Using Minecraft to Engage and Challenge Your Class

Rebecca Davies
Rebecca Davies is a teacher in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. She teaches primary and middle years students (Prep to year 9) and has taught in PYP and mainstream schools. She is passionate about educational technology and how it can engage students, making their learning personalised and relevant to their lives.

Using Minecraft in class is an amazing way to engage students and have them apply their knowledge in authentic ways. I recently used Minecraft with my class as a summative assessment on area, perimeter and volume. It was fantastic because not only were students engaged, but they also challenged themselves to apply harder maths than they would have otherwise.

There were challenges, however, that I had not anticipated. Below I have outlined four different factors that need to be addressed before using Minecraft in the classroom.

Using Minecraft in Class

4 Tips for Using Minecraft in Class

1. Play it first!

If you are going to use Minecraft in your classroom you must play it first! This does not mean you need to be an expert, or have complicated worlds of your own, but it does mean you must know the basics of how to move, build a basic structure and join another person’s world (when using the app) or server (when using the computer program). Knowing these things will assist you when planning the task/unit and also to enter students’ worlds when necessary.

 

2. Private worlds

I did not want to create a whole new server for my students to use, and I also wanted them to complete the task on their iPads in class, not in the computer lab. This meant the students were using Minecraft worlds that they had created themselves and not a private server run through the school. Some students created private worlds but others wanted to work with their friends in the same world. In order to do this they had to make their world temporarily visible to everyone using the school’s WiFi.  There was no way to control what students entered their world once it was visible, including students from other classes. Some students forgot to make their world private again, and this led to trolling.

Exploring Minecraft

3. Trolling/Griefing

Trolls are people who try and gain a negative response from a player in a game; a griefer is someone who deliberately destroys someone else’s creation in a game. Unfortunately, there were other students who were playing Minecraft on the school’s server from outside my classroom who did act like griefers.

In one case, even a student who switched their world to private quickly after having their friend enter had someone enter with the intention of griefing. The quickest way to get rid of the troll /griefer is for the students to leave the world and force quit Minecraft. The more difficult way is to see if anyone knows who the username belongs to (it has to be someone connected to the school’s WiFi) and then contact their teacher. This takes longer, but is well worth it as it ensures that the person is unable to continue destroying students’ work.

 

4. Constant check-ins

Constant check-ins are vital to ensuring that students remain on task. This is particularly important for students who love Minecraft and find themselves altering a building they’re not happy with instead of focusing on their class work.

For a short task you can have a particular section due after fifteen minutes, then another after thirty minutes. For a longer task, make sure that the students know you are watching their progress. In my classroom, I had students give me access to their world on my iPad. They loved showing me around their world, how they had constructed things and how they were connecting math to their structures. This was a more positive way of ensuring they were on task than hovering over them, and meant that they were working very well, as they all wanted to show me the things they were creating.

 

Using Minecraft is an amazing way to engage students and make their learning relevant and meaningful. Do not be disheartened if things do not go entirely to plan. Simply remember that many students have a wealth of knowledge that you can refer to, and that everything takes practice.  Soon you will be a master of Minecraft in the classroom!

 

Have you had any great success or challenges using Minecraft in class? What tips have you found to make the game more engaging and applicable to learning? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, qwrrty. Post image courtesy of Flickr, kenming_wang.

  • Mary Jones

    Hi Bec!
    Love your post, thanks for sharing. Just curious as to what kinds of tasks you asked of the students. Have toyed with the possibilities for a while but just need some further direction! I probably need a bit more experience with the game myself to see more specific way the game can be used. Would be great to harness the student interest in it for learning.
    Cheers,
    Mary

    • Rebecca Davies

      Hi Mary!
      I gave the students a collection of tasks related to area, perimeter and volume. Some were aimed at students who were not confident with Minecraft, and some were aimed at students who were very experienced with Minecraft and had established worlds. They ranged from things like asking students to create a structure with a particular perimeter (say, 52 blocks) to have to work out the volume of the castles/palaces some of them had. They got to choose which ones they did, provided they completed at least one perimeter, one area and one volume task.
      Hope that helps,
      Bec

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