When Digital Adventures first started, we researched ed-tech platforms that were fun, easy to use and educational, among many other attributes. Minecraft was often used as a teaching tool where instructors could install mods onto a server and teach a variety of educational concepts to their students. At Digital Adventures we wanted students to build those mods and not just consume them. Initially, in my role as Director of Curriculum, I was skeptical about designing Minecraft Modding projects. A novice friendly platform for making mods to our standard did not exist. My team encouraged me to find a way to bridge the gap between the beginner and the advanced development environment. So I did that.
To teach students how to create Minecraft mods I first had to learn how to do it myself! There unfortunately was not a LinkedIn Learning program for Minecraft Mods so I relied heavily on Youtube tutorials, poorly organized documentation and forums to develop my skills. To create a mod, you need to use an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that works with Java. The open source program IDE Eclipse was what I chose mostly because it was the most popular and would have the most community support for when we ran into bugs (which we did a lot).
The first 4-6 lessons I created for our Digital Hackers curriculum was setting up a framework to allow students to add items, blocks or armor into the game. This was not an enjoyable experience for me and I decided that it would not be an enjoyable experience for somebody learning how to code.
The big wins were experienced after this framework was created and you could add your own item to Minecraft in only a few minutes of drawing along with a few lines of code. For more complex modifications and features you could extend off of existing Minecraft features and write your own code. This is how we could incorporate computer science skills that are transferrable to any programming language. Loops could duplicate blocks to create instant giant towers. Conditional statements would allow loot blocks to drop random items for players.
Using this approach is how we enabled students to build their own Minecraft mods with their own designs, code and visions. Our Digital Hackers program is one of our most requested platforms in both our after school programs and camps.
After thousands of mods created by students from 8 to 14 years old we learned a lot, and observed many opportunities for improvement. We updated the framework in 2019 to a more current version of Minecraft. We removed tedious tasks by consolidating repetitive code. For younger students, we created a quicker way to get coding by adding custom event creation. For more advanced projects we took the opportunity to more closely align our lessons with concepts taught in the AP Computer Science A curriculum, which is taught with Java.
We are excited to see what students do next and how we can improve our programs. We have seen snowman armor, swords that turn enemies into pigs, boots that paint the world and many more creations from the most creative minds on earth.
To experience one of our Minecraft Modding lessons sign up for a Digital Hackers, or Ultimate Adventure after school program. We teach Minecraft Modding projects during our summer camps as well. Hopefully, you will join us to experience how educational Minecraft Modding is for learners of all ages.