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Education Programming Games

Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools? 168

theodp writes: A year after it paid $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft, Microsoft has announced a partnership with Code.org that makes a Minecraft-themed introduction to programming a signature tutorial of this year's Hour of Code, which hopes to reach 200 million schoolchildren next month in what the Microsoft-funded nonprofit is billing as the largest learning event in history. "A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a press release, which also notes that "Microsoft is gifting Windows Store credit to every educator who organizes an Hour of Code event worldwide." Of the Minecraft tutorial, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi gushed, "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."
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Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The salaries of programmers are going to drop like a rock.

    We'll have the most tech savvy people on the unemployment line.

    Don't worry, Microsoft will still lobby for an increase in the H1B and L1 visa limits regardless how many millions know how to code.

    • Maybe if you're a 'I sit at a desk and chunk out functions all day long' programmer. But that's bound to happen anyways, doing that isn't a secret anymore, hasn't been for a long time.
    • Keeping voting GOP and soon K-12 will have a loan with X3 more H1B's and no way to pay that loan off.

      • Blame the GOP all you want, but both sides have people for and against H1Bs.

        But it is much easier to demonize people if you lump them all together huh? Meanwhile Bernie blames ISIS on Climate Change, and you think the GOP are crazy ones.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      I do not agree in general. Most people do not have what it takes and will never be good coders. For those, salaries may drop even more. But they are to a competent software engineer what a not very good janitor is to a highly qualified Master's level mechanical engineer.

  • Clickbait title? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jarich ( 733129 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @11:22AM (#50947879) Homepage Journal

    Where's the embrace and extinguish?

    • Its Microsoft, thats more than enough for some people to FUD the place up...

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @11:44AM (#50948105)

        Its Microsoft, thats more than enough for some people to FUD the place up...

        My kid's elementary school has an after school class where the kids write Minecraft plugins in Python. The kids enjoy it, and even the girls like it since Minecraft involves mostly building rather than just boy-oriented destruction. I don't see how this creates any lock-in for Microsoft, since the skills are portable, and Microsoft doesn't control Python. Microsoft may get some small advantage from this, but the kids benefit more.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by kbg ( 241421 )

          How can you be sure, the next updated version will not require .NET?

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by bfpierce ( 4312717 )
            Who cares? If that happens then the school program moves onto a different platform. They're not locked into 'programming for minecraft' in any way shape or form. Not that I see this happening anyways, Microsoft is definitely on the python bandwagon with their education environment development.
            • by kbg ( 241421 )

              Who says it will be possible to move to a different platform? Microsoft now owns Minecraft and they can do whatever they want with it. They may be using Python now, but that can change in a heartbeat.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Who says Minecraft will matter in a year? If it's problem, you move to something else.

              • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @12:33PM (#50948571)

                Microsoft now owns Minecraft and they can do whatever they want with it. They may be using Python now, but that can change in a heartbeat.

                Then the school is free to dump Minecraft and move to something else. They didn't use Python because of Minecraft. They had already decided to teach Python, and then picked Minecraft because it used Python. The students also write Python plug-ins for FreeCAD [freecadweb.org] and print their projects on a 3D printer. There are plenty of other options.

                Btw, you can write Minecraft plug-ins in languages other than Python, including C++ and Java. You may be able to use C# or VB as well.

              • by kuzb ( 724081 )

                Are you unaware of how programming works, or are you just stupid?

                Fundamental programming concepts rarely change that much between languages. A great many of us learned to write software in languages we don't even use anymore.

          • Why would that matter? .Net is open source.
          • by Orne ( 144925 )

            Minecraft doesn't have any built-in API hooks in the core executable; the entire modding community is built around people who have reversed-engineered the Java to insert hooks for tools like Forge, etc. The modding community has been begging for a clear API for years, but Notch didn't see the value in it.

            Having the application coded in Java immediately gives you the cross-platform functionality in the desktop world, but it's a killer for the console world. The XBox version is basically incompatible with t

          • How can you be sure, the next updated version will not require .NET?

            Why would you have to be? Why would it even matter at all? .Net is open anyway and even if it weren't the skills learned are still portable. You really know so little about programming that you think that the choice of language is going to create some kind of lock-in?

        • I bought this book for my kids and it was total mission accomplished in getting the excited about what programs can do:
          Adventures in Minecraft
          by David Whale, Martin O'Hanlon
          http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/... [wiley.com]

          that book was created in the pre-microsoft era of minecraft. I suspect it wasn't even mojang sanctioned.

          they have a less than complete version of minecraft with a python API exposed. It's amazingly simple to use it so other than unzipping the file it's easy for beginners to use. Works great on a raspbe

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Slashdot editors, can we please drop the flamebait summaries. Every discussion about education turns into a shitfest anyway, without TFS having to amp it up.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Slashdot editors, can we please drop the flamebait summaries. Every discussion about education turns into a shitfest anyway, without TFS having to amp it up.

          And I want a pony!

    • I'm sure a lot of schoolkids would be rooting for Microsoft if that's their game plan. They could even get Alice Cooper to provide the theme music.
      • Kids don't understand MSFT's business practices. They just see them as the company that makes keyboards for iPads, and that teaches you to breakdance in its commercials.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ilsaloving ( 1534307 )

      Developers. If you can flood the market with people who know how to code, then you can pay them at fast-food worker wages.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Well the sooner we can destroy the fallacy that coding is something beyond the ken of most mere mortals, the sooner we can get salaries down to what they should be. Technology advanced so fast in the 90's and 00's that we saw a shortage of programmers not because it was something that was terribly difficult to do, but because there was such a rapid increase in the demand for people with these skills. Now that the supply curve is catching up, people who previously were coddled in the job market are finding
        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          The butthurt is strong in this one...

        • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @12:03PM (#50948307) Journal

          Well the sooner we can destroy the fallacy that coding is something beyond the ken of most mere mortals, the sooner we can get salaries down to what they should be.

          Holy shit - who let the MBAs in here?

        • Well the sooner we can destroy the fallacy that coding is something beyond the ken of most mere mortals, the sooner we can get salaries down to what they should be

          I hear Ben Carson is doing the same for brain surgery.

        • Coding is a lot easier to learn than most people think, and a lot harder to master than most PHBs realize.

          Even the high school wiz kid who has published mobile apps and sets up a Linux server in the time you need to finish your coffee has a thing or two or two thousand to learn about coding in a professional environment. Algorithms, design patterns and best practices, toolchains, documentation, interpreting and drafting design documents, work processes, the list goes on. Coding is easy in the sense that
          • by swb ( 14022 )

            It's both interesting and sad that coding as a career path is a rare thing these days. Coding is seen as an entry level job, where coders will inevitably at some point move on to software design / architecture or management, instead of being given more responsibilities in management, strategy, coaching or design while still practising and improving on their coding skills. Where I work I see few to none top coders who are still actively coding or even just coaching; a "senior coder" is someone with 5 years experience. These then get promoted, the junior coders are left to fend for themselves, while management blames the resulting mess on "lack of process"

            Prestige and process.

            The coders are plebes who get shit pay, work in shitty cubicles and get treated like they were expendable.

            System designers/architects and management are geniuses who get better pay, better offices and blowjobs.

            It's like every other IT deal. Nobody wants to be on the help desk because you're treated like a subhuman moron and paid like it, too, while the "network engineer" gets all the perks.

        • Well the sooner we can destroy the fallacy that coding is something beyond the ken of most mere mortals, the sooner we can get salaries down to what they should be.

          I actually think this analogy works really well, and it doesn't even involve cars. There are a lot of people who prepare food for their job. If you want to pay someone $8 per hour, then you're going to get a McDonald's level of quality. If you want a chef who can prepare high quality meals, then you'll have to pay them a lot more than $8 per hour.

          Programming is pretty much the same. If all you need is someone to set up your blog software, you can find a kid who just graduated high school who will do it f

        • What do you mean, "sooner"? I've turned down coding jobs because of lowballing. Unless something changes, I won't be working as a coder any time soon.

      • Or on the flip side, as a business/industry you can stop paying a premium for consultants and just do the work yourself.
      • Developers. If you can flood the market with people who know how to code, then you can pay them at fast-food worker wages.

        Well, if successful they'd flood the market with .NET monkeys who won't be able to do much without Visual Studio. Not so sure about the plethora of other languages out there that pay a whole lot more per hour, though...

        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          Coding is language agnostic. If by "coding" you mean copy/paste from stackoverflow, then I agree with your statement. My favorite form of coding is with a whiteboard. I can quickly draw diagrams and write up pseudo-code.
      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        Coding is only 20% of making a system that works well. The other 80% is understanding the problem, designing an elegant solution to the problem, and understanding the myriad of ways to implement the solution. As a programmer, I don't get paid to code. I spend most of my time researching, thinking, and discussing.
        • Exactly. The problem is that the people who hire don't understand that difference, so you end up competing against people who think they're a programmer just cause they know how to draw a couple of text boxes in Visual Basic.

    • Where's the embrace and extinguish?

      Indeed, this is just regular bribery.

    • Where's the embrace and extinguish?

      Try getting a Minecraft competitor to market.

    • Not that it has anything to do with the Minecraft lessons being designated a signature Hour of Code tutorial, at least according to the evaluation criteria below, but Code.org's biggest donors coincidentally include Microsoft ($3M+), Ballmer Family Giving ($3M+), and Bill Gates ($1M+). And Code.org's CEO, who once reported to Satya Nadella, is coincidentally a sometimes jogging partner of Steve Ballmer, as well as the next-door neighbor of Microsoft President and Code.org Board member Brad Smith [slashdot.org].

      Hour of Cod

      • by kuzb ( 724081 )

        OK, so now that you've dropped all this information, the nefarious plot is where exactly?

        • by theodp ( 442580 )

          Elsewhere, three days before the Minecraft Hour of Code announcement, Microsoft indicated it had bigger fish to fry with Minecraft. Can you think of a better way to help make that happen than a 1 hour "infomercial" that as many as 200 million kids are made to participate in by their prize-seeking teachers and schools? :-)

          Minecraft in education [youtube.com]: Published on Nov 13, 2015. "Minecraft is already empowering millions of players to create, explore, and discover. We want to bring that passion into the classroom."

  • Sure, it's going to be more fun than taking a test but Hadi must think very little of teachers to make blanket statements like the one at the end of the article.

  • Thinking? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @11:27AM (#50947939) Journal

    One can teach critical thinking without any reference to computers or programming. Teach that and computers will follow like wet follows rain. Teach it using 'computers' and the kids will have no idea what they are doing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You need some vehicle for "critical thinking" otherwise you are just spewing a bunch of abstract theory without concrete examples. Being able to show concrete examples ties the theory back into reality and provides opportunities to highlight relationships which is really important for making the theory stick.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        What the OP said. Even algorithms don't require physical computing hardware be present.

        This is kind of trying to teach kids to run while still making walking (basic math in general) seem scary and unapproachable.

      • You need some vehicle for "critical thinking" otherwise you are just spewing a bunch of abstract theory without concrete examples. Being able to show concrete examples ties the theory back into reality and provides opportunities to highlight relationships which is really important for making the theory stick.

        So do like one of my teachers did decades ago - teach kids how to deconstruct advertising. Far more useful in terms of immediate application that will also benefit them over the long term, no matter what they end up doing. And it doesn't need a computer ...

      • You apparently have no idea what critical thinking is.
        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          "Concrete" is just another way of saying easily relatable. If you cannot relate to an idea, you cannot critically think about it. The more versed you get with critical thinking, the more easily you can relate to hypothetical ideas.
      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        The parent and GP both have valid points. This issue really needs to be addressed from both directions, abstract and concrete.
    • You can say this about anything, so I'm not really sure what your point is. All taught critical thinking has some sort of 'mechanism' tied to it, whether it's Literature, Mathematics, Biology, so on and so forth. I certainly don't remember ever taking a 'Critical Thinking' class in grade school.
  • by Isca ( 550291 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @11:36AM (#50948011)
    Last time I looked Apple was constantly offering discounted iPads and apple products to lock schools and minds into the apple ecosystem.

    Last time I looked Google was constantly offering discounted chromebooks and pushing schools into the google ecosystem, especially with gmail and google docs.

    I'm sick and tired of the Microsoft is evil crap. Yes, 20 years ago they tried to embrace, extend and extinguish their standards over open standards to the entire internet. But they didn't win. The average consumer is not a microsoft consumer, they are a Apple or Google consumer.

    So what did Microsoft do? They determined their core market was Office and Servers (through azure). Everything they've done over the past few years has been geared towards furthering those goals. Windows 10 is mostly a ploy to put those two platforms first, in the same way Google and Apple serve to put their platforms first.

    But you know what's different? Microsoft is more open than they've ever been, ever. Heck, their Azure cloud service even has first rate support for running your favorite flavor of linux on their servers. They've open sourced much of their codebase for C# and have been focused on allowing their system to write code for themselves and any of their competitors.

    Of course they are going to lean towards supporting their own systems and will make changes to the root of the product to enhance their other offerings. They are a for-profit corporation, just like Google and Apple. But they've been far more open and less heavy handed than those two in the last 5 years.
    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @12:00PM (#50948259) Journal

      I'm sick and tired of the Microsoft is evil crap. Yes, 20 years ago they tried to embrace, extend and extinguish their standards over open standards to the entire internet. But they didn't win. The average consumer is not a microsoft consumer, they are a Apple or Google consumer.

      Depends on how "consumer" is defined. The vast majority of tablets and phones belong to the Apple/Google duopoly, hands-down. However, the majority of home computers/laptops are definitely still running Windows, and in spite of Microsoft's efforts to drive them off with their latest UI, there's no indication that too many folks are going to budge off of Windows anytime soon. Meanwhile XBox still dukes it out with Playstation, and seems to be holding its own in that arena.

      I guess I'm just saying that you may have been a wee bit too simplistic on that one...

      You are right in that Microsoft relies on the trinity of Office/Exchange/Desktops as their bread-and-butter (everything else they sell is ancillary to these, including SCOM/SCCM, SharePoint, Windows Server and SQL Server... because without the aforementioned threesome, who the hell would need that other crap in the server room?) That said? Outside of the XBox, they've not really made much in the way of inroads in the past decade or so (and in the XBox's case, has that thing actually reached any kind of usable ROI yet, or is it still in the R&D loss-leader cost hole?)

      But they've been far more open and less heavy handed than those two in the last 5 years.

      Maybe more open and less heavy-handed than they used to be, but IMHO neither Apple or Google can touch Microsoft's level of EEE. Also, Microsoft has become kinder/gentler on the interoperability front *only* for two reasons:

      1) because they got their asses handed to them in mobile, and
      2) because the other two big players (Apple, Google) are currently making serious inroads into the hearts and minds of consumers, both at work and home ...and this means Microsoft is being forced to play nice these days by necessity. After all, you don't see them playing nice when it comes to consoles, do you?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm sick and tired of the Microsoft is evil crap.

      Me too. I wish they'd just give up the evil already.

      Yes, 20 years ago they tried to embrace, extend and extinguish their standards over open standards to the entire internet

      Are you claiming they'e stopped?

      You might want to look at ooxml and the subbverting of the ISO standards body and the SDXC card debacle.

      In case your wondering for the latter they've managed t oget their patent encumbered, yet not novel or very good exFAT filesystem embedded into the SDXC

    • Speaking for myself, I am every bit as angry that Apple and Google are doing this as I am that Microsoft does it.

      You want to teach kids to code using mods? Awesome. Minetest and Terasology are both wonderful. Knock yourself out. Or build something with Voxel.js

      Otherwise, any involvement of a proprietary software product in education - whether that product is an operating system (iOS, OS X, Windows 10) or application (Office, Google's apps on Android), or cloud service (iCloud, Office365, Google
      • by Isca ( 550291 )
        So what you are saying:

        Remove projects that are open source but are controlled primarily by profit making corporations like Oracle and Red Hat because it might convince kids to go down the path of developing using that ecosystem.

        Block internet access to all sites that are not 100% public domain because the content on those sites might encourage the students to use sites that are not public domain.

        We take away all library books that are not public domain yet because it might get them addicted to boo
        • If kids get accustomed to using Java, or Linux, or Perl, Python, Ruby, PHP, Node.js, Lisp, Scheme, Rust, D, FreeBSD, Haiko OS, GNU Hurd, then no corporation is locked in to profit from it. How much money does Red Hat get from most Linux users? None. How much money does Oracle get from most Java users (much to their dismay)? None.

          It sounds like we're close to the same age. I used Vax VMS in college, too. But all of my classmates outside the computer science department had to take at least one cours
    • by KlomDark ( 6370 )

      Agreed. This Microsoft hate is just out-of-date cultural inertia. Microsoft of today is a much different beast than it was 20 years ago when they deserved it.

      Apple is far more evil these days.

      • LMOL yeah tell that to the 20,000 people they laid off and then went to Congress complaining there weren't enough skilled labor so they need more H1B Visas. Ass-hole.
        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          Those 20k people were mostly dead weight they acquire from purchasing Nokia. It's not like they were laying off high end programmers. Even the 8k they laid off this year were almost all Windows Phone factory workers.
    • > I'm sick and tired of the Microsoft is evil crap.

      Sticking your head in the sand doesn't make the problem go away.

      1. Maybe if Microsoft would come clean with how much data they collect [meetup.com] people might actually trust them again.

      Microsoft also provides some country specific domains such as .co.uk, .fr, .it, .de, .es, .th, .tk, .co.jp
      * Currently all e-mail service customer data is stored in the U.S. even if the account name contains a country specific domain.

      2. Gee, nice to know MS is back porting their priv [extremetech.com]

  • So this is turtle graphics [wikipedia.org], introduced with Logo [wikipedia.org], back in the late 1960s, reinvented with Minecraft.

    Cool, yes. Revolutionary? Not so much.

    • One thing I've been surprised at is that there isn't a continuation of Logo into CNC --- the closest thing to it I've found is to use a tool such as Asymptote, MetaPost or NodeBox to create a .pdf, then pull that .pdf into some tool suited to CAM --- it would be nice if there were some more direct option / connection.

      For that matter, I'd be glad of a programming tool which would directly translate part geometry into tool motion (w/ suitable offsets) --- I hate having a cylinder in OpenSCAD rendered as a tri

    • This is the best programming book I've ever used (I'm not a professional just a 30 something who started with C at 13 dropped it, and has regretted it since). This is for Python.

      If you scroll down a bit you will see a package called Swampy. Swampy = Turtle. If you do the book you will see example code that uses it. Good luck.

      • I always forget the closing " [greenteapress.com]

        OT: When will /. allow me to edit my fucking posts? It's been like 18 years without this basic functionality.

  • by Isca ( 550291 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @11:41AM (#50948067)
    More headline trolling details: Amazon & iTunes credits are given to teachers too as the link above states in the freaking post timothy made. But sure, go ahead and bash microsoft for putting money into a program that is trying to teach using a tool that is extremely popular among the very population that you are targeting.
    • Listen ass-hole, they could just donate money and let the school decided what they actually need.
      • by Isca ( 550291 )
        Or Amazon, Apple and Microsoft could not donate anything and not provide incentives to organizers. Or the schools can say "hey, this isn't worth it" and not participate. It's not like code.org is buying $10 from Amazon, Apple or Microsoft to give to the users. Those credits are donated to that organization as well to give to educators.
  • This seems ok. How will children be hurt by this? Or taxpayers? Or anyone? What's the problem?

    Do we really always have to complain about everything?

  • is billing as the largest learning event in history.

    The Apollo 11 moon landing was a far bigger learning event. It not only inspired a generation to learn more (far more than Minecraft will), but it also had huge social implications.

  • At best it exposes a bit of coding to kids. At worst, it turns them off completely.
    However, even writing a damn "Hello World" takes hours if a novice has to do it with some support. Much more if there is no hand holding involved. I have seen adults struggle to find the matching closing quote problem. I had to fight with a problem because I typed code in with MS-Word, which used the slanted quotes, which gave me some weird error, something along the lines of incorrect encoding.
  • They are teaching using Minecraft. The only thing that has to do with Microsoft is that Microsoft bought the company.

    And even if there were something Microsoft API specific in this code, who cares? This is a basic introduction; it's not like they are going to spend half their school time memorizing obscure Microsoft APIs.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday November 17, 2015 @02:12PM (#50949377) Homepage Journal

    "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."

    Better than giving nerds wedgies? I don't think so.

  • We all knew this is the kind of crap MS planned when they bought Minecraft.

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