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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using Minecraft as an Educational Tool

Middle school students create their own 3D virtual worlds and learn lessons about communication, collaboration, and digital citizenship through the first-person sandbox-style game called Minecraft. Get tips for implementing Minecraft in the classroom.

Using Minecraft as an Educational Tool

Joel: Minecraft is a video game that has a lot to offer. At its core, it's very open-ended. If you want to have an adventure, you can have an adventure. If you want to build something, you can build something. If you want to talk to your friends, you can talk to your friends. If you want to kill monsters, you can kill monsters. So the game appeals to a lot of people. It makes a lot of sense to take a game that is already fun, that is proven to be enjoyable to kids, and try to find a way to bring it into the classroom.

Lauren: So look here, Minecraft EDU launcher and that should be it.

Boy: Oh.

Boy: Imagine how long this took Brandon to make.

Boy: I know. Oh! He just drops you from all the way up there.

Joel: You know, my school as well as many others have been struggling with the issue of how to teach digital citizenship, which is internet ethics, online safety, privacy, research. I mean, it's everything, because as our kids were getting into middle school and high school we had a lot of frankly ugly incidents happen. And so, you know, the school's administration, along with the computer department, decided we really need to start teaching this concepts earlier. You know, we're going to treat the game world as part of the classroom. It is a classroom, it's just in the digital space. Almost every single kid finally kind of came around and sort of got it.

Teacher: Go ahead and let's start off by getting in, following the instructions that are up onto the board. Yeah, you are students, pick your avatar.

Anthony: Pixel Pushers as a student project here at the ETC is working with Minecraft EDU to develop a series of software features for their software. So our programmers have been working on a quiz block and a lesson review tool to include in the Minecraft EDU software while we're also working on researching how and what you can best teach with Minecraft. You can really teach a wide array of things that aren't immediately obvious.

Joel: The kids have to think it's fun, otherwise what's the point? There's plenty of educational games out there and frankly, very, very few of them have ever been very satisfying for me. I never wanted to use them in my classroom, because it smells like school.

Make sure you're using the right material. Make sure you're not using gravel for the parts that are in between the pillars there, because the gravel will fall. Let's check out group two, oh nice, you've finished, you're almost done with one of the hardest shapes, good job.

Anthony: In our research, we started out asking, "What can Minecraft teach?" As we actually started play testing with students, we found that that might be the wrong question and that it's more interesting to ask how can Minecraft teach?

Dave: The virtual world of Minecraft I think is fun and powerful, you know, for these kids and I think they get it in a way that I think some of their teachers don't sometimes.

Anthony: I think the most important thing for someone coming to Minecraft from an educational perspective is to just play the game. Just get a feel for how the game works and then perhaps even more importantly, let the students play the game.

Joel: You have to think about where twenty-first century kids are living. I mean, they come here in school, but they're texting each other on the way home. And then they're on Facebook and then they're playing games together. It's all a continuum; they don't separate the conversations that they have typed into Minecraft with the ones that they have in the lunchroom.

Joel: There's such excitement around this game. Getting that excitement into schools all over the world. The more voices we have coming up with idea and creating content and sharing content, the better.

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  • Director / Camera / Editor: JR Sheetz
  • Associate Producer, Edutopia: Douglas Keely
  • Senior Manager of Video, Edutopia: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Special Thanks: MinecraftEdu, Education Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, Quest to Learn, Elizabeth Forward School District

This video was originally produced by Institute of Play, and was made possible through generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Intrigued by game-based learning, but not sure where to begin? Edutopia's new series takes a look at game-like learning principles in action and commercial games in real classrooms -- and offers tips and tools for bringing them into your own practice. Made With Play is a co-production with Institute of Play.
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