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  1. Benjamin Segee
  2. Graduate Assistant
  4. University of Maine, ThoughtSTEM, Adv Computing Grp
  1. Ami Gaspar
  2. Project Manager
  4. University of Maine System
  1. Bruce Segee
  2. Henry R and Grace V Butler Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  4. University of Maine

The Maine LearnToMod Project

NSF Awards: 1543040

2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

In this fast changing world of technology, STEM education is becoming more important than ever. The goal of the Maine LearnToMod Program, is to increase student engagement, motivation, and knowledge, interest in STEM careers by providing students with quality computer science education by leveraging the popular video game Minecraft. Using LearnToMod’s coding tools, students are capable of using code to modify their virtual Minecraft world, allowing them to customize and build like never before, while gaining invaluable knowledge of computer science.


The project aims to significantly lower the barriers to participation, particularly those of technological and human costs. The Maine LearnToMod Project provides extensive tutorials and lessons to help guide students and teachers through their computer science education. The virtual world provided by Minecraft will allow youth to collaborate in the same world without being in the same room, or even the same town, and is flexible enough to be used in a wide variety of in class or after school settings. With help from the University of Maine Advanced Computing Group cloud computing system, schools with all levels of technology may participate in the program.

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Discussion from the 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase (13 posts)
  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 13, 2019 | 07:33 a.m.

    I enjoyed this quite a bit; I confess that I'd hear the  "buzz" about Minecraft, but hadn't been moved to investigate further — until now.  

       I am curious what sort of teachers you're looking for?  Did you include teachers in your development team?  What do you think the biggest challenges will be in in-school trials, and have you thought of maker-spaces (as in public libraries) or other out-of-school settings? 

  • Icon for: Benjamin Segee

    Benjamin Segee

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Assistant
    May 14, 2019 | 05:41 p.m.

    Thank you for your questions Brian!

    Our program has been running for several years now and has reached a wide variety of classrooms. Our program is targeted towards middle school students, so most of our teacher facilitators represent that demographic. In terms of subjects, we have had a wide spread of teachers take different approaches to utilizing the program. Most teachers focus in STEM or Computer Science classes, but some others have utilized the program in English and Math. 

    Teachers are heavily involved in the development process. I myself teach middle school level, and we have also utilized the expertise and feedback of many of our teacher facilitators to help us write and refine our curriculum and program. 

    The biggest challenges to overcome are without question those of technology. Here in Maine, every middle school student is provided a laptop by their school, however there is no guarantee that these laptops are capable of running Minecraft. For these cases, we have developed a remote desktop system which will allow students to play from any device with a web browser. 

    We have done a few programs outside of a school setting, most notably as a summer camp. While we have not partnered with any maker-spaces yet, that is an idea we are receptive to! 

  • Icon for: Benjamin Segee

    Benjamin Segee

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Assistant
    May 14, 2019 | 05:42 p.m.

    Thanks for watching our project video! We are really excited about this project, and are always looking for feedback! Specifically, we'd like to ask teachers...

    1. How would you like to use this sort of technology in a classroom? 

    2.What sorts of concerns would you have about utilizing this sort of program?

    We are always looking for teacher facilitators to help us out, so if you or anybody you know is interested, feel free to contact us at mltm@maine.edu


    If you want to see the LearnToMod program in action, check out our YouTube page at https://youtu.be/lbEaLSzxnwU

    For more info, please feel free to check out our website at https://sites.google.com/maine.edu/mltm/home?


  • Icon for: Ginger Fitzhugh

    Ginger Fitzhugh

    Senior Research Associate
    May 14, 2019 | 06:52 p.m.

    Like Brian, I also had heard of Minecraft but wasn't clear how it worked. Thanks for the clear introduction.

    What are the outcomes that you hope to see in the students (and maybe in the teachers)? Could you describe how you are planning to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the program?

  • Icon for: Benjamin Segee

    Benjamin Segee

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Assistant
    May 15, 2019 | 07:44 p.m.

    Thank you for your questions Ginger!

    Currently, our formal research hopes to measure changes in student interest in STEM careers. We also collect qualitative data from teachers of how they implemented the program, and strategies they found effective. This data has been extremely valuable in helping us build and refine our curriculum, and we hope what we have learned can be used to develop similar programs in the future. 

    We are also looking to expand our research into the realm of Spatial Cognition. Strong spatial abilities have been linked to long-term success in many STEM fields. Many 3D games (such as Minecraft) have been shown to be a highly effective tool for training spatial abilities. We are curious to see if the benefits students receive in this program extend beyond simply having fun while learning. 

  • Icon for: Victor van den Bergh

    Victor van den Bergh

    User Researcher & Evaluator
    May 14, 2019 | 08:36 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this work.  It makes complete sense to me to use content young students are already interested in as a gateway for teaching complex computer science concepts, and I'm excited to see how it develops.  I wonder, how have you involved students in the development of your curriculum?  To what extent do you allow them to "lead" that aspect of the program and how do you gather feedback from students to inform the curriculum?

  • Icon for: Benjamin Segee

    Benjamin Segee

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Assistant
    May 15, 2019 | 08:00 p.m.

    Thank you for your question Victor!

    The curriculum has had several iterations so far. We feel that one of the largest advantages to a tool such as this is the ability for students to learn through play and exploration. As such, we have tried to avoid having a curriculum which is too regimented or constraining. Conversely, it is important to have some sort of structure in a classroom. 

    To this end, a typical classroom session consists of two parts. In one part, students engage in informal learning through free coding, play, or exploration of the online lesson library. The second part tasks the teacher to lead the students through one of our curriculum example projects, each of which highlights an important programming lesson while also allowing the students to create something flashy and fun in a single classroom period. The lessons are built so that they may be taught in any order, and teachers are encouraged to select projects which they feel will be most useful or engaging to their class that day.

    While we have not had students directly involved in the creation of curriculum, we do enlist the help of of our teacher facilitators with each new revision. They have been tremendously helpful not only with refining the lessons, but organizing and developing supplemental resources which they feel may be beneficial. 

  • Icon for: Kate Meredith

    Kate Meredith

    Informal Educator
    May 16, 2019 | 09:24 a.m.

    Minecraft has been super popular with my sons and it is the only game they have been able to teach me to play.  Minecraft is accessible to teachers (the old folks) and the students.  Great Choice!  Having it available online was also an essential choice and I understand the challenges of making that happen.  From my experience, having a modular curriculum is also essential.  I look forward to reading more about your research.

  • Icon for: Benjamin Segee

    Benjamin Segee

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Assistant
    May 19, 2019 | 02:02 p.m.



    Thank you for your kind words! The sort of experience you have had with your sons was the inspiration of this project! Just this week Minecraft passed Tetris in sales and has become the best selling video game in history! With this massive amount of student interest, we felt we could easily appeal to lots of aspiring computer scientists! 

  • Icon for: Stacey Forsyth

    Stacey Forsyth

    Informal Educator
    May 16, 2019 | 01:37 p.m.

    I learned about your project last year through this video showcase and am excited to say that we're planning to use Learn to Mod in our Minecraft summer camps this summer! So far, it looks like it's going to meet our needs (and the students' interests!) very well. Is there any feedback you'd like us to gather from camp participants or instructors this summer?

    PS: Your team has consistently been very quick to respond to any questions we send them, so thanks very much for all the help and support!

  • Icon for: Benjamin Segee

    Benjamin Segee

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Assistant
    May 19, 2019 | 02:00 p.m.



    This is fantastic to hear! Why don't you email us at mltm@maine.edu so we can work out the details!

  • Icon for: Ed Mondragon

    Ed Mondragon

    K-12 Teacher
    May 16, 2019 | 04:57 p.m.


    Are the training modules available for teacher use?

    Our junior high CS program is interested in using Minecraft for our Creative Coding course, but most of the teachers need training with Minecraft before accepting the challenge of teaching with it. 

    Additionally, our district is working toward a K-12 CS program, and I believe Minecraft is a tool that would fit in very well in the lower elementary content areas as well. I am hopeful to bring those teachers into the mix of coding and Minecraft as part of their core content curricula; it is anticipated all of them will need training.

  • Icon for: Benjamin Segee

    Benjamin Segee

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Assistant
    May 19, 2019 | 02:10 p.m.



    All of our curriculum and training materials are available free on our website at...




    Teachers being unfamiliar with Minecraft has been one of the most common concerns voiced to us! We have a basic tutorial guide at the link below, but truthfully, the best way to learn is to jump right in and start playing! If you have questions, there are hundreds of great resources online! If possible, I'd even recommend enlisting a few enthusiastic students to show your teachers the basics. The Minecraft community is extensive, and always happy to share their knowledge with newcomers! 



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    Ed Mondragon
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