Dale Digs Deeper #3 – Educational Minecraft
Minecraft. As you might know, I like Minecraft. It’s innovative, not that eye-burning ugly and it represents what indie developers can accomplish if they have a good idea. Well, Minecraft is already more than that. Minecraftedu.com brings the popular indie game to the classrooms, to help teachers engage with and educate their students. What? How? WHY?
Their website says that Minecraft can be used to teach more than just Computer Skills. It can teach you parts of science, technology, engineering and math. The students can recreate ancient civilizations, figure out how civilizations used to, and still, work. “The only limit is imagination” is a nice catchphrase.
Minecraft is indeed designed to be open-ended, with easy modding capabilities and easy-to-learn gameplay. Imagine the following: You’re 15 and in high school. Your history teacher wants you to do a history project on an ancient civilization. What do you do? Recreate Rome, Greece, Babylonia, Phoenicia or even Egypt in Minecraft! Wouldn’t that be a cool school assignment? Playing Minecraft.
Minecraft gives people creative freedom and a place to just roam around and hunt, mine, chop logs, burn up coal, forge weapons and kill each other. But it can also teach you a thing or two on logic gates (redstone), how villages work together, social skills, etc…
Giving schools the opportunity to buy Minecraft at half of its normal price is a nice persuasive factor when a school is considering to do this. They have made a special Minecraft mod, allowing teachers to have more control. Actually, they made a lot of school-related mods, but with easier-to-understand ways of using them. There are no config files, all of it built-in and usable through the client.
In my opinion, this is a great idea. The only thing that I worry about is that teachers could, and probably will, block out a dozen cool, basic features of Minecraft. Features such as: hostile and/or friendly mobs, player versus player combat or even weapons would mean that the students don’t do exactly what they have to do. Of course not all teachers would do that, but some would. To keep in charge of EVERYTHING, because we all remember that’s what teachers like to do, don’t we?
In a way, I would understand it. The teachers would use it to educate people, to show them how societies run, work and thrive. Or rebuild some ancient civilization… But what would that be without ALL of Minecraft’s functions? Minecraft Classic, with some extra block types and items.
I like the idea of using Minecraft for educational purposes, but not some of the things that they included… Saying I don’t like them is nice. “Students can use their name and pick a gender.” This is a quote from the features list at http://minecraftedu.com/. I’ve got no problem with using a name, but picking a gender? That would result in having to use one out of a set number of skins. One of the cool personalization features of Minecraft are the skins. You can make one, or download one from one of the many skin databases. However, having to pick one out of a set number of skins? Mwah.
There are more groups of people and even whole organizations dedicated to using games in classrooms to educate. Massively Minecraft is another group that believes that Minecraft can be used in school; it might be worth checking out. They are researching the effects of Minecraft and if it actually works at schools. You can join their forums to share your opinion and read theirs, or actually co-research by giving your class lessons in Minecraft (of course you could only do this if you’re a teacher).
Feeding Change is the blog of a teacher that gave 7th, 6th and 5th grade kids the chance to play Minecraft. His idea, letting them play it the way they want — but with his guidance — is what I would rather see then the ‘Teacher is God‘ that MinecraftEdu.com offers.
“It’s barely 9:15 in the morning and already two students have fallen down a mine shaft, one burst into flames when he swam through lava and another just killed his best friend with a pork chop. It’s going to be a messy morning but one packed with learning. This is learning with Minecraft.” – Liam O’Donnell
That is a quote from the post, check it out, if you’re interested in this subject, it’s a fun post to read.
A lot of kids are familiar with games like World of Warcraft, Age of Empires, etc… In those games, you sort of follow a train-track through a series of quests. In Minecraft, you lay the tracks yourself. That’s what I like about it the most; the fact that you can make of it what you want. I’ve seen six-year-old kids enjoy it just as much as a man closer to his death then to his birth. You might not realize it, but Minecraft has been used a lot already in schools. For History assignments, learning languages (restricting them to talk in f.e. English), teambuilding, etc…
With this post I wanted to share with you that Minecraft is a great way to educate people in multiple subjects. I might get some interviews up as well with the founders of MinecraftEdu.com and possibly some interviews with other people related to this matter aswell.
Let me know what your opinion of using Minecraft in schools. Do you approve it? Think it’s a waste of school hours? Do you think that Minecraft isn’t a medium to educate kids?
Thanks for your time and check out my other articles here.