Using MinecraftEdu in the Classroom
Say the word “Minecraft” in a group of middle- or high-school students and ears are sure to perk up. The interactive computer game gained popularity in 2009 as a mainstream computer/video game. By 2011, educators had begun utilizing the Minecraft program to teach everything from history and math to science and social studies. The game allows students to control their characters while achieving tasks like building communities or societies, reconstructing settings, journaling experiences, engineering buildings, and creating models while practicing ratios and scale. Educators have found this teaching vehicle to be dynamic because a wide range of ages are already acquainted with the user interface.
In the Classroom
Utilizing this type of gaming in the classroom took off quickly, prompting co-founders Joel Levin (@MinecraftTeachr) and Aleksi Postari (@Kulttuuri) to create MindcraftEdu. This education-focused version of Minecraft was adapted to allow for more teacher-friendly and classroom-friendly changes, and it costs less than the original game. It can be loaded onto the school’s network, creating a safe environment for students to interact without strangers from the internet intruding. Teachers can now “freeze” the entire virtual world in which their students are working and playing to give further direction or instruction. They can control the types of tools and resources that are available to the whole class as well as individuals within the game.
Realizing that significant preparation time was a hurdle for many teachers interested in using the game with students, co-founders, programmers, and teachers all began creating “mods” (modules) or worlds with settings specific to a learning outcome, goal, or subject matter. These are now widely available, some free and others for a small fee. MinecraftEdu has made a library of these types of resources available here on their website.
You don’t need to be a tech genius to get this game launched on your own school network. The MinecraftEdu company has step-by-step user instructions to follow and tech support available if the need were to arise. Their website claims they “provide discounted Minecraft licenses to educational institutions, a custom edition of the game with features designed especially for classroom use, and a hosting service to let users connect and play together.”
When teachers are learning how to set up their own mods, some have found it advantageous to set up assignments where they ask their students to build challenges within a mod that their classmates then need to complete. This saves on set-up time and allows students to show what they know… because if they can teach a concept by making a challenge, they have probably mastered it.
Who in the CSI family uses it?
James Timmer from Denver Christian School shared a recent MinecraftEdu teaching experience with us:
“I used Minecraft in a European history class to examine the structure and usefulness of building European castles. I gave groups of kids a certain amount of time and resources to build a European style castle (after a day of research about them), and then I let them attack each other’s castles in a ‘capture the flag style’ to see how effective they were.
“I am still not entirely sure how effective a teaching tool it was for that purpose, but it was really fun and got the kids involved in a way I had not seen before. My favorite part of using Minecraft was that it got the students who usually separate themselves from the class to really engage with their peers.”
Want to pitch it to your administration?
Here are resources on the web from others who have done the legwork for you! Now there are no excuses! Give classroom gaming a try. (http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/What_is_MinecraftEdu#MinecraftEdu_Development_
Wish to learn more?
To see what new features are available, see how others are using it in the classroom, and to read student responses: