Today we were specifically exploring using minecraft as a stimulus for learning, this was an important lesson as “Minecraft is a worldwide phenomenon. Since it was first released back in 2011, it’s been taken to the hearts of thousands and thousands of gamers.” (Magbook, 2014, p.3) as Beauchamp states “Children spend most of their time on games not found in schools.” (Beauchamp, 2012, p.9). In order for games-based learning to be as successful as it has the potential to be, the games used in classrooms must be relevant to what the children play, talk about and engage with at home. This also then leads to the learning continuing when the children go home. They may recognise different aspects of the game and link that to what they learned whilst playing or discussing it at school. As Minecraft is such a worldwide phenomenom and can lead to so many stimulating learning opportunities which we explored throughout the lesson, as a teacher it is an important game to be familiar with. Ofcom reports that 86% of 5-7yr olds and 90% of 8-11 using gaming devices regularly (Ofcom, 2001) This is a huge percentage of children and in order to make learning relevant to their life this statistic must not be ignored as gaming devices now play an important role in children’s every day life.
Today we had the opportunity to work with Primary 6 pupils from a local primary school. As an aspiring primary school teacher it was great to work with the pupils and for me it reinforced my love of working with children and therefore, why I am spending so much time studying, writing blogs and taking exams!
The children alongside one of their class teachers visited us to show how they incorporate minecraft in their learning. They also brought their own iPads, with the Minecraft app installed so we could have some hands-on experience of the game. For the first half of the lesson the children were in control of the iPad and showed us around the game, answering any questions we had. Watching the two girls in our group they made this look easy and could very quickly find the tools and equipment they needed to build anything they wanted! However, during the second half of the lesson the iPads were handed over to us and the children were given instructions not to touch the iPad, they could only use their words to explain to us what we had to do. Being handed the iPad first I found it difficult to even place one brick from my ‘stores’ into the wold we were creating and quickly realised that it would take a long time for me to be anywhere near the level of ability the pupils had reached. The two girls did an incredible job of describing to us what we were to do and step-by-step instructions of how to do this. As Graham discussed with us at the end of our lesson this was an important lesson for us to remember in the future when we are teaching children to use computers, put our hands behind our back and talk them through it as if we just take the mouse and do it for them, we can already do it however they won’t be learning how to.
Whilst discussing the game with us the children were able to become the teachers and explain to a group of 4 adults different aspects of the game they liked, explain and show us the different worlds and characters you could create and finally coach us (4 completes novices) through playing the game…a difficult task for anyone never mind a primary 6 pupil. The two girls working with us did this with ease, confidence and a smile on their face the whole time. The girls were clearly very engaged with this game and I believe this engagement gave them the confidence to be able to discuss and explain the game thus so fluently. Some of the main comments I picked up from talking with the girls were
“It’s really interesting sharing and seeing each other’s worlds”
“You have to work out how many you need”
“What shall we do, we could make this, what do you think?”
alongside this the two girls in our group would discuss any question they couldn’t answer either with each other or with another group, communication and problem solving to find the answer.
These comments reinforce some of the work by Beauchamp who states the skills which are developed through games-based learning, including:
- Negotiating Skills
- Strategic Thinking
- Application of numbers
- Group Decision Making
After having the opportunity to work with the children it was clear to see the development of these skills through the use of games-based learning in a real-life school setting.
Towards the end of the children’s time with us the class teacher discussed further with us the ways in which she uses Minecraft with the children. She encouraged us to not to be scared or embarrassed to learn from the children as she is still learning things about the game from them. As we had discussed in many lessons previously, children really are the experts at many of these games and they can further our knowledge and introduce us to different aspects of the game which may allow us to create more, better ways to use games-based learning and as Beauchamp states “…Achieving particular educational objectives through the use of the game was more dependent upon a teacher’s knowledge of the curriculum with which they were working than it was on their ability with the game.”
(Beauchamp, 2012, p.10). Therefore our understanding of the curriculum and how to use the game in order to achiever various outcomes is more important than an in-depth knowledge and ability in the different games.
The class teacher also commented on how she uses Minecraft as a stimulus for literacy, writing and in topic work. The children are currently doing a topic on Harry Potter and so they are currently creating a Harry Potter world where all the children join and build new parts of the Harry Potter World together. All of these ideas further reinforced the important role Minecraft can play when used by someone with the knowledge on how to use it. However, the story which resonated with me the most was when the children’s teacher told us about a new child during a trial day at the school. Throughout the day the child barely spoke a word, however when the children began taking about minecraft the new girl joined in the conversation and was able to give advice and tutor the other children through different tips and tricks she had discovered. It was amazing to hear about the ability a game has to bring people together. This common ground and shared interest gave her the confidence she did not have during the day and allowed her to make friends with others.
Todays learning provided me with so many examples of the ways Minecraft could be used as a stimulus for learning, as the learning does not come from the game, the game provides a stimulus to allow further learning (Bray, 2012). An example of this could be as a stimulus for topic work. This could work for anything from the Romans to Titanic and The Egyptians. The children could create a world or a scene based on their topic, for Egyptians they could create a Pyramid or Titanic they could create their own ‘unsinkable’ boat. They could work to create this in groups or create a whole world as a class, each responsible for a different area of the topic. This could lead to many cross-curricular learning opportunities including a literacy lesson presenting their world to the class or an art lesson creating their world from various materials including boxes, paint or natural materials found in their playground. Some of the experiences and outcomes I identified from the Curriculum for excellence include, however are definitely not limited to:
- When I engage with others, I can respond in ways appropriate to my role, show that I value others’ contributions and use these to build on thinking-LIT 2-02a
- I can create, capture and manipulate sounds, text and images to communicate experiences, ideas and information in creative and engaging ways- TCH 1-04b / TCH 2-04b
- I can use exploration and imagination to solve design problems related to real-life situations-EXA 1-06a
- When listening and talking with others for different purposes, I can:
- share information, experiences and opinions
- explain processes and ideas
- identify issues raised and summarise main points or findings
- clarify points by asking questions or by asking others to say more-LIT 2-09a
Bray (2012) states that in a classroom setting, games should not just be used as rewards or for entertainment but as a whole new approach to learning and today’s lesson has been an excellent example of how this can be done and the benefits this approach is bringing to the pupils in a local primary school. Since the lesson I have been researching some examples of what is possible in Minecraft and below are some examples of how creative Minecraft allows the imagination to be.
Beauchamp, G (2017) Computing and ICT in the Primary School From Pedagogy to Practice 2nd ed. London: Routledge.
Bray, O (2012) Playful Learning: Computer Games in Education [Online] Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/Microsofteduk/playful-learning-computer-games-in-education/2-the_microsoft_visual_identity_the [Accessed 13 March 2018].
MagBook (2014) How to Do Everything in Minecraft
Pixabay.com. (2018). Free Images – Pixabay. [Online] Available at: https://pixabay.com [Accessed 31 Mar. 2018].
Scottish Government (2008) The Curriculum for Excellence [Online] Available at: http://www.education.gov.scot/Documents/all-experiences-and-outcomes.pdf [Accessed 13 March 2018]