Located just outside Spokane, WA, Cheney School District is on a mission to “guarantee a safe and caring environment where all students learn at high levels and graduate with options for post-secondary education, careers, and civic engagement.” With about 1500 students and options for CTE and electives classes, Cheney is setting their students up for success, one class at a time.
One educator is making an impact in the computer science field. Adam Smith is a self-taught computer science teacher with 10 years of teaching experience. While attending the Washington Association for Career and Technical Education (WA-ACTE) summer conference, he discovered ‘Coding in Minecraft’ by Prodigy Learning – a computer science credential program with supporting curriculum.
“Most students have no idea how technology works. However, they are headed into a world that requires them to have a firm understanding of technology in order to succeed. I want to open the door for them to discover how it can be a part of their future,” explains Adam.
Adam wanted to use Minecraft in his classroom. After learning about ‘Coding in Minecraft’, he was excited to implement the intermediate and advanced Coding in Minecraft credentials with his high school students.
“I have a couple of colleagues who have no experience with coding at all, and they have picked up [Coding it Minecraft] very easily. In my experience, it does not take much to get this figured out for instruction, and the kids pick it up even quicker.”
Even in the first year of using ‘Coding in Minecraft’ with his students he started to see the difference it can make: “My goal is for students to have fun and learn at the same time. We saw some great growth in students learning about algorithms and learning how to break down processes into smaller steps. I also wanted to get elements of physical computing into my curriculum, and this allowed that to happen” Adam explains. “I have been looking for more of a way to teach physical coding while continuing to focus on the theory of coding. There is a fine line between students getting to see the reality of their code while not spending all their time working on the physical components. Coding in Minecraft was helpful because students got to focus on algorithms and coding but got to see the results of their code,” he adds.
“In the future, I am focusing on using [Coding in Minecraft] to really focus on algorithms, physical computing, and teamwork.”
‘Coding in Minecraft’ provides an easy-to-teach standards aligned computer science curriculum for educators with little or no computer science, coding, or Minecraft experience. The curriculum is student-led with students immersing themselves in the world of Minecraft to undertake learning activities and prove their skills by completing assessments in the game which are formatively assessed by the educator supported by automatic grading of code using artificial intelligence.
‘Coding in Minecraft’ enables students to develop greater confidence, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Adam continued by saying, “one of the unintended consequences of bringing [‘Coding in Minecraft’] into the classroom was a huge level of collaboration. I did not anticipate how much the kids would be talking and working together. They were way more willing to help a friend code their agent than they would be on just a normal project. It was an amazingly collaborative experience, especially coming out of COVID,”
“In addition to the benefits during the learning process, I also found the assessments helpful to me as a teacher. They did a good job of letting me see students’ growth and areas where students were still struggling.” Adam said.
“Students loved it. They had a blast and were always ready to work in class.”
Within the Coding in Minecraft program, once a student passes the assessments for each credential, they are awarded a certificate automatically on the ‘Coding in Minecraft’ Portal. At the end of the pathway, the Capstone Credential Exam enables students to prove their skills. Upon passing the exam, students are awarded a certificate and digital badge.
Adam is growing Cheney’s use of ‘Coding in Minecraft’. Now that the program is in its second year, he’s excited to see what this year will bring for his students.
“In the future, I am focusing on using [Coding in Minecraft] to really focus on algorithms, physical computing, and teamwork. I am looking forward to the new version to see how it looks and then using that to best teach students.”