LearnToMod, a new computer programming tool co-developed by UC San Diego Extension instructor Sarah Esper, is profiled in print and video in the current edition of Wired magazine.
Based on Minecraft, a computer-code learning game popular with players aged 8 to 15, LearnToMod is the brainchild of Esper along with co-creators Lindsey Handley and Stephen Foster. All three are graduate students at UC San Diego.
Esper and Foster are Ph.D. students in computer science, while Handley is a biochemistry Ph.D. student.
Inside the world of Minecraft
LearnToMod teaches students the basics of programming while creating tricks and tools that can be used while using Minecraft. With public launch set for October, the program will retail at $30.
Together, the trio founded ThoughtStem, a learning program for young people that’s now part of Extension’s K-12 curriculum offered by San Diego County middle and high schools.
“Kids are already spending ridiculous amounts of hours on Minecraft,” Foster tells Wired. “So we thought this would be a good way to help them learn skills.”
Wired describes Minecraft as “incredibly open-ended….it’s entirely up you whether you as a player whether spend your time building elaborate castles, or fighting monsters.”
Sums up Wired: “Of course, building Minecraft mods won’t turn them into Mark Zuckerberg overnight. The skills they develop will transfer to other types of programming, such as mobile app development, but that will require quite a bit of additional work.
“But it’s the first step towards realizing that programming is something that’s within their grasp.”