M is for Minecraft

How to use Minecraft with students

how to use Minecraft with studentsMinecraft is an example of welcoming in student-driven modes of learning, exploration and demonstration of learning. Students find the platform deeply engaging because they can use it to build entire worlds, and many prefer to do their building collaboratively, or outside of school hours. But Minecraft also requires reading, writing and blogging skills, and can have real-world impact.

“Bio,” says one 9th grader. “We were in Bio. And there were some machines sitting there and one was a centrifuge. And I knew what it was because of Minecraft.”

Minecraft as a collaborative community

Karen Perry, tech specialist at Peoples Academy Middle Level, began an after-school Minecraft club after noticing how many students stayed behind to use the tool on their own. She saw how they were using the tool for reading, writing, problem-solving and scientific inquiry, and recognized how a structured club could support furthering their learning. Having Minecraft players for sons, she was familiar enough with the tool to build a server for the school, and quickly recruited a trio of dedicated Minecraft-playing 9th graders to provide tech and social support for players.

“Our server operators put out fires before they happen,” Perry reports. “They are watching and they can see everybody. So they might say ‘Oh my gosh, I can see something’s going to happen right now that’s not going to work right,’ and they just go in and help that person. These guys don’t care about playing, they care about making the game work for all those kids. Which we have at times, 28 kids playing at the same time.”

One of Perry’s 9th grade server operators concurs. “A lot of kids are building or mining, so there’s a large variety of skill level and depending on that, people will be doing different things. So people at a higher skill level will be doing more building. People with the lower skill levels will be just trying to figure out the basic mechanisms.

It’s just nice to be able to see kids playing this game, which I’ve been paying for so long now. It’s nice to see I’m not alone in my entertainment styles.”

Minecraft as social negotiation

how teachers use MinecratAt The Centerpoint School, in Winooski, Vermont, educator Keegan Albaugh writes about how pulling together their after-school Minecraft club opened up a dialogue with students about what types of behavior is acceptable in their school community.

Students responded to emerging behavior norms by creating a structure for better communication amongst themselves and discovered how the virtual world could empower their real-world communication skills.

Minecraft became the vehicle through which educators were able to provide direction and support around emerging social skills and social collaboration.

Minecraft as a digital storytelling tool

6th graders at Flood Brook Union School in Londonderry, Vermont, have used Minecraft as a visual frame for telling stories.

Watch some of Flood Brook’s other Minecraft stories here, including their series of videos illustrating how the meanings of words can change over time:

Useful links for getting started with Minecraft

How can you see using Minecraft with your students?

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Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by six dogs. Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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