IRISH ED-TECH COMPANY Prodigy Learning has launched a new computer science curriculum to teach children coding through the video game Minecraft.
The company, which provides digital skills certifications, signed a distribution deal for its programme with online exam and accreditation company Certiport in the US.
Certiport will distribute the ‘Coding in Minecraft’ programme initially in the States and then through its 12,000 testing centres worldwide.
The deal – which was marked by a billboard takeover at Times Square in New York today – came after a pilot run of the coding course at 114 schools across the US and the UK. Some 200 teachers and 4,000 students participated in the pilot.
Prodigy Learning CEO Andrew Flood told Fora the course in coding intends to fill a growing gap in computer science skills.
“There is real gap for kids to take up computer science at a secondary school level and this is about starting students on this journey … to give them the skills of the future,” he said.
According to Flood, access to the US market will provide a significant boost to Prodigy Learning, which has been operating in Ireland for the past 20 years.
“We are taking the next step to a totally different scale – there are 56 million students in the US at K12 level (nine to 16 year olds), coming from Ireland with a population of over four million, it is a huge moment for us,” he said.
This is not Prodigy Learning’s first foray overseas. It entered the UK 10 years ago and Australia in 2017. It also has customers in the wider European market.
Flood said the company worked closely with Microsoft – which is a partner – in Ireland and Europe to build the curriculum that uses the world of the popular game Minecraft “to engage the student” and teach them different coding skills that “send them on the path to higher level certifications or computer science careers”.
According to Flood, the Minecraft programme also aims to simplify coding for teachers, who typically do not have the specialist skills required to teach the subject.
In addition to launching in the US, Prodigy Learning intends to roll out the curriculum in Ireland and the UK in the coming months.