I’ve had some reservations in the past about using Minecraft in the classroom. I know that the game engages students, and I’ve seen it used for some wonderful learning opportunities, but I’m worried about the activity becoming more about the game and less about the learning. Over the summer though, I started talking to Adele Stanfield about her TLLP on “gaming in the classroom,” and Minecraft was discussed. Then I started reading more recently about Minecraft use, as I prepare for heading off to ECOO for three days. I’ve been reconsidering some of the positive aspects of the game.
So this year, I’ve looked at some ways to use Minecraft in the classroom. I’ve also been open to students that suggest their own ways, but with one major caveat:
Minecraft needs to support learning outcomes.
Yes, I’ll be open to gaming, assuming that students see the game as the vehicle to share their learning with others and meet curriculum expectations. I think this plan is working too. The other day, I asked students about some of the highlights of their day, and responses were ones such as, “I loved using Minecraft to show my understanding of number patterns,” or “I liked building number patterns in Minecraft to show how I can create these same patterns with both numbers and pictures.” While students were talking about the game, they were also equally focused on the academic purpose of this game. I think that this is important.
To help students see Minecraft as a vehicle for learning, I try to create different ways for them to choose to use it, but with an expectation in mind. Today, Jennifer Ralston, tweeted me to ask about some of these ways, so I thought that I’d share my ideas here.
- I created this Rounding Centre (in the attachment), encouraging students to use Minecraft, addition, and rounding.
- I figured students would use Minecraft for Number Pattern Challenge #4, but I was surprised with the interesting ways they used Minecraft for the other challenges as well.
- We looked at ways that Minecraft could be used for their advertisements for Media Literacy. Students created logos and product pictures using the blocks.
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) October 16, 2013
These were my initial ideas, but then students started developing ideas of their own.
- When listening to Out of my Mind for the Global Read Aloud, students visualized using Minecraft. They created characters, settings, and important items using the blocks, and then they added signs to share their written ideas.
- After researching various topics during AWARD (Applied Writing and Reading Daily) Time, students share their understanding by creating Minecraft representations of their learning. They’re using signs to add in written information. They’re also taking screenshots of their work, and inserting these pictures into Educreations to explain what they know.
- Students are creating Minecraft comic strips as a combined writing and media literacy activity. They’re creating people, places, and events in Minecraft, taking screenshots of their creations, and inserting text with the use of other apps.
Now when I see students on Minecraft or I have students ask me about using it, I’m taking a minute to stop and ask, What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How will this help you learn/understand _______ topic better? Then the students either show me why Minecraft is a good option for this type of activity, or they think about another better option (but on their own). I’ve really had to train myself to ask questions in this way (instead of just jumping in with, “no”), but I’ve seen the benefits in doing so.
How do you use Minecraft in the classroom? What are some of the benefits and/or drawbacks? I’d love to hear your thoughts!