The videogame Minecraft has sold almost 14 million copies and has redefined the term indie game. Now thousands of teachers across the world are using MinecraftEDU in the classroom. In this series of videos we look at how one teacher is using the game in his classroom.
The Game That Defined a Generation
On the surface Minecraft appears to be a primitive dungeon exploration game where killing zombies and skeletons is the goal, but look further and you’ll find complexity and depth that has spawned a creative community unlike any other.
Best described as digital Lego, Minecraft gives you a set of materials, some tools, an endless world, and lets you to create anything you can imagine.
Simple building blocks with differing properties can be used to create anything from a tiny wood hut to a diamond palace. Virtual circuitry can be used to create a simple automatic door or a complex logic game. Some enthusiasts have even recreated working computer components in-game, while others have built working versions of Pacman and Tetris with just the tools Minecraft provides.
Minecraft’s creator, Markus Persson, has gone from bedroom developer to multimillionaire and is adored by fans worldwide. Lucrative YouTube careers have been started, Minecraft themed Lego sets and toys been released, and Minecraft’s distinctive monsters have become cultural icons. It didn’t take long for some to start wondering how this creative game could be used in the classroom.
MinecraftEDU in the Classroom
MinecraftEDU is a plugin that turns the consumer version of Minecraft into a true teaching tool. The EDU mod adds ways to funnel students and control activities; adds border blocks to limit students to specific areas; instruction blocks to provide initial questions or problems to solve; and adds tools for class management such as teleporting students to the teacher’s location, and muting them — a tool many teachers would like in the real world.
Even if your teachers aren’t aware of Minecraft, your students almost certainly are. Minecraft is a cultural phenomenon. It may have been designed as a game but Minecraft is world which engages students in a way that shouldn’t be ignored. As with other new technologies that schools are currently wrestling with — tablets, social networks, and blogs etc. — Minecraft is a technology that students are engaged with at home, so why not continue that in school?
In a genuine sense MinecraftEDU takes the rules of social etiquette we expect in the classroom and creates digital alternatives that bring order to a limitless world. Admittedly I’ve never had to excavate a student who had dug too far underground and had got lost in an ICT class before, but there’s still a chance.
Shane’s Minecraft Classroom
Shane Asselstine is a teacher at the forefront of using MinecraftEDU in the classroom. He’s developing worlds for his students to explore and has direct links to provide feedback to the developers of MinecraftEDU.
Shane’s students love spending time in Minecraft. They carry out tasks and experiments, log their results and experiences in journals — all in-game. Shane’s world is one that has classrooms, a playground, a canteen, a basketball court, and all the usual features you would expect, the only difference being that Shane’s school was entirely created by his students. Instead of textbooks the classrooms contain portals to other worlds; an egyptian tomb, a working farm complete, a factory, even a race down a waterfall.
Students have their own space where the rewards gained from completing tasks can be used to build their own house. This ownership further increases student engagement and gives purpose to the tasks they carry out in the world.
Shane found that MinecraftEDU increased student engagement far above has expectations. Students are so keen to be involved that he is now forced to turn students away from voluntary classes.
In this series of videos Shane gives us a tour of his world and demonstrates how MinecraftEDU can be used in your school. In part one of this series, Shane show us around a replica of his school built by students and we get a look at the reward system he has created in-game.
Useful Minecraft EDU Links
If you’re considering starting with Minecraft EDU in your school you might find these links useful, and don’t forget to let us know how you get on.
Shane Asselstine’s YouTube channel
The official Minecraft EDU website
Minecraft EDU Google Group
A selection of Minecraft world templates to download and use for free
Edulfie’s YouTube channel and blog
Minecraft Teachr’s YouTube channel
Eric Walker’s World of Humanities in Minecraft
EduCrew’s YouTube channel