I remember talking about it with friends. I didn’t want to teach kids to use Scratch. Scratch was ok, but I wanted to teach them how to code in Java. Even more, I wanted to teach them what it was to compile code and what a Compiler was. People thought that the content would not resonate with Grade 4’s. And that was the polite comment. 🙂
So here I was in the third Minecraft Code Club session but I dearly wanted to cover compilation. How to do best do it though?
What I did was start a discussion with the kids about how we read books, but computers read hex codes. I actually showed them some hex dumps. I know, I know – could be considered a punishment, but I kept it brief. In a few of those wonderful hex dumps, they had the additional column to the right that translates the hex codes into readable text to help the humans. Most of the kids got it that the two types of text could hold the same information.
And then drew the analogy that a Compiler was just a computer program that translates our code in words into the computers hex code. I know it is a vast oversimplification, but it resounded with most of them and I saw nodding heads. Feeling the opportunity, I then referred back to our first class where we talked about working with Minecraft Plugins was like giving a needle to the Minecraft program! Compiling a program is the action of giving that needle to the program. That is how we do it. Again a vast oversimplification, but probably appropriate for this level of knowledge.
I waited and watched – there still seemed to be acceptance of that could be right. Not wanting to push it any further we went on to the exercise of spawning an Enderdragon by modifying some code and compiling the code on my machine while they watched. The spawning of the Enderdragon is the ultimate way to drive a point home. After that was done I was able to sit back and let them have some time to play with the plugins and go on a couple of quests.
Then the moment came that was so rewarding. I got called over to the table as the kids were trying to spawn an Enderdragon.
“Mr Bunio, can you show us again how to give our Minecraft a needle so we can spawn an Enderdragon???”
“Yes, I most certainly can…”