This past school year, Minecraft was huge for the boys in my classroom, and others in our small school. Our principal praised it’s educational components, yet I didn’t investigate more. If students were playing it at home already and learning from it there, why did I need to bring it into the classroom? One student whose Minecraft interest intrigued me the most was a boy who was not allowed to play Minecraft at home. For whatever reason, his parents did not allow him to play Minecraft. However, he was allowed other technology time and is the same student who took to coding that I mentioned in my earlier blogs. So how exactly did he learn about Minecraft? He learned from guides published by Scholastic. Instead of building in the game, he spent time doodling in class and creating worlds on graph paper. Allowing this student to doodle in class helped him keep his focus. By the end of the day, he had countless drawings of blocks, swords, things called creepers. His interest was fascinating to me, especially since he hadn’t played the game (at home…perhaps he was playing it while visiting friends).
This week of looking into game-based learning, which can be described as a balance of what is learned in class with game play (Vukovic, R., 2015)., allowed me to take a deeper look at the game of Minecraft and experience the game with which so many of my students have become enthralled. Before completing my interview, I did some of my research to develop questions. I found much in the way of information on Minecraft and how to use it in the classroom.
- Minecraft facilitates cooperation and teamwork, especially through multiplayer games (Gamepedia, 2015).
- Minecraft provides players with a 20 minute day/night cycle with 10 minutes of daylight, 1.5 minutes of sunrise or sunset, and 7 minutes of night allowing players to build their world and then defend it at night from creepers/mobs (Minecraftopia, n.d.).
- Minecraft is not subject specific and can be used for any subject. Researchers have found benefits for students with autism, SEN students, and disconnected students when using Minecraft in the classroom (Tablets for Schools, 2014).
- Benefits for different subject areas include:
- Reading: students read their inventory lists, wikis and online games
- Writing: Contributing to Minecraft wikis, chats
- Math: Basic multiplication and division skills, learning shapes, game is played on a coordinate plane
- Social skills: cooperative events in multiplayer, working together (Gamepedia, 2015).
- Joel Levin saw benefits to his daughter using Minecraft and brought it into his technology classes. Since then, he has helped found TeacherGaming, which is three years old and created MinecraftEdu. MinecraftEdu has a curriculum ready for teachers with worlds to download (Ossola, A., 2015).
When I went to do my interview, I had some background on the program, and was better equipped to answer questions. I chose to interview a thirteen year old boy. His interests were solely on the multiplayer portion of the game, specifically the combat and survival games. He showed me the different games he played regularly, stating he enjoyed the survival games because it reminded him of the Hunger Games (E. Knaizowski, personal communication, July 5, 2015). He further went on to explain that he had used Minecraft before in school during math class when solving for area or volume, but he found this boring. When it was my turn to play, I found I had a lot I still needed to learn about the game.
Game-based learning is becoming more prevalent in education today. There is a greater interest from teachers and schools, who seek to not just motivate their students but help them gain deeper insights and understandings (Vukovic, 2015). Minecraft provides students with a free-form structure which allows them to experience things for themselves (Ossola, A., 2015). This can help students create and reflect on tasks easily (Vukovic, 2015). For any classroom, I think there are many possibilities to introducing Minecraft into the classroom. I could see a world where students have to use their social studies and geography skills to create replicas. These replicas could be of their town, of their home, of an ancient cizilization, etc. I could see a world where students have a task for the week, then need to write a report over what they’ve learned. I could see it helping students who are struggling in learning area and perimeter. Even simple tasks like reading and understanding directions and working with others can help students improve. When it comes to Minecraft, many students are already engaged and there are many resources out there to help us utilize it effectively in our classroom. What are we waiting for?
Gamepedia. (2015, June 22). Minecraft in education. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Minecraft_in_education
Minecraftopia. (n.d.). How to play Minecraft. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://www.minecraftopia.com/how_to_play_minecraft
Ossola, A. (2015, February 6). Teaching in the age of Minecraft. The Atlantic. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/02/teaching-in-the-age-of-minecraft/385231/
Tablets for Schools. (2014). Teachers! Learn how to use Minecraft as an educational tool. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://tabletsforschools.org.uk/teachers-learn-how-to-use-minecraft-as-an-educational-game/
Vukovic, R. (2015, June 8). Games-based learning: It’s time you played the game. EducationHQ. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://au.educationhq.com/news/29462/games-based-learning-its-time-you-played-the-game/