Using Minecraft In The Classroom

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.

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!


6 thoughts on “Using Minecraft In The Classroom

  1. When I was in the classroom I was not at all in favour of students using Minecraft. I thought the game was all about blowing things up. I didn’t understand the desire to hammer away at something on the screen. Eventually, I started talking to the students, all boys, about why they wanted to play the game. I wanted to know if it was appropriate as my son was starting to ask about playing it (I said no). In talking with the students, I felt fine about letting my son play but still didn’t understand the lure.
    It was my son that showed me there was learning involved in the game. For him, it was about rocks/minerals, farming/agriculture, and the food chain.
    When he told me he was allowed to use Minecraft in class (your class), I was not impressed. You see, it is a very addictive game so I could not figure out how you could possibly keep the addiction out and foster the learning. You have.
    When my son comes home he tells me how he used the game for learning (and for his recess time). While I still see it as gaming, he is sharing with me his learning and that is really all I care about.
    I just don’t think I am ready to use it when I have a class again. I will definitely follow this conversation though.

    • Thanks for such an honest response, Tammy! It is a very addictive game, and it’s taken me some time (and lots of thought) about how to make it about the learning. I do REALLY see the learning when I watch and talk to my students that are using it. And I think that it’s important to note that they’re not all using it, and they’re not all using it all the time. They also need to be forced to think if it is the best tool to use, and if it is, how they’re going to be thinking and working with the academic content using this tool (and not just working with the game). That’s a fine line! I saw some amazing things coming out of a gifted class in our system last year, and I read and thought about much of what was shared. Will I ever make my whole program about Minecraft? No. But do I see more value now to gaming in the classroom that I did before? Yes.

      I’m curious to hear what others have to say, and I’m very interested to see where the learning goes throughout the year!


  2. I’m interested in how you will tie learning outcomes to using minecraft. I have used it for writing and use it to train my students in Adaptive Tech. I’d love to go somewhere with it in my language/math class but find myself getting stuck. FTR, my 7 year old plays minecraft and I’d say he is learning when he plays.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mary-Ann! Many of the ideas that I’ve tried are mentioned in this blog post. I don’t necessarily think that Minecraft needs to be used for a big project: it can be used as part of a small one. For me, the key part is starting by explaining the learning, not the Minecraft. So I begin with discussing the learning goal, and then we look at how Minecraft can be used to meet that learning goal. Students often think of other unique ways to use it, and as I said before, I’m okay with that, assuming that the use of the game does help with the learning. I then try to talk to the students about their learning as they’re playing the game, and I model how to talk about the learning and not about the game. What happens is really quite amazing: students will still periodically discuss the blocks or the area where they’re working, but more than that, they’ll discuss the topic (e.g., how can we represent _____ number? or what do we want to show as our decreasing pattern?). It comes down a lot to modelling, guiding, and lots and lots of small group discussion. Hope this helps!


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