Much more than just a video game, Minecraft is being used by thousands of educators to tackle difficult learning concepts in an amazingly fun and collaborative digital environment. Students are exploring, crafting and making in 3D virtual worlds where their creativity and imagination can run wild. No matter what your discipline, the many different elements of Minecraft can be employed to add fun and meaning to just about any lesson.
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A Quick Look
The most important step to bringing Minecraft into your classroom is making sure it is introduced in the right context. Minecraft is fun. People play it for fun. So make sure your students are given time to play around and have fun learning the basics first. Once your students are hooked on Minecraft (trust me they will be) you can then bring in different educational elements to start challenging them.
It’s impossible to play Minecraft without creating. In fact creating is the fundamental principle of the game. But rather than have your students create aimlessly, try and set up some objectives or restrictions. This could be setting the type of materials or tools they must use to build. It could be defining a specific structure or landscape. And definitely try to link creative objectives with work or concepts you have been discussing in class (studying ancient Egypt? Have your class build a pyramid to help demonstrate the architectural challenges).
The open nature of Minecraft means that students are only restricted by their own imagination. Just about anything can be created in Minecraft. Have your students build famous landmarks (Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, Ayers Rock). Or even consider going off the planet and recreate objects from other worlds.
One of the main reasons Minecraft has been so successful is the ability to collaborate with other players. Have your students work together to create structures and worlds that would not be feasible alone. Try planning a large scale creation in class where each student takes responsibility for a different element of the project. On completion your whole class will be able to look back and see the entire masterpiece created.
5. Experiment and Analyze
One delightfully scientific application of Minecraft is using the virtual world to carry out experiments that would not be possible in real life. This could be experimenting with volume and area using blocks. It could be social experiments using collaborative worlds. Or, my personal favourite, setting up experiments to understand the physics being used to hold the Minecraft world together.
Links and Next Steps
- Minecraft in the Classroom Teaches Reading and More
- Minecraft in the Classroom: Ideas, inspiration, and student projects for teachers -- Book
- Minecraft in education -- Educational benefits of Minecraft
- Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? -- Video (5 min)
- Should teachers use Minecraft in our classrooms? -- Report from the BBC
- Minecraft -- Solar System -- Video (8 min)
- Minecraft Physics -- Calculating the physics behind Minecraft
- MinecraftEdu Resources -- Collection of lessons, forums and wiki for educators
- Teaching with Games: GLPC Case Study -- Video (4 min)
Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Terry Madeley.