This afternoon I swam in multiple ponds and the ocean, cut down some trees, built myself a beach house and a table with birchwood and oak planks on an island I discovered, chased a chicken, and caught a few pictures of a rogue cow that tried to wander into my house. All in under an hour.
How you ask? MINECRAFT Edu!
While you, dear readers, may find the words “MINECRAFT” and “Edu” or education to be contradictory together like I did before today’s Education Technology class, I promise that there are many ways for MINECRAFT to be educational. In this post I will be explaining to you what I have been taught by Heidi James, teacher at Colquitz Middle School, and a few Grade 6 to Grade 8 students from the school who visited our class today.
For those of you who may not know (which is exactly where I was prior to today’s class), MINECRAFT Edu is a computer game that allows for players to enter many different worlds to create tools, resources, and structures in its most basic form. From what I heard from Mrs James and her students, children begin using a standard MINECRAFT game as young as six or seven years old (!!), so we as pre-service elementary teachers cannot say that our students will not be interacting with the MINECRAFT game because they are so young as an excuse to not learn about the game ourselves. In fact, I would argue that because some children are accessing the computer game at such a young age it is even more important that we as pre-service teachers understand what and even how to use MINECRAFT to be the relevant teachers that will engage our future students where they are at.
At first, I was skeptical about using MINECRAFT educationally. Besides the fact that I had heard of my cousin use MINECRAFT years ago to build a castle for a project, I didn’t really know of any other ways to use MINECRAFT educationally. However, Mrs James shared with my peers and I that she has found MINECRAFT to be helpful for teaching not just social studies, but also math (by teaching students about the Cartesian coordinates that are a part of the game in the x,y, and z dimensions) and science.
Beyond meeting the curricular competencies in the new B.C. curriculum, MINECRAFT Edu is said to build social skills, allow for inquiry-based learning as students discover the world the teacher places their characters in, and encourages students to work together to solve problems. I can see that students build social skills by playing MINECRAFT Edu because sometimes there will be a problem you will run into on the game or something you need help with and may need a peer’s help. Another way students may be social while playing MINECRAFT is by sharing with those around them what they’ve discovered by playing. I can attest to being social in both of these ways while exploring MINECRAFT Edu for the first time today!
I’m pretty inspired by the fact that the Colquitz students worked on a project once using MINECRAFT Edu about ancient civilizations where their teacher plunked each of them individually into a world the teacher had created, where they had very few resources and just a bit of food each, and had to find other students to build their own civilizations. Another part of the project required bartering, as sometimes the places the students were placed were really rich in one kind of resource, but not in others. As I was ‘swimming’ in an ocean on the game site and encountered a bunch of jellyfish and was able to look at them underwater, I began thinking of how MINECRAFT Edu could be used as a provocation to an inquiry-based lesson on the ocean by creating an ocean and placing different types of sea life in it for students to explore and interact with.
Call me crazy, but I am now starting to see all the educational possibilities and benefits that MINECRAFT Edu has. I wish I actually had more free time on my hands to explore the MINECRAFT Edu world more before becoming a teacher, and I hope that in my future school job one day I will either have access to MINECRAFT Edu or that my superiors will be open to the idea of getting MINECRAFT Edu for the school.