How can we use Minecraft to create a sound and robust learning experience for students?

Sandbox games like Minecraft are incredible in their ability to allow the gamer to simply create. Quite easily, a teacher can now offer a virtual environment for the student to experience something that they couldn’t do in real life. For example, my students are currently studying The Maze Runner. It is highly inappropriate for me to put them into a giant maze with killer beasts and ask them to solve the maze. However, in Minecraft, I can do that, and the students will love me for it!

Remember those projects when we were asked to build dioramas? Sure they were fun for the moment. But then you’re left with a bulky box that inevitably sits on a shelf for a long while, and collects dust until you pull it down one day and wonder why the heck you even hung onto this. By utilizing a game such as Minecraft, students can create an entire world, paying attention to specific details, and then take their teachers and peers through a tour IN the world they just created. That’s cool!

Playing video games also frees you to be someone you wouldn’t normally be. I’ve barely ridden a horse only a couple of times in my life, and it scared the daylights out of me! They’re so tall! But in Minecraft, any opportunity I have to ride my glorious steed, I will take it! Same with Legend of Zelda, and Skyrim. I can read a Kingdom Hearts comic and see/read what Sora, Donald, and Goofy are up to. But when I play Kingdom Hearts, I AM Sora, travelling with Donald and Goofy and trying to save the Disney universe. The gamer can also make decisions free of real life consequences, but still experience the consequences within the game. If I choose to go install pretty pink carpet in Thomas’ cloud house it might be funny at the time. However, I had better be prepared for him to come to my mansion and install and entire flock of chickens underneath my floor. Right there: Influencing pro-social behavior and problem solving.

If you have not already checked it out, please take a look at the teaching resources available at Minecraftedu– http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Teaching_with_MinecraftEdu

It’s incredible! They’ve obviously been doing this for a while, and people are sharing their resources. Lesson plans for science, math, language arts, social studies, and humanities. Awesome! Anytime I don’t have to reinvent the wheel I am totally for it!

References

Bethsada Softworks. (2011). The elder scrolls v: skyrim. [Playstation 3]. Rockville, Maryland: Bethsada Game Studios.

Kapp, K. (). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction : Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education
. Ebscohost.

Minecraft.edu. (2014). Teaching with minecraft.edu. Accessed at http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Teaching_with_MinecraftEdu

Nintendo. (1998). Legend of zelda: ocarina of time. [Nintendo 64]. Kyoto, Japan: Nintendo

Persson, M. (2011). Minecraft. [PC]. Stockholm, Sweden: Mojang

Square Enix. (2002). Kingdom hearts. [Playstation 2]. Shinjuku, Tokyo: Square Enix

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “How can we use Minecraft to create a sound and robust learning experience for students?

  1. Amanda

    Great post! I love how we can have students learn a topic and to view their understanding they create a world and we tour it. We have taken slideshow presentations, speeches, videos and papers and turned it into a 3D mind tour. I rode a horse for the first time last summer and it was terrifying. I like the idea of being able to ride one and learn how, on a computer injury free. I think one thing we need to make important and clear to the students, is this is a virtual world. Not real life, so we can learn from this experience but have to understand the difference between the two. I look forward to our journey in creating the world from The Giver.

  2. Reading both the initial post and Amanda’s reply were eye-openers for me. I think part of the reason I am unattached to Minecraft (beyond technical issues still) is that I don’t enjoy video games. I think it’s a personality difference but your posts helped me to connect with potential feelings of students. I’d rather experience things hands on and the challenge making it through alive is part of the rush. I’ve never seen the point of video games even though I’m young enough to have grown up with them. Video games aren’t real, so other than entertainment, they haven’t held any value to me. It’s interesting to read both of your perspectives on almost a ‘safety’ aspect or self-assurance aspect of the virtual world. It sounds like many people would try things virtually that they wouldn’t try at all. I struggle within myself, though, to not want to slightly push students outside their comfort zone.

    I really agree with Amanda’s point stressing the point that these are virtual worlds. I train horses and instruct riders for a living. I have many adults and youth that come to me and are frightened about riding – it can be a daunting and monumental task. It is MUCH harder to begin riding as an adult than as a child. The connection that you form with the animal, the feeling of self-achievement when you’ve succeeded, and learning to let go of a little control are things you cannot learn on a computer in a virtual world. And the intrinsic motivation that comes with the first hand, real life knowledge is unparalleled in the ‘alternate realm’. Unless you get out there and try things, are you really living? Surfing, traveling to foreign countries, etc. are other things that come to mind (you guys mentioned horses, I was just elaborating).

    I believe that gamification is an important part of teaching in this day and age. I think it has it’s place in the classroom. I also hope that real life experiences are still encouraged and don’t fall away with the advancements in technology.

    PS: Try riding again. There is an elemental feeling of freedom that comes with the ability to connect with a horse. To guide them, to trust them, and to gain their trust back creates a bond that any teacher can appreciate. It’s not in their soul to want to hurt, so trust a little – ride and you’ll gain a confidence you never had.

  3. rockislandtechie

    Yes! I’m all for not reinventing the wheel but finding more ways to use it! I was also relieved that many teachers have enjoyed success with integrating MinecraftEdu in their classrooms. I love that a teacher was inspired to use a video game and took those extra steps to integrate it into his classroom; that initiative led to MinecraftEdu being created and more educators being able to use it in their classrooms.

    I find that everyone shows and/or realizes a different side to them when they are in a different environment. Whether it’s a new or different school, neighborhood, job, or class, we all try to figure out how to “be” in the new environment. I agree that students can have positive experiences trying new ideas and activities in virtual worlds with the guidance of their teacher. Not all students can use blocks, legos or paper and pen to illustrate an object, idea, or concept, and the opportunities to explore these same tasks with technology can help students to gain confidence and learn to find other alternatives to help them demonstrate their understanding!

  4. thomash44

    I’d like to see your students running a maze in Minecraft, sounds fun. I’ve been thinking more an more about asking my principal for permission to install a Minecraft server at my school. I asked the kids what they thought about the idea and they almost started a flash mob. Thanks for the links and the post.

  5. If they do a flash mob, record it and post it to YouTube for us!!! Maybe we could use it across districts! 🙂

  6. Before I reply to your post, I want to say how much I enjoyed reading all the other replies. Your skill in MCedu is admirable. The comparison to the virtual diorama fit right into my schema. Being able to create their own fantasy world is definitely a hook for kids.

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