Community Voice: How do you use Minecraft in education?

In honor of Minefaire, we asked our community to share how they use Minecraft in education to teach different subjects in school.

Here’s what they had to say:

Glen IrvinGlen Irvin, @Irvspanish:

Minecraft Education Edition has made it easy for any teacher, even those without any technology or gaming expertise, to step right into the world of game-based learning.

We have used Minecraft for many lesson in Spanish class. Students have created our school, cities, businesses, and even body rollercoasters all in the Spanish language. My Spanish 2 students complete a quarter long (9 weeks) role-play activity where they are citizens of a Spanish-speaking Minecraft world and must work together to complete various quests. I have documented my use of Minecraft in the Spanish classroom both in this Google doc, which contains all of the lesson plans, and also on YouTube, where I include video explanations and examples of the lessons.

Why does it work? Students must communicate in the Spanish language in order to ‘survive’ and thrive in their Minecraft societies. This type of role-play within the game creates the need to know grammatical structures beyond what is taught in a typical Spanish class.”

@CoachBmhmsGrayson Bedenbaugh:

“I think that Minecraft Edu is an incredible game-based learning tool. The education version allows for total teacher control of in-game settings such as creative mode, PvP (player vs player) mode, and the ability to turn ‘monsters’ on and off. Teachers also have the ability to transport students and freeze students to maximize the ability to emphasize teaching points along the way.

I personally have used Minecraft Edu in my classroom to teach topics such as the Agricultural Revolution during the Neolithic Period, build ancient structures such as the Great Pyramids and Parthenon, and even to teach the importance of teamwork. I have also implemented Minecraft Edu as a summer enrichment program to allow students to opportunity to create a ‘Scrappy Town’ and then create that world digitally.

Minecraft Edu is the tool that allows me to tap into my students’ creativity. It allows them to learn in an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes and where they are forced to develop soft skills such as communication and team building.

Steve IsaacsSteve Isaacs, @mr_isaacs:

I have been using Minecraft in my game design courses for the past four years. I have grown to see that Minecraft is a wonderful game design engine, though it was not created as such. This is part of the beauty of Minecraft. The sandbox environment and all of the elements in the game that provide opportunities to customize it make it a great learning environment for any content area.

In my case, students follow the iterative design process regardless of the tool they use. All students begin by developing a comprehensive design document, which is intended to serve as the blueprint for developing their game. The design document includes the storyline, character descriptions, level descriptions (and/or sketches), outline of game mechanics, and how the student envisions automating features in the game, etc. Once the design document is completed, they begin to develop the game.

Students may work alone or in teams of virtually any size. The multiplayer in Minecraft makes this possible, while it is not the case in most development tools we use. One thing I have found amazing is how organically the roles of the team members form. There really is a job for everyone within a design team. In many collaborative projects, roles have to be assigned, and often in a somewhat contrived manner. In Minecraft, part of the beauty is watching this happen in a very authentic way. Some kids take on building areas within the game, some take a leadership/project management role, and others take on the role of automating game functionality with redstone and command blocks.

As part of the iterative design cycle, we stop at checkpoints for students to evaluate and provide feedback on peer games. Peers become the beta testers. This occurs in several ways. One approach is to provide written feedback and then discuss it with the developer. We focus on elements like the story, aesthetics, directions, and gameplay. Students are encouraged to be supportive in this role as the true goal is to help one another improve upon their game. Another approach to testing that I absolutely love is to have a peer play the game while the developer watches. The developer is not allowed to talk and must really observe the game through the players’ eyes and actions. This yields profound results in terms of gaining an understanding of how your game occurs for the player. The developer desperately wants to tell the player what to do but must sit back and observe. Conferencing with the peer who played the game provides another layer of feedback. This iterative loop continues, and the goal is to eventually create a version of the game that can be shared with the world so others can enjoy it!

As an interesting aside, I originally thought I was going to have all students create Adventure Maps. I quickly realized that I did not have to provide a constraint like that. Rather, I kept with the general task of creating a game. The game can be any type of game. The kids often come with expertise. It is our job as educators to celebrate choice in learning. Allowing students to be empowered to develop their vision for the game allows their creativity to guide the process.”

Share your thoughts: How do you incorporate Minecraft into your classroom?

Photo credit: AnjelikaGr / Shutterstock.com

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