If an Irish tech company has its way, online gaming could soon be a regular feature of the school curriculum.
An educational version of the video game Minecraft, developed by Dublin-based Prodigy Learning, is currently being piloted in the UK and the US.
The company has now launched ‘Coding in Minecraft’ - a computer science curriculum, skills assessment and credential programme delivered through Minecraft: Education Edition.
Prodigy Learning marked its entry to the US market with a billboard on Times Square in New York.
The company's chief executive Andrew Flood said: “With the growing skills gap in computer science globally and the challenges facing teachers and students in accessing effective learning opportunities, our vision for Coding in Minecraft is to break down barriers for both students and teachers and transform the uptake of computer science in US schools."
He said the challenge was even more stark as there were, as of 2018, 55.6m kindergarten or school-going age children in the US.
Mr Flood added: “Coding in Minecraft captures the imagination of young learners through one of the most popular computer games in the world and supports them in learning to code, design and problem solve.
The program is designed to be delivered in a teacher-facilitated model, making it easy for teachers of all abilities to deliver computer science in their school.
According to Microsoft, Minecraft is the best-selling video game of all time and 51% of American children aged nine to 11 play it.
Coding in Minecraft has been developed by Prodigy Learning to meet the gap in computer science education and skills development among school students worldwide.
It has been piloted among 114 schools, 200 teachers and 4,000 students in the UK and US over the past 12 months.
The curriculum has been aligned to teaching and computer science standards in both jurisdictions.
Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, said the growth already achieved by Prodigy would ultimately deliver skills to a whole new generation and improve both their future employability and productivity.
"By expanding the global reach of their product and moving into markets of such a large scale as the US, Prodigy will inspire other indigenous companies to follow suit,” she said.