A place for elementary tech teachers to share.
Does anyone use Minecraft for teaching in 4/5? My 7th graders used it in Science class, were on it in my lab practicing/playing and my 4/5 graders saw them. Got all excited--at least half of them use it! I was worried, but Common Sense gave it good ratings for educational value, feedback from parents and students.
Does anyone use it in their classes? Because of the massive (overwhelming) enthusiasm for Minecraft, and the fact that it's a problem-solving/critical thinking game, it seems I should be able to harness that student interest for something academically-productive. Kind of like using Lego robotics for the development of creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
I'd love your thoughts.
I'm not sure that Minecraft would ever be the most efficient way to get a lesson across but it can certainly get players thinking in some good ways.
For example, players have to collect cube-shaped materials which they can use to build their own structures. I could picture some area/perimeter/volume lessons involving planning for the construction of a house of a certain size. You could pose scenarios: If your house is going to be 10x10 and 6 blocks high, how many blocks of cobblestone should you collect in the mines before returning to the build site? Realistically though, the students/palyers would be just as likely to create their own challenges and then find motivation to figure out what they need themselves.
The game also features something called redstone, which works as a barely realistic system of wiring that can also be used to create logic gates like you'd see in basic programming. In the game it is simple to create a switch that determines whether a door is open or closed or whether is a light is on or off. It is much more complicated (and perhaps rewarding) to design a system where two switches share the job, such as two light switches on the opposite end of the room.
Personally, I would never discourage a student from choosing that game over the others out there, but I think the teacher would have to work really hard and plan very carefully to make sure students get enough out of it to justify the time spent.
I do see one big difference between Minecraft and Lego robotics worth thinking about. The joy of Lego robotics (hopefully_ is in solving the problems. Beyond being a motivating hook for young minds, the Lego construction itself is totally functional and practical. From what I've seen, kids who play Minecraft seem to be most excited about hording materials or having the most or biggest "stuff."
I'm going to check that last. I'd like to see if it's true for my students. They are in my lab every day playing it--and they can tell me educationally what they get out of it. There a wiki with lots of information about its use in school.
We teach Lego Mindstorm Robotics at my school also. It would be nice if Minecraft reinforced the same problem-solving and creative-thinking skills. I wonder about the violence in the game, though.
Interesting, I was just reading an article about Minecraft in education 30 seconds before reading this:
They have a full-fledged wiki devoted to teaching with Minecraft:
Good links, Lisa. Thanks. I'm putting together an article about Minecraft to post on my blog (I get quite a few visitors). I want to see what others think of it.
Hi again Jacqui. I know it's been over a month since this discussion and I'm finding myself having a change of heart over Minecraft. Specifically thanks to a modification of the called Minecraft Edu. A lot of my initial concerns were about the free-form nature of the game. I felt it would be really difficult to keep enough control over what the students were doing. We all know good lessons need to have clear objectives and expectations, but "traditional" Minecraft played at home is about anything but. The EDU mod seems to solve all of these problems, although I have yet to test it. It makes it very easy to set controls about the type of materials and tools the students can access as well as where and when they can place or remove blocks. There are also a lot of handy features such as the ability to freeze students in place or "teleport" them to a particular place within the game. These big changes would help to sell the activity to students as a different experience from how they might have plated at home or at a friend's house. They'd be using the game as a unique learning environment, but with specific objectives and expectations.
Have you got any other opinions from your blog post?