I’ve been looking forward to this class all semester. Our professor Valerie had students from a minecraft club at a local middle school come in and show us how to use it in an educational setting, and it was so impressive! Their teacher had been trying to get minecraft into their school for 4 years, and two of the club’s students were able to convince the principal to incorporate the program into the school in just two months. Talk about the power of students! Now these students create worlds, and projects for other students to use and create within. They meet at lunch, and serve as ambassadors for minecraft in schools by doing presentations, like the one they did for us. I was so impressed by the confidence and personality of these grade 8 students, they seemed so at ease in front of our university class.
I’ve played minecraft before, so the concept wasn’t new to me, but the concept of using it as an educational tool was. Minecraft Edu has a teacher menu on the teacher control panel which lets you teleport students, drop assignments into the chat for students to complete, mute students who may be causing trouble, and change the game settings (keep inventory, peaceful mode, freeze characters, etc), so that you can control certain aspects of the game to prevent things from getting out of hand. The students spoke about a server they were all playing in together on multiplayer survival mode, where there were limited resources and chaos ensued when people started fighting for power. As a solution, the students held an election to elect a government to help regulate power within the world. This was a great community building and critical thinking exercise for the students, something I hadn’t previously considered.
We also heard examples of a student killing another student’s cow, so another student created a resurrection spot to revive the cow. A wonderful expression of empathy and problem solving/community building. Another student built a working cow farm, where she raises, milks, and uses the resources for baking cakes and other food. The possibilities within minecraft are limitless, and learning outcomes can be reached through playing the game without being directly part of the assignment.
When it came time to explore minecraft, I was so excited. Since i’m familiar with the game I was moving through the tutorial and exploring quite quickly, but I had forgotten Valerie’s warning that sometimes people get nauseous from playing the game on these particular sized Mac computer screens. 15 minutes into the tutorial and the nausea hit me. It must have been a combination of the fluorescent lights, huge screen, and visual fatigue from typing assignments on a computer screen all week, but I never saw it coming. I was so disappointed! After taking a 20 minute breather and walk outside to get some fresh air, I came back just in time to check out an educational lesson based minecraft server. The one I checked out was a Viking world, where you wandered around and talked to different characters who told you about themselves and what they were doing. It felt like a regular character interaction, but they were teaching us about Vikings, their longships, how to make them, etc. I didn’t think about that as a possibility, but it was such an organic way to communicate information in the game. Students can also participate in timed building challenges, or simply complete assignments their teacher has dropped into the game.
I was able to explore the Viking world for a little while as it was slower paced because there’s so many characters to stop and talk to and learn from, but I didn’t get to explore as much as I wanted to because of the nausea. It was enough of an introduction to make me want to explore its possibilities more, and incorporate it into my future classroom. Even if your school hasn’t invested in the minecraft edu program you can still use the minecraft program as an alternative way for students to prepare assignments if they choose. Here are some great resources I found for incorporating minecraft into the classroom: