Minecraft in School Does it Fit?
Let me start off by saying I am not a gamer. I have never liked video games, first person shooters bore me and games like Mario Brothers never interested me. I could never get beyond the first level before I lost interest. Although I do have a keen interest in Virtual Worlds. For example I have been known to explore worlds like Second Life and its open source clone Open Simulator. Some of you may know I like to explore using Text Based Adventure Games in the classroom which I think could be very cool but that is for a another article. I also have looked at other Virtual Worlds like Quest Atlantis and as well as other browser based worlds. When I discovered Minecraft a blocky world with very few rules and a whole different game play i was hooked. If you have been living under a rock for the last few years let me explain briefly what Minecraft is. There are two basic kinds of game play one is the creative mode where you have access to all the different blocks at your deposal to build what ever you want and another is survival mode where you start off with nothing and you have to find your resources and fend off the bad guys to grow and prosper. Watch this short video that will give you a good idea what Minecraft is.
So now you know what Minecraft you may be asking yourself how would you ever use this in the classroom? Well a lot has been written about it but first let me show you a video from PBS about Minecraft in schools.
I also found a video from Edutopia about using Minecraft in school. I would agree with the person in the video that said to understand how Minecraft could be used in the classroom you should sit down and play it yourself. I will have to admit that is how I started with Minecraft. I was told about Minecraft from another teacher and it sounded interesting but I was skeptical so I set aside sometime to just play it and while I played it I learned about how it might fit in the classroom.
For some quick ideas this was taken from an article on Edutopia.
1) Explore Real Life Buildings
There are many already-created structures that you can import into the game and have students explore. From the Roman Coliseum to the Globe Theatre, they can wander through and literally see three-dimensional replications of buildings that are no longer there. You might have students identify aspects of a theater, or use it as a tool for presentations. If you really want to go nuts, have students create these models themselves.
2) Practice Ratio and Proportion
Minecraft allows students to build whatever they want, so use the opportunity to have them create scale models when you need a practice unit about measurements and proportions. The building of scale models might integrate social studies content to allow for cross-curricular connections. Coupled with in-class lessons and activities, Minecraft can help students apply the knowledge they have learned in technological and playful ways.
3) Learn About Survival
You can contextualize the concept of survival for students by having them play the survival mode, which demands players take into account resources, hunger, tools and more as they build and expand their world. Students have to explore in order to collect resources, and they have to process what they find, such as smelting ore to create metal. Doing this in the game can give students a basic understanding of how things work, and help them analyze the different components of survival and settlement.
4) Visualization and Reading Comprehension
One of the best ways to improve how students display their reading comprehension is asking them to create a visualization. They could reconstruct various settings from the text, and even recreate scenes and plot events. They could also use these recreations to give a presentation or make predictions on what might happen next, and then physically create those predictions in Minecraft
I won’t go overboard with many more examples of how Minecraft can be used in the classroom. If you play it then you know your students and your curriculum better than me. With that said I have one feature I will leave with you to think about that might be used across many grade levels. This example is using Minecraft to do digital story telling. Watch this vide and maybe you might ask your students to create their own story or retell a story using Minecraft.
I found a nice book called Teacher Craft How Teachers Learn to Use Minecraft in There Classrooms.
The book blurb:
Teacher Craft is about how teachers learn to use new digital media. Teacher learning is central to reform and change across subject areas and age levels, but how much do we really know about how teachers learn to try new lessons in classrooms? Minecraft is currently the game of choice for millions of youth and also for these seventeen teachers who claim it has transformed their classrooms. Its rapid adoption also provides a unique window of opportunity to look inside the recent memory of innovative teachers and unpack how they learned. Why did they pick Minecraft? More importantly, how did they pick Minecraft? Where did they hear about it? Who do they trust for ideas? How do they test new ideas? Can we begin to identify the trajectories of truly innovative teachers? It turns out, we can – and it may not be what you’d expect.
If any of this has made you interested in using Minecraft in your classroom please come by my office or email me with questions you have. I would be happy to set down and work with you or a team of teachers interested in looking further at Minecraft.