game that teaches coding called CodeSpells.

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Lindsey Handley
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