Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella welcomed a group of teachers to the company’s Redmond, Wash., campus on Monday morning, talking to them about the ways Microsoft products can be used in the classroom.
As a father of two daughters, Nadella said he’s particularly sensitive to the challenges teachers face in trying to get female students involved in computer science programs. He said there are all sorts of cultural biases that keep certain groups away, but there are ways to change that.
“It requires us to think differently in terms of what programs, what kind of assignments, even, will attract a more diverse population into computer science,” Nadella said, adding that Minecraft is one such tool.
His comments came just hours after Microsoft and Seattle-based nonprofit Code.org launched a free Minecraft-themed coding tutorial. The game, which students will use during the annual Hour of Code event in December, is designed to harness students’ love for the game in order to introduce them to basic computer science principles.
The tutorial looks and feels just like Minecraft experience kids are so familiar with, but it requires them to control their characters with a series of computer programing-style commands.
“The reason I love Minecraft is because it’s a game that brings boys and girls,” Nadella said on Monday. “The fact that it’s an open world environment, it’s not constraining in terms of what you would want to build. It’s not constraining even in terms of the cultural bias sometimes you have depending on which country you want to be able to use the tool in. So, therefore, it’s a very, very rich tool.”
Computer science education has been a major focus of Microsoft’s philanthropic efforts for a while now. In September, the company announced it would give $75 million over the next three years to organizations that are trying to bring coding classes to more schools.
“One of the challenges we see is there’s a huge gap between current capability in schools to teach computer science and the need to teach computer science,” Nadella said. “That’s something I think many mayors are talking about, many administrators and teachers are talking about it. That’s something that I fully believe will get bridged over time, but we need to do work in order to help bridge it.”