A few weeks ago, I saw a bunch of folks on Twitter - some of whom I admire and some I've never met - raving about a new book that came out, Coding with Minecraft. Duncan has been on me about learning to code for a few weeks before that, as he very much wants to learn to make mods and other stuff... the trouble is, I know just enough Java to get me through a handful of intro-level programming courses at Uni, and that's really about it. I'm in no fit shape to be teaching anyone to make Minecraft mods.
So this book seems right in his wheelhouse. It doesn't dive straight into mods like he wants, instead it uses a mod that creates a Lua programming environment inside Minecraft. I've been interested in Lua for a while, but never had an excuse to learn any of it (I had a passing interest in World of Warcraft addons, but never enough to actually roll my sleeves up). We use a tiny bit of Lua at work, but I have nothing to do with that team. So we can learn together!
It came on Friday, and we got stuck into it. I left Duncan to his own devices for a couple of hours and he claimed to be on chapter six... this does not compute. It turned out he was trying to skip what he considered the boring bits - he didn't want to make the robot dance, he wanted to do something interesting! It turns out however that the dancing part teaches things like flow control, and he wasn't laying the proper foundation necessary to understand the later chapters, and therefore got frustrated.
So on Sunday we went back through it again, slowly. It's a lot for an 8 year old to take in, at his age I was still very much in the "copy things out of the book, then push buttons and see what happens" stage, my understanding of programming was very poor also. But he's getting there, and up to today we did some pop quizzes every so often (a few in the morning and a few at night) and he's mostly got a firm grasp of the flow control stuff like
for, and so on. I've saved a few of his programs to the NAS also, it'll be interesting to go back and look at them in a few years!
On the whole, the book definitely does what it says on the box, and it's quite accessible even to an 8 year old as long as someone's there to put the brakes on and make sure he's digesting what he reads.