Why Minecraft?

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Yesterday’s post briefly touched on the subject of Minecraft. The article, How Minecraft and Duct Tape Wallets Prepare Our Kids For Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet had this to say about the game that kids are crazy about (and some adults too!):

It’s difficult to predict which skills will be valuable in the future, and even more challenging to see the connection between our children’s interests and these skills. Nothing illustrates this better than Minecraft, a popular game that might be best described as virtual LEGOs. Calling it a game belies the transformation it has sparked: An entire generation is learning how to create 3D models using a computer. Now, I wonder, what sort of businesses, communication, entertainment or art will be possible? Cathy Davidson, a scholar of learning technology, concluded that 65% of children entering grade school this year will end up working in careers that haven’t even been invented yet. I bet today’s kids will eventually explore outcomes and create jobs only made possible by the influence of Minecraft in their lives. Why take any chances and build your dream house with blueprints alone? The Minecraft kid could easily make a realistic 3D model of one for you to walk through before you build. That’s why DIY treats Minecraft as a tool, not a game, and encourages our members to use it to pursue art, architecture and community-building.

I was first introduced to Minecraft by students when teaching in Boise 4 years ago. They were excited, engaged, and enthusiastic by this ‘game’ that seemed so much more than that.  Yesterday, I read a great post about Minecraft: a definitive guide to setting it up in your classrooms with different levels of autonomy on the part of the student and different paths with graduating degrees of responsibility for students – each with pros and cons of the particular approach.

Published by Common Sense Media on Graphite, the article: Getting Started With Minecraft in the Classroom, is one of the best I have read about the benefits but also the how-to’s of Minecraft in the classroom. What was particularly interesting to me was the third (of three) tips: Interaction with the game.  “The game” could be replaced with whatever it is you are asking your children to interact with: the lesson, the resource, the ideas, the concepts, the tools, the questions….etc. The article describes three levels of interaction:

  1. Low-level interaction
  2. Mid-level interaction
  3. High-level interaction

In the classroom, this looks like:

  1. Fooling around, playing, seeing what happens
  2. Teacher led, teacher initiated, expanding on given prompts
  3. Student directed learning

I would argue that in every classroom there is a time and place for varying amounts of each type of interaction. As an art teacher, I would begin each clay unit with “Clay Play Day” and the kids spent their 90 minutes doing exactly that – playing.  Within that time, there were opportunities for them to ask questions, teach each other, browse through books/examples of clay techniques, watch videos, collaborate, or tinker on their own. The lessons evolved into a mix of those routines with some specific lessons from me on techniques and the unit was rounded out with student-initiated clay projects.  This is exactly how Minecraft can work too.

While I love playing with Duplo blocks with our daughter, I will be the first to admit that my husband is far more creative than I am in that area of building and design – which is probably why he is most often requested to be the Duplo partner!  If you feel the same way then find the kid (or kids!) in your class who you would want to work with and have them take the lead on bringing Minecraft to your classroom.

If you are ready to bring Minecraft to your classroom, Check out Graphite’s  Minecraft review and MinecraftEdu review.

If you are looking for further advice, inspiration, or commentary, try these posts:

If you want a quick tour into a Minecraft world, try the Hour of Code Minecraft experience.


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