Teachers can find the hook of games-based learning can bring otherwise reluctant learners to the table and let them shine. For some learners this can be one of their main interests outside of school, and a platform such as Minecraft, with a huge following, provides a motivational pull when that can be used to support learning in the curriculum.
Many teachers around the world have sought to make use of this enthusiasm by the learners for Minecraft – and many have shared their experiences for the benefit of others. This post seeks to bring together some of the resources shared by others to support teachers looking to use Minecraft to support the curriculum in their classes.
So what is Minecraft?
A Parent’s Guide to Minecraft: 5 Reasons to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Cubes – this post by Dan Tynan provides a nice description of Minecraft, aimed at parents trying to understand what their child is doing when they are working with Minecraft, which will be useful for teachers unfamiliar with Minecraft. The article not only serves as a concise introduction bu also explains what to expect in Minecraft, with advice about some of the issues which may arise.
Minecraft in Education Advocates in Scotland
Derek Robertson (@DerekRobertson) is one of Scotland’s pioneers and advocates in the use of games-based learning and wrote about the benefits to learning and teaching using games-based learning, including Minecraft, on Education Scotland’s blog (click here to read this).
Derek Robertson also has his own blog where he wrote more about the use of Minecraft for a local project (click here to read this).
Scotland’s Stephen Reid (@ImmersiveMind) is a Minecraft teacher, running a Minecraft server dedicated to teachers and parents all over the world and running lessons with children and Minecraft in curriculum learning. Find details here http://www.immersiveminds.com/ahpminecraftserver/. Stephen wrote about using Minecraft for classroom projects, such as this one here: http://www.immersiveminds.com/minecraft-lesson-idea-flags/
MinecraftEdu – an education-specific version of Minecraft
Minecraft: Education Edition – a version of Minecraft specifically designed for use in educational contexts to promote creativity, collaboration, and problem solving in an immersive environment. The Minecraft: Education Edition website has videos showing how Minecraft: Education Edition is used by teachers in the classroom across the curriculum, and includes lesson plans for different age-groups and links to resources.
There is a MinecraftEdu wiki on setting up and using Minecraft in Education version of the software which can be found at: http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Getting_started#How_to_purchase
Andrew Miller (@betamiller) has written about the use of Minecraft in education: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/minecraft-in-classroom-andrew-miller
Article about use of MinecraftEdu in the classroom: http://www.edge-online.com/features/minecraft-in-the-classroom/
This tutorial is meant for educators and learners who are new to Minecraft, or those who need a refresher on controls, crafting, and basics of game. It includes videos, downloads to add to Minecraft Education Edition in order to carry out interactive learning activities, for which guides are included.
Setting up Minecraft in School
The following link provides guides to setting up a Minecraft club in school: http://www.gamingedus.org/ – with good advice here: http://www.gamingedus.org/2014/11/seven-tips-to-setting-up-a-minecraft-club-at-your-school/
The following link is to a guide to setting up and using Minecraft specifically in Primary School: http://primaryminecraft.com/starting/
There is an Australian site which is for a child and parent to set up a free online Minecraft account hosted by JoKaydia in Australia – it is not for schools but they have a contact to ask about a subscription for use by schools for a class: http://massively.jokaydia.com/about/
Microsoft has a site specifically for teachers interested in using Minecraft in Education – have a look at the trailer video below http://education.minecraft.net/
Set up off a network
Many teachers around the world report technical hurdles in using Minecraft in school. The issues are not generally about the software (which can usually be purchased in the same way as other software), nor the installation (in many schools, as with most software installations onto a network device, that would most often have to be done by an ICT Engineer or support technician) but around the fact that if using a school networked PC it requires a dedicated server to be set up. That would require quite a bit more time for an ICT Engineer and may cause some anxiety for network engineers around security of the main school network and bandwidth demands, and solutions which have been found to work in schools situations in one part of the world don’t necessarily sit comfortably with the other priorities and concerns of network engineers to meet needs of all users of an education network.
One solution is to avoid the school network altogether and to use a PS3 or Xbox 360 with Minecraft in offline mode. This can present the least expensive route for some schools to get going, and to avoid issues with being on the network:
1. Obtain a PS3 or Xbox360 – someone may have one at home which they will happily donate to the school after they have upgraded to a new model.
2. The device needs to connect to the Internet at the beginning at setup in order to download updates, set up the account and download the software, all before it comes into school (where, in many schools, you would not be able to connect to the network/Internet). So this would be easiest done by someone on a home wireless network – connect to the web, go to xbox live – create a profile – download updates – go to the store – purchase and download Minecraft and texture packs such as city (if using Minecraft rather than MinecraftEdu then educators have recommended to ensure that then when setup set to use offline, creative mode and peaceful!).
3. Back in the classroom it would then be connected directly to the projector or to a TV with DVI connection.
The Minecraft experience at Shieldhill Primary School
Chiara Sportelli wrote about the experience of first using Minecraft with pupils at Falkirk’s Shieldhill Primary School: “Using Minecraft the pupils are really engaged with their work. It has allowed them the experience of being ‘experts’ as some know more about it than some of their peers who are unfamiliar with the game. For some children working on Minecraft has allowed them to demonstrate equal or in some cases more advanced knowledge than their peers for the first time. One activity involves children completing a comprehension task where they create and build a camp based on a written description. They were all really keen to work on the project as homework (they actually asked for homework!). My idea was that they are a group of adventurers who have discovered a new land, they have had to build their camp and plant crops for survival. The write a journal entry each week detailing their progress and any obstacles they have encountered. They also created a 2D Minecraft version of themselves and character profile as part of the adventuring group, on paper. We then started a decision based continuation of their original story as settlers in a new land and planned for them to create a story path within the game and treasure hunt linked to moral dilemmas.”
What have others said about why to use Minecraft in the classroom?
I Minecraft, You Should Too – Catherine Dohn shared the following Sway presentation about reasons for schools to consider incorporating the use of Minecraft in the classroom.
Learn Coding within a Minecraft context
Minecraft coding with Code.org – so you want to really engage your learners (youngest age in primary school upwards) with learning to code while at the same time using Minecraft as the link then do have a look at Code.org Minecraft activity where learners develop skills of coding in manageable steps where success is clear in seconds. The language development as well as logical thinking are both developed with Minecraft motivation!
Still looking for another way to make use of Minecraft in the classroom?
So you don’t have a PC or gaming device. Why not make use of tablet devices and use the pocket edition of Minecraft – another way to engage learners!
Pick a Path Stories in OneNote – this video lets you hear a learner in New Zealand talking through the pick-a-path story he created in OneNote along with the world he created in Minecraft which combined to help visualise the journey, and inspire the writing. This is detailed in more depth in a blogpost on the Microsoft Office Education blog as well as on the school’s own blog
So how have you used Minecraft with your pupils?
Do comment if you’ve used Minecraft in the classroom and would like to share your experience