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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.

Made With Play Video Series

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.
Get more resources for game-based learning.

Minecraft Resources on the Web

Comments (9)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Randy Rodgers's picture
Randy Rodgers
Director of Digital Learning Services, Seguin (TX) ISD

While I am extremely intrigued by the possibilities for using Minecraft in the classroom (and am planning on hosting a Minecraft summer camp for kids in our district), I have to say that this video is primarily a fluff piece, filled with "See how they love it?" and "Just watch them play!" However, there is very little in the way of addressing what they are actually learning. If Minecraft is going to be seen as a viable classroom resource, the reality is that it will be necessary to demonstrate quite concretely how it benefits student mastery of curricular objectives. I fully realize that isn't what we want to say or hear, but it is reality.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey

Hey Randy ... I hear what you're saying but think you're being a little rough on this video - it's an Edutopia thought piece with a few classroom vignettes, not a hard-hitting educational documentary. :) That said, as someone who has been in this business for a while, you've seen trends come and go ... and while it seems we are well on our way toward Gartner's 'Peak of Inflated Expectations' I think there are plenty of teachers who are pushing the thinking, using Minecraft in ways it was never intended.

Case in point, have you seen:


and specifically,

http://www.instituteofplay.org/awsm/playtime-online/illustrations-of-min... (58 minute Google Hangout archive)

I think it is way too early to expect more progress to have been made with regards to concrete documentation of in-game student learning, but feel we are "directionally correct" thanks to the efforts of these researchers and other educators. For them, it is already a viable classroom resource.

Tell me more about your plans for the summer camp. How many kids? What ages? What will the learning look like? Who will direct it? One of the greatest challenges, I think, of these new environments is for educators to trust students enough to let them lead their own learning - assuming of course that the pedagogical stage has been set, the tools have been provided, and the objectives identified. Then it's just a matter of watching and guiding from the sidelines as the kids drive the learning experience...


Chris Miko's picture

Hi Randy,

I have been developing curriculum and systems for using for Minecraft in the classroom for the last two years. I also provide educational Minecraft servers for classrooms, schools, and individuals can subscribe for monthly access to my servers specifically designed for the educational setting. Take a look at some of the things we are actually doing my blog here: www.Craft-Academy.com

Brooklyn Smith's picture

Before researching what and how to use mine craft I thought no games like this cant be used in school, and even after some research I was still not convinced. However after completing my research I now appreciate its place in the education. I would find this particular game effective as part of a HSIE task or topics. I think this would work if students were studying a place in the world, learning its history, and what it looks like and basically general facts about the area. Then asking students to design a world (on mine craft) that resembles what they have been learning. This is an extremely engaging and child focused learning experience I think all students from kindergarten to stage 3 would enjoy. Great to watch this video and get ideas for my future teaching.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey

Hi Brooklyn, I am going to guess you are from the U.K., what is "a HSIE task"? Just wondering!

30ish's picture

Well, I thought Mindecraft was just one of those games that the kids love, and no big deal. Then I was met with the opportunity to use it as a teaching aid...now what? Well, I looked at the videos and the wheels started to turn. I love science with all the hands-on and inquiry based instruction could this type of thing apply with Minecraft. So I'm now creating a class using the theme Zoo Animals so the class can be all in one area. Students have to do all the research on their animal - habitat, food, and life cycle...that sort of thing. Then instead of presenting their project on poster board they present their animal inside of Minecraft. What kid isn't going to want to know what the habitat looks like so they can make it just right. This is a tool just like the diorama kit to make a point. If you embrace this movement the only thing that will stop you is your imagination...I guess it's why it's a sandbox game ;)

30ish's picture

Students could build the stage of Shakespeare and while you slowly feed them lines from a play. Inquiry based instruction is way more fun than sitting for lecture. If you are talking about your community each student could build parts - the landfill, the recycle center, the water station, the sewage system, the drains in the road, the watershed, and a new sub. How does all this interact when John Doe flushes the toilet and dumps his paint in the garbage? You ask the questions let the students find the answers. How do they construct those landfills and when it rains what happens to all that water???? Unfortunately, I'm not sure what mastery of curricular objectives really is...if my students understand and can think I'm feeling like I did a good job!

Robert Ashish's picture

Great idea but of course there down sides not allot of country's have the money to fund this type of program.
But at the same time I could see that really working I mean come on.
How exciting would it be to learn a lesson on minecraft.
so 10/10 idea hopefully it comes to my high school.

Adam Fort's picture
Adam Fort
Touch typing enthusiast and educator

Love it. It's so great that we can teach our kids using such services.
It's one of the top 3 my ideas for new school year.

1. Minecraft for education
2. Introducing to touch typing with help of http://www.ratatype.com/
3. Introducing to coding with help of http://www.code.org/

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