MinecraftEdu provides a custom mod, basically a customized modification of the game, that helps facilitate organization and focus for teachers to use Minecraft effectively. In addition, Joel Levin, the founder of MinecraftEdu, provides ideas and updates at The Minecraft Teacher blog.
For those noobs out there that need a push in the right direction, here are some introductory project or lesson ideas.
1) Explore Real Life Buildings
There are many already-created structures that you can import into the game and have students explore. From the Roman Coliseum to the Globe Theatre, they can wander through and literally see three-dimensional replications of buildings that are no longer there. You might have students identify aspects of a theater, or use it as a tool for presentations. If you really want to go nuts, have students create these models themselves.
2) Practice Ratio and Proportion
Minecraft allows students to build whatever they want, so use the opportunity to have them create scale models when you need a practice unit about measurements and proportions. The building of scale models might integrate social studies content to allow for cross-curricular connections. Coupled with in-class lessons and activities, Minecraft can help students apply the knowledge they have learned in technological and playful ways.
3) Learn About Survival
You can contextualize the concept of survival for students by having them play the survival mode, which demands players take into account resources, hunger, tools and more as they build and expand their world. Students have to explore in order to collect resources, and they have to process what they find, such as smelting ore to create metal. Doing this in the game can give students a basic understanding of how things work, and help them analyze the different components of survival and settlement.
4) Visualization and Reading Comprehension
One of the best ways to improve how students display their reading comprehension is asking them to create a visualization. They could reconstruct various settings from the text, and even recreate scenes and plot events. They could also use these recreations to give a presentation or make predictions on what might happen next, and then physically create those predictions in Minecraft.
As you consider using Minecraft in the classroom, make sure to have specific objectives in mind for implementation. Teachers do need to pay for it, but MinecraftEdu has opportunities to pay less, as well as a variety of editions. You might consider using Donorschoose.org to help back your project financially. Remember that you can have students collaborate in multiplayer mode or do independent practice in single player mode. I'm excited to see the creativity that teachers will bring to using this game in the classroom. I'm sure many of you have more creative ideas. How do you already use Minecraft in the classroom? How might you use it in the future in new and innovative ways?