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Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom

Andrew Miller

Instructional Coach at Shanghai American School
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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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Chris Miko's picture

Hello everyone,

I am a teacher who has been piloting Minecraft in my classroom for the last two years. Check out my blog here: www.Craft-Academy.com

I also just launched a Subscription-based Educational Minecraft server for use in classrooms and schools. Individual students can sign up as well -- perfect for parents who want their child working and playing in a safe environment.

- Server custom designed by teachers and students for use in the classroom.
- No violence
- No foul language
- Private plots for making projects
- No griefing issues
- Lots of Mini-Gmaes to play

http://educrafting.enjin.com

Alex Minter's picture

Hello Clients,

Just To Let You Know Ill Be Looking Into This Minecraft EDU As Im Fairly Impressed As I Develop Things....

I Recommend This Game To All School In And Through Out Country Its An Excellent Way To Keep A Child Such As Me Interested And Entertained As I Find It Hard To Think In Class And It Just Soothes The Brain So You Can Concentrate More..

So Good Luck Guys,

Alex Minter

jmccullen's picture

Hello,
We just published a Beginner's Guide to Minecraft that is written so a parent can understand the game and some of its benefits, it is also a great guide for someone just getting started. You can find more info at www.IDigMineCraft.Com. I would be happy to share a free e-book version with anyone on this page.
Jim McCullen
Stone River Solutions - Publishing Group

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

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