George Lucas Educational Foundation
Game-Based Learning

Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom

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Minecraft is no longer a new tool in the field of game-based learning. Because Minecraft has such open possibilities and potential, teachers have been experimenting with different ways to use it in the classroom for a while now. Some teachers use it to teach math concepts like ratios and proportions, while others use it to support student creativity and collaboration. (Minecraft Education Edition, which launches on November 1, 2016, has additional features for collaboration.) Here are some great ways to use Minecraft in the classroom:

Make History Come Alive

There are many already-created three-dimensional replica structures, like the Roman Colosseum and the Globe Theatre in London, that you can import into the game and have students explore. Many teachers have students create experiences (an update on dioramas) to show their knowledge of historical places and times. Students can also use Minecraft to create stage performances.

The Globe Theatre in London

Focus on Digital Citizenship

Minecraft is a collaborative game, and students actively work in competitive ways, but they can also work together to solve problems and challenges. I’ve watched many students play together, and I will say that they really want to do well when they play, but they sometimes struggle to communicate with each other in ways that are polite and safe. Teachers can use this as an opportunity to build digital citizenship skills. As students play, teachers should observe and give feedback with checklists and rubrics. Teachers can also facilitate discussions and reflections to support each student in effectively communicating and collaborating.

Add a Tool for Writing

Minecraft can be used to tell stories with characters, locations, choices, motivations, and plots. Teachers can use Minecraft as a tool for students to write and create stories based on their character. Perhaps students might create a backstory for the world they create, as well as for their character. Students can also create a story with different plot elements using the game they play and add more creative elements.

Aid Visualization and Reading Comprehension

One of the best ways to have students display their reading comprehension is to ask them to create a visualization. They can reconstruct various settings from a text, and even re-create scenes and plot events. They can also use these recreations to give a presentation or make predictions on what might happen next, and then actually create those predictions in the game.

In addition, many standards we have focus on close reading and critical thinking skills. Readers must make inferences, examine point of view, interpret words, and analyze how a text works. Although games may be light on reading, students must use the same kinds of skills in Minecraft and other games. Games like Minecraft have “domain-specific” words students must know. Students as players must also consider point of view and make inferences based on the world and situations. Teachers should play the game, and reflect on the skills needed to play it, and make connections to transfer these skills when students read complex texts. Minecraft is complex, and students must “read” it carefully and thoughtfully.

Address Problem Solving and Other Math Principles

Like reading standards, math standards call for complex problem solving and critical thinking. Teachers can use Minecraft to build skills needed for math competency. One example is persevering through solving problems. Minecraft requires this, and students can create different challenges for each other. Another skill we seek to develop in students is using appropriate tools in a strategic way, which is exactly what students must do when playing Minecraft. Teachers can examine their math standards for other related skills and use Minecraft to facilitate growth.

Increase Student Choice in Assessment

One of the easiest ways for teachers to use Minecraft in the classroom is as an assessment option. When students have voice and choice, those who enjoy Minecraft can choose it as an option to show what they know. Whether it’s used for a demonstration of knowledge of ratios and proportions or a simulation of a historical event, Minecraft can be another tool to create engagement in the assessment process.

As you consider using Minecraft in the classroom, make sure to have specific objectives in mind for implementation. Don’t forget to take time to set norms and expectations. Have students teach each other. Have them teach you if you need help. And if you’re worried about how parents might feel about the game, invite them into the classroom to see the work students are doing.

There have been so many great experiments with Minecraft in the classroom, and we can learn from each other how to use the game to better support student learning. How do you already use Minecraft in the classroom? How might you use it in the future in new and innovative ways?

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EdTechJimmy's picture
EdTechJimmy
Business Development - Education Technology

I would like to know how many female students enjoy playing Minecraft, compared to the male students?
Will students who already have a grasp of the specific game being used game fair better in your electrical engineering course, then students who have never played that particular game?

Aaron Hollingshead's picture
Aaron Hollingshead
K-8 Technology Teacher from Firestone, CO

I'm using Minecraft for a variety of standards in 5th - 8th grade. Just finished a PBL where 7th & 8th graders are using it to learn to create a budget in Excel. I gave them a chest full of supplies, then an Excel with a price on each block/supply. They have to build a house and stay within a budget. They create an estimated supply list within their budget, then go and build, then come back and compare estimated verses actual. Beginning it this week. Should be fun to try.

Heidi McDaniel's picture
Heidi McDaniel
USJ Registrar & Lower School Technology Teacher

I just saw this and would be very interested in a copy of the e-book. I did the Hour of Code and I think kids would love using Minecraft in the computer lab too!

hmcdaniel@usjbruins.org

jmccullen's picture

Hello Heidi,
I will send you a copy of Survive the Night, Beginner's Guide to Minecraft via email. Thank you for the interest. If anyone else would like a copy just send me a quick note jjmrichmond@gmail.com
JIm

Luci's picture

Hey Jim, why would you assume that female students would be any different to male students? Minecraft is pretty universal, both girls and boys play it from a young age now - though as Minecraft was only created in 2011 I guess some older students may not be as familiar with it as younger students. My daughter is 9yrs old and has been playing it for several years, first Pocket Edition and now for about the past 6 months on PC. Pretty much everyone her age and older that we know - both boys and girls - play it.

Re your second question, whether someone being used to the game would do better in an electrical engineering course, I think that's the same as asking if someone who is already familiar with using an electronics kit would do better. Someone who has experience over someone who doesn't will find it easier. However the real question is whether it will be easier for someone to learn electrical engineering with this tool or another tool. I don't know the answer to that, other than my daughter has learned a lot of stuff and just begun dabbling with "redstone" (electrical material) in minecraft through collaborative play - she's only 9 years old. Minecraft makes these concepts child's play. It allows them to do cool stuff in a simulation environment that they would not be able to do in real life. This will no doubt make it easier to grasp real life applications.

Runa's picture

Hi there! I am trying to learn as much as I can about Minecraft in Education. I hope you could also send me a copy of the e-book. Thank you so much!

rueagustin[at]gmail.com

Cagri Kanver's picture
Cagri Kanver
Interested in Education Information

Spatial thinking and pixel art in Minecraft create an excellent opportunity for students to work on mathematics and visual arts objectives in an engaging environment.

lalika's picture

Hi
The link takes me to a dead end
Sadly
Im in need of some simple fresh insight into minecraft fir middle school special education kids
In Australia..if thats any different from the rest of the world id suggest its like anywhere a unique "place""space"for any special ed kid
If you could post a link that works id love a copy of you simple beginnets guide as I am an ancient 56 year old case management student (yes!) And only heard about minecraft 4 days ago eek yes!! Ive googled,libried up books and have youtube links
A beginnrs guide would help too as the only book avaible today is an original minecraft beginnrs guide yet lengthy if you get what Im saying.
Other books Ive put on hold are ascyet unavailable (popular so currently borrowed /loaned out)
Cheers if I can have a begginers guide to minecraft link
Ive joined this site just to do so (so far) &can see other freat links and comments/material
Thanks
Lalika

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator & Trainer, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI #GoogleET

Lalika, welcome to Edutopia! It's great to have you with us.

I feel your pain, we have all been there!

My first suggestion is that you visit https://massively.jokaydia.com/ which is run by my good friend Jo Kay from the University of Wollongong
in Canberra, Australia. Her community could be just what you need - and most importantly - it's a network of real people with a desire to help.

My second suggestion is that you ask your kids what to do. In my view at least, the most critical 'shift' modern educators need to grapple with is NOT being the expert in a topic, NOT having an idea how to structure things, NOT knowing where to start with a new concept or technology in the classroom. THIS IS PERFECTLY FINE - when you are a "co-learner." Imagine literally saying to your kids, "we're going to figure this out together," then, actually DOING it, letting them take the lead. It's not as impossible as you might think.

What do you think? Are you up for the challenge to let the kids show the way?

-kj-

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