As much as I love my video games, I’ve been a little reluctant to deep dive into their use in the classroom; not because I don’t think there’s a benefit to playing them – on the contrary, I’ve learned more from video games than I did from many of the teachers I had in school. No… I’ve avoided them because the most educational things about video games is simply playing them, and most teachers’ attempts to use them in the classroom end up ruining the video game experience. This is how I’ve felt about Minecraft. I love playing it; my five year plays it; and I believe it is largely a very educational experience for the vast majority of children. After a couple of years of completing its use I decided to give it a go.
Not all video games are created equal. No, GTA V is not the educational experience your eleven year old needs – no matter what they tell you.
I thought I’d share what we’ve ben doing in class with Minecraft over the last few weeks. It needs a little context, so bear with me. You see, my class travelled to a newly discovered planet with a mission to build a settlement for human colonisation. They received orders from NASA to design a space craft, while also needing to determine the most habitable planet from a list of possible choices, and then select the most appropriate location to land on the planet and begin building the settlement. Unfortunately, our space ship blew up while orbiting our new home (Planet G, as it is currently known), forcing us into the escape pods and scattering us around the planet. Enter, Minecraft.
Minecraft has provided us with a means to role play the scenario of survival on Planet G, and it has lead us down some interesting paths. I had little plan for how this would play out, and to be honest, I didn’t know if Minecraft would work as a suitable classroom tool. So far we’ve:
1. Planned and Designed Structures
Floor plans, measurement, scale, isometric views and resource management. There’s a junk of our Mathematics curriculum, right there.
We’ve discussed daily kilojoule intakes and equated them to a Minecraft diet discussing sustainable farming practices. Some students discovered how hard it was to reach their daily intakes if they killed all the animals on the first day!
3. Classified and Categorised Life Forms
The planet is full of undiscovered life forms that required observation, classification and categorisation. This
culminated in most students creating a dichotomous key of Minecraft mobs. Science curriculum, tick.
4. Encountered an Alien Culture
Not everyone is happy that we’re here and took issue with how some of us were ruining the environment. After a brief conflict the students have agreed to apply sustainable practices to their settlement building. SOSE, tick.
Next we’re planning to:
5. Examine the geography of the planet in more detail and explore biomes/habitats and topography. More curriculum, tick.
6. Export and 3D print some of out Minecraft structures. Technology and design curriculum, tick.
I wasn’t sure how effective Minecraft would be in the classroom, and if I were to do it over I’d
start from a different place – we certainly had a few teething problems that are best left for another blog. The largest being that most students already have an experience of Minecraft and see it primarily as a game rather than a tool. That’s slowly changed. When I look back at our last two weeks we’ve accomplished a lot, had fun and learned more I expect I could normally have taught in that time. It’s been an interesting experience and one I’m glad we started.