Why do we use Minecraft anyway?
How does it help with teaching?
Minecraft also provides another real opportunity to talk about and discuss digital citizenship in online spaces. During our very first session with Minecraft, the class worked together to trap me (who doesn’t like ganging up on the teacher). So we stopped and used the opportunity to talk about online etiquette, the necessary rules to be respectful and how to keep our class safe in the Minecraft world. These critical discussions about entertainment vs education and the very blurry world of edutainment helps our students navigate through this easily accessible but not always productive digital world. This has set us up to work in Minecraft as a group – having clear ground rules has kept every member of the class accountable for their conduct, supporting and checking others too.
What have we done with Minecraft?
Another great example comes as part of our learning languages program; our Te Reo Teacher Andrea Gordine asked students to present their pepeha to their class. Some students asked if Minecraft was an option. New to Minecraft, but keen to learn more, Andrea agreed and away the crafting continued well beyond the duration of the one-hour class. The result was their maunga, their awa, their waka, their marae all carefully constructed in a 3D landscape that others could visit.
Currently with our Minecraft Scale Landmark Unit one class is finding the measurements for the Auckland Sky Tower, which they have decided to build together as a model for the students to follow, when they select their own landmark to create. They are then checking how high we can create a model in the Minecraft world we currently have set up. Others are working on calculating how to convert the measurements so we can create a 1/3 scale model (what we decided we could manage as a group). Other members of the class are starting out Sway presentation to include our calculations, photos of the Sky Tower and interesting information about the Sky Tower and its construction. The inclusion of this work is outlined in our learning rubric and part of the assessment of the project.
This term we have classes working on an Olympics related project where as part of a broader study they will investigate, the history and landmarks of Olympic countries. One of our year four classes is working on creating the Olympic Village.
Our advice to teachers thinking about using Minecraft
- Don’t be anxious about your own skill levels. Learning alongside students might seem awkward at first, but learning to share responsibility for learning is liberating. The pace of learning is much faster when a teacher does not to trying to control every detail. There is a wealth of Minecraft knowledge just waiting to be tapped in our classrooms. Just like other prior knowledge and experiences bringing these to our classrooms strengthen and enriches learning for all.
- Be sure to set clear parameters for working together. Co-construct rules for crafting, particularly when working in collaborative spaces. Make sure the intended goals are clear for all. Use rubrics and other formative assessment strategies to help keep the focus on learning
- Get connected, join online professional learning communities like the Microsoft Educators Network to access knowledge and resources. We’ve found lots of great ideas and plans for incorporating Minecraft in meaningful ways.