What tools can we use both in and out of Minecraft, to create a convincing case that learning occurred? 

As much as I just want to play and have a grand ‘ol time with my students, in the back of my mind I know I need to justify what I’m doing with them and demonstrate that learning is taking place– especially since I am working in a grant-funded program! Assessment is essential for showing progress and modifying learning. But it doesn’t always have to be so painful.

Speaking specifically, Minecraft lends itself to the following gamification elements: storytelling; experiencing the concept; role playing; experiencing consequences; and replayability. That’s a pretty impressive resource! However, I need to be able to demonstrate that certain elements of learning that align with standards have occurred.

I personally like rubrics for establishing a base for assessment. By organizing the elements that I’m going to be paying attention to, I can better determine that my students have achieved their learning objectives. I also like the ideas of portfolios, but those are assessments that take time to develop. While rich, they do not provide enough immediate feedback to make modifications to the learning. By using rubrics mainly as my formative assessment tool, I can determine if I need to change my approach. For example, let’s say I assign my students to re-build me the maze from The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Some students produce mazes incorporating 4 entrances from the glad; proper structures; and zombies to simulate grievers. Those students obviously read the book as assigned, and are properly referring to the text as required. Now say I have a handful of students who produce a maze with only 1 entrance from the glade; a pit; and a tall scouting structure. It would become apparent that these students are only going off of the movie, and not referring to the text as required. I would need to change my strategy and get to the bottom of why they weren’t familiar with the book (Didn’t read? Having difficulty? Didn’t understand the language? Didn’t understand the concepts?)

I utilize these same concepts outside of the gaming world as well. While we were reading The Maze Runner, I would have some of my students recap the previous night’s reading by acting out the dramatic scenes with paper dolls (it was pretty great, by the way). That’s a mild form of role-playing, but it still engaged the students. And the discussions that we have held over the topic have been amazing and insightful! And pardon me while I digress and gush a bit about my students—I’m just so proud of them! My students are all Alaskan Native, and they were invited to attend the program that I teach because a majority of them were having difficulty in public school. These were the kids who were written off. I was told by a number of people outside the program, but who knew about it, that this would be a tough job. That these kids just didn’t want to work. That the only thing I could hope for them was to painfully bring them up to a “D” average and hopefully keep them from dropping out of school. When I listen to these students “chomp at the bit” to excitedly tell me their thoughts on passage of reading; excited to share their written works with me; and excited to begin a project at school, it just makes my heart all gushy. These kids are kicking those terrible expectations right in the face, and I love them for it!

So I guess that’s part of why I fight so hard for gamification—this is their world. They get it. And sometimes, just because I may not completely understand, or “get,” what they’re into; but I will respect it. Just because I don’t understand it, that doesn’t mean that it’s stupid or anything less than what I think is important.

So… my heart kind of went spilling all over the place here, but I hope my point made it through. J


Dashner, J. (2007). Tbe maze runner. New York, NY: Delacorte Press

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

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



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4 responses to “What tools can we use both in and out of Minecraft, to create a convincing case that learning occurred? 

  1. rockislandtechie

    Definitely got your “point” 🙂

    If we write students off because they don’t meet our expectations, we are missing the point of an educational system and making the work more important than people. Learning does not have to be so “serious” and structured, part of my role in facilitating a learning experience is to be open to changes in the way that meaningful learning occurs. I like rubrics that are simple and incorporate students’ interests and goals. I usually create a “rubric” draft to show students what I expect and we incorporate how they want to learn as well. When I make a community agreement with my students at the beginning of my program, it also includes my responsibilities and what they can expect to see from me. We frequently check to see that we are on track, not just with our learning objectives, but in our interactions and roles as well. Part of our rubric should reflect the experience that we are asking them to join – are they demonstrating an active, positive, and contributing role in the learning experience of others? Can they use the tools in Minecraft to communicate concepts and their understanding of the story? Can they communicate effectivly and appropriately in an online learning community? So many great things to think about with this project!

  2. Amanda


    With the assessments, making sure our students are learning. It always come down to engagement. Your students were engaged, because they enjoyed the book and could learn from another source instead of a boring text book. You found what worked with your students. I think to have a successful learning outcome, we (educators) need to find what our students love and find ways to integrate these passions into our lessons. Great job!

  3. Love the heart flowing all over the blog. I prefer to work with students like yours, and admire the way you describe your class of learners without using labels. Do your students know how fortunate they are to have you in their lives?
    Hopefully, my whining has not made you feel that I think gaming is stupid. That is not my feeling nor intention. I value gaming as an educational tool. It’s just I am not yet sold on Minecraft, not to mention highly inept at it. But, that is no fault of the game, just my shortcomings. We all have our strengths (and limitations), as do each of your students, unfortunately, gaming is not one of mine!
    Moving on, the Maze Runner ideas spawning in your writings are great examples of utilizing MCedu. In reference to favoring rubrics, they allow students to self-assess as well.

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