Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Public Instruction announced Tuesday a collaboration with Microsoft and Prodigy Learning to bring the award-winning “Coding in Minecraft” credential program to all middle school students across the state over a three-year period. This announcement comes on the heels of State Superintendent Catherine Truitt’s recent launch of her Four Workforce Goals, which is part of a concerted effort to better align the K-12 system with industry needs so that students are prepared post-graduation.
“The partnership with Microsoft and Prodigy Learning provides students with opportunities to learn durable and tactical skills in an engaging and adaptable way for middle school students,” Truitt said. “Exposing students to computer science experiences early in their academic journeys is critical in preparing them for post-graduate success. This type of partnership is exactly what we need to ensure North Carolina’s students are obtaining the certifications and credentials needed for in-demand jobs.”
The highly popular Minecraft video game promotes durable skills such as creativity, collaboration and problem solving in an immersive environment. Minecraft: Education Edition reaches millions of educators and students around the world with standards-based curriculum and game-based learning, including in Computer Science.
State-wide availability of “Coding in Minecraft” will give each student in every middle school in North Carolina an equal opportunity to engage in computer science and achieve credentials aligned to the North Carolina Computer Science Standards, starting pathways to Career and Technical Education, other industry certifications and employment opportunities.
“Having the opportunity to partner with Prodigy to provide even more access to our NC middle school students is truly a step in the right direction,” said Mary Hemphill, NCDPI’s director of academic standards. “As we bolster the pathways for all North Carolina students to be immersed and exposed to computer science in realistic and tangible ways, we are strengthening their knowledge base and opportunities to pursue tech and STEM-related careers in the future.”
The deployment of the program starts with providing access to up to 8,000 students and 200 educators during year one and exposure for every middle school student by year three. In all, the program has the potential to reach nearly 340,000 students and more than 14,000 educators.
“We are pleased to see that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and Prodigy Learning are building tailored experiences that can inspire students with the possibilities of computer science through Minecraft,” said Paige Johnson, vice president of Education Marketing at Microsoft. “North Carolina is harnessing the intrinsic engagement that happens when students play games to teach them the critical skills of computational thinking, coding and computer science. By combining the immersive Minecraft: Education Edition platform with critical curriculum, students will be better prepared for college and career.”
Through this collaboration, a series of “train-the-trainer” workshops will be delivered to educators to provide professional development in Computer Science, Coding, Minecraft: Education Edition and best practices in using the ‘Coding in Minecraft’ curriculum. Accompanying these workshops is a comprehensive support package which will enable educators to implement clear pathways and satisfy the objectives of the K-12 Computer Science initiative.
“Our vision for ‘Coding in Minecraft’ is to break down the barriers for students and educators to increase uptake of computer science in schools,” said Andrew Flood, CEO of Prodigy Learning. “We are excited that NCDPI has chosen our ‘Coding in Minecraft’ product to meet the objectives of the K-12 Computer Science initiative, offering all middle-school students the opportunity to gain industry-recognized computer science skills.”
The state’s K-12 Computer Science Initiative was enacted to expand computer science opportunities to all NC students. The overall goal of the Computer Science Initiative is to: (1) create and contribute, not just use and consume in the digital economy; (2) actively engage as informed citizens in our complex, tech-driven world. From this initiative the North Carolina Computer Science Standards were formed.