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learn / 2015

Teach Kids Coding with Minecraft

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by LA Makerspace

LA Makerspace will partner with LA-based benefit corporation Connected Camps to create free coding camps with a common core-aligned curriculum, leveraging Minecraft, the wildly popular computer game, to teach kids to build, design, and code. Open source, free, and tailored to after-school educators, youth organization staff, parents and those without education backgrounds, the camps will enable people in underserved communities all over LA to use Minecraft to develop STEAM skills in youth.

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles
  • Afterschool Programs

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher ed
  • Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

Often described as virtual Legos, Minecraft has been embraced by progressive educators as a learner-centered environment for developing problem-solving, creative, technical, and coding skills. Minecraft thus represents a unique opportunity to scale a gateway to STEAM-related interests, identities, and skills that can be implemented across a student education pipeline. This project leverages Minecraft to 1) bring more kids into coding and technically sophisticated forms of gaming, and 2) sharpen our understanding of the relational and cultural supports kids need to develop STEAM interests as they move from K-12 institutions to higher education systems.

Relative to our proposal, while Minecraft gives kids a foot in the door, they need support to engage technically sophisticated aspects of Minecraft and fully develop STEAM interests. Prior research indicates that in order to engage in technical gaming interests kids need two supports: 1) peers and mentors they identify with, and 2) projects that engage their identities and interests. Our coding camp would offer these supports, both through the peer-based multiplayer environment in which the camp takes place, as well as via the curriculum itself.

In addition, because Minecraft is deeply engaging as a learning environment, kids want to learn and have opportunities to cultivate positive attitudes toward learning. We know from research that attitudes toward learning play an important role in a child’s willingness to stay in school. It is our hope that by helping kids to develop positive attitudes toward learning, we can impact truancy rates in schools.

And, because our camp model employs high school and college-aged counselors we are also working to reduce youth underemployment and unemployment.

Lastly, we will be partnering with after-school organizations to deliver the camps, which will include professional development for their staff so they can repeat the camps independently.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

We use a number of metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the camp. One measure is engagement: are kids actively engaged in our coding challenges; do they log in to our servers whenever possible? Another measure is a sense of belonging: do kids feel part of a community to which they are actively contributing and in which they are recognized as an important participant? A third measure relates to the mapping of our curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards. Based on these specific learning outcomes, our coding challenges serve as performance-based assessments measuring the extent to which a kid has learned a particular coding skill or set of skills. We also gather daily data from our counselors on their interactions with the kids, noting learning challenges and successes and capturing information on how kids are doing with each of the different coding challenges. Counselor data is summarized and reviewed daily so that modifications to the curriculum can be made as needed.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support