Microsoft and coding education startup Code.org are betting on kids' familiarity with Minecraft to help make computer programming more approachable. The two companies have collaborated on a coding tutorial that uses the themes and graphics of the immensely popular game, tasking kids with building a house, sowing crops and shearing sheep using loops, if-then logic and other basic concepts of code.
It's little more than a taste of what actual coding is like, of course, but that's the idea. The "Hour of Code" is an effort established by Code.org intended to get kids to try coding just once for an hour or so, in hopes that they'll find it fun and interesting. President Barack Obama participated in last year's event.
Microsoft has supported the organization, among others promoting computer science learning, and will be promoting Hour of Code events (of which there are nearly 100,000 by Code.org's count) during the week of December 7.
Along with every other tutorial and exercise, the Minecraft coding game is free to play in your browser — no need to sign up unless you (or a kid or class) wants to track progress through multiple such applications.