The Microsoft Minecraft curriculum: too bad

Alfred Thompsom’s last post  referenced the new Microsoft Minecraft curriculum.  Since it is free I have to take a look. I have a tendency to dump on Microsoft curriculum.  They obviously spend a lot of time building these things but they obviously do not beta test them with teachers.  I am looking through the Required Educator Preparation and the first bullet says “Watch the educator preparation video”.  Said video is not to be found by the normal human being. I think I would have made this bullet a link to the video but that is just me thinking outside the box.  Or at least name a video “The Educator Preparation Video”. Bullet 2 says “Read the course overview” and “download Code Connection”. Again links would have made things a tiny bit simpler.  Am I just too picky and want it just too simple? I can just picture that 7th grade Language Arts teacher who has been asked to use this curriculum to get a CS thread started in the school. They are lost at bullet 1.  Not good.

Every Microsoft curriculum I have looked at through the years has been this way.  Really cool stuff really poorly tested. What, they cannot find teachers willing to give them a hand testing this stuff before they throw it out there?  I would be glad to help. I am a professional when it comes to being confused easily by poor directions. I have spent years perfecting being confused. It is such a wasted talent.

I have no real interest in this curriculum for myself but since it is free I have to do a bit of a preview for the middle school.  The $5 per license per user per year is not unaffordable so if it is a quality usable product I would have have the middle school CS teacher take a look at it.  It has taken me 2 minutes to decide the middle school CS teacher would not have time to de-bug this curriculum.

Where does Microsoft go wrong on this kind of stuff?  I think their curriculum writers are too smart and too experienced with what they intend to do.  Too many type “A” personalities working for them. They need more people working for them who have experience teaching 7 preps a day and understand the meaning of “no time to figure this out”.  Find 50+ year old business teachers who spent the last 30 years teaching typing and now have to build a CS curriculum in a small school where resources are very limited. Find the teachers that go to Barnes and Noble Book Sellers and seriously considers buying “Java for Idiots” as a text book.  (I didn’t but I sure thought about it.) That is the perfect curriculum reviewer for this kind of thing. Those are the teachers this curriculum should be designed for and written by. I went to a multi-day Microsoft TouchDevelop seminar a number of years ago. Maybe 150 attendees. I would say 80% of the attendees fit in this category.  Microsoft has to stop assuming the curriculum users know what they are doing and assume the users are absolute novices (or Idiots). If the curriculum references a video or document it has to have a link so the teacher can locate it quickly. An experienced teacher that knows Minecraft does not need any of the intro chapters. The beginner needs perfect and well thought out intro chapters.  Microsoft just does not seem to be very good at thinking or writing at this level.

3 Responses to “The Microsoft Minecraft curriculum: too bad”

  1. Alfred Thompson Says:

    I find a lot of Microsoft documentation, actually computer industry documentation in general, to start with too high of an expectation of base knowledge. When I worked at Microsoft I spent a lot of my time trying to write things that actual teachers could read and use. I think I did ok at it.

    I’m not there anymore so I wish someone else had taken that task on.

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    It is surprisingly hard to write for people who know much less than you do—hidden assumptions keep blind-siding you. I have been working for years on my textbook, and I find I have to keep adding lower-level material, because students show up not knowing things I took for granted (like complex numbers, basic algebra, logarithms, logarithmic scales on plots). I’ve had to devote almost 40 pages of the 540 pages just to how to write technical reports in English.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    typo: “just ON how to write …”

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