How Minecraft Is Becoming A Teaching Tool In Schools

You might look at Minecraft as a source of annoyance or as just another game that your children have been or are currently obsessed with. And in some ways, you’re right. The incredibly popular game, actually, the second highest selling game of all-time (only outsold by Tetris) is not only addictive and popular, but it’s also a fantastic tool for learning. That’s right, the game that you probably don’t understand is being used in classrooms, and might be implemented at the school your kids attend soon.

First off though, how about a basic description of Minecraft, just in case you’ve remained willfully ignorant as it’s risen to it’s current level of popularity.

Minecraft is a three-dimensional sandbox game that has no specific goals for the player to accomplish, allowing players a great amount of freedom in choosing how to play the game. However, there is an achievement system. Gameplay by default is first person, but players have the option to play in third person mode. The core gameplay revolves around breaking and placing blocks. The game world is composed of rough 3D objects—mainly cubes—arranged in a fixed grid pattern and representing different materials, such as dirt, stone, various ores, water, lava, tree trunks, etc. While players can move freely across the world, objects can only be placed at fixed locations on the grid. Players can gather these material blocks and place them elsewhere, thus allowing for various constructions.

Got it?

So, how does that structure translate to the classroom? Well, there are already lots of schools that have experimented with or implemented Minecraft into their curriculum, here are some quotes and examples.

Minecraft is no longer a new tool in the field of game-based learning. Because Minecraft has such open possibilities and potential, teachers have been experimenting with different ways to use it in the classroom for a while now. Some teachers use it to teach math concepts like ratios and proportions, while others use it to support student creativity and collaboration.

Minecraft in the classroom has also recently been endorsed by Scientific American in an article titled Why Gaming Could Be the Future of Education.

not only is Minecraft immersive and creative, but it is an excellent platform for making almost any subject area more engaging.

And what about the teachers that are already using Minecraft in class? How is it working out? Here is a great example from Jacqui Murray, a K-8 technology teacher of 15 years.

My students hang my picture in the Teacher Hall of Fame every time I let them play Minecraft in the classroom, which I do regularly. Of course, I provide guidelines, which they love.

It’s fascinating that today’s game-playing youth want a set of rules they must beat, parameters they must meet, levels (read: standards) they must achieve, and a big goal (think: graduation) they can only reach after a lot of hard work, intense thinking, and mountains of problems. Look into the eyes of a fifth grader who just solved the unsolvable — something most adults s/he knows can’t do. You’ll remember why you’re a teacher.

More information about the experience in Jacqui’s classes here.

And Microsoft is paying attention as well, recently announcing that schools and teachers can now download a special education version of Minecraft for free. They’ve added new features to make the game easier for teachers to provide feedback, as well as classroom collaboration tools and an easier setup process.

Microsoft announced that schools and teachers can download a special education version of the game for free. The company also added several new features to the game that make it easier for teachers to give feedback, as well as classroom collaboration tools and a simpler setup process.

More great information, including more classroom examples can be found here, via CNN.

It all adds up to a very compelling case for this game to have a role in our kids’ schools. And in addition to all the evidence offered, the kid’s are pretty excited about getting to play something they already love during school hours as well. Another example of technology and gaming infiltrating the learning experiences of our children.
Photo credit: kjarrett via Foter.com / CC BY

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Joe Long