Over the past number of years Education Scotland has partnered with schools across Scotland to explore the effective and innovative use of computer games to enhance and enrich learning and teaching. Together we have helped contribute to changing the discourse around the use of such resources in schools by understanding, embracing and practically applying theoretical perspectives such as socially mediated learning, situated learning and the power of semiotic domains in our practice.
Our attitudes to and our professional appreciation of the digital tools and contexts that are embedded in the cultural domains of young learners is continually evolving and we are developing our awareness of the many ways that learners are engaging with learning outside of school. As teachers we have to some extent always tuned in to and exploited cultural phenomenon such as books, TV shows, music and movies and more and more we are doing the same thing with computer games.
One game that is currently hugely popular with learners across the globe is Minecraft. Minecraft is a sandbox game that allows learners/players to create the most amazing and complex worlds by mining for materials and using them in informed ways. Materials that are mined or collected are then gathered in an inventory and can be crafted together in order to make the necessary materials and resources to help you build and survive in the world.
This learning experience is not about actually playing on a Minecraft installation but about offering learners a space in Glow where they can:
- learn from others
- share their expertise
- celebrate the wonder of the world of Minecraft
- showcase their expertise, interests and talents for everything Minecraft
If you speak to primary school children about Minecraft they will happily talk to you about accessing servers, downloading texture packs, survival techniques, the best YouTube tutorial channels and even the differences in the platforms that this game can be played on. The bar of expectation and aspiration is being raised by them.
What we want to offer learners is a learning space where first of all they will choose to come and when they do they will see this space as their own – a place where they can play an active part in discussion forums, where they can upload their own tutorial videos and even their own creations of all things Minecraft in ways that we have seen it happening on the fantastic diy.org site. Have a look at some examples from there: Creeper in hama beads, Creeper costume, Minecraft cookies
Learner engagement in contexts such as this offers ways in which skills development and dispositions to learning in its wider sense can be addressed, showcased and celebrated.
We are keen to begin building Learning Spaces in Glow that tap in to the digital zeitgeists that so engage and enthuse our learners. There is so much potential here and so much to be gained by situating learning in contexts that have cultural appeal and that encourage learners to choose to share their learning and to showcase their talents.
Derek P. Robertson 02 June 2013