Minecraft in the classroom: to the infinity… and beyond

I don’t know what you can do with Minecraft as educational tool; but I know this simple game has allowed the class to be more confident with several new technologies, visit ancient places (and come back to the future) and share their creativity with kids from all over the world.

First of all have a look at this wonderful video recorded during a shared Minecraft session with kids from Japan (hosted by the Waseda University in Tokyo), Australia (with the Global Minecraft Mentor Lee Hewes), Israel (with Games for Peace) and our Italian class.

If you’re wondering if those paintings are real, the answer is yes. Those paintings were made by kids.

My experience in Minecraft started about 4 years ago when my daughter’s teacher knowing about my free activities on digital literacy I promoted on the territory approached me proposing convincing reasons to receive my technical support and experience in her classroom.

She said, smiling: “If you don’t come and help the entire class I can think to reject your daughter…”

In view of these very valuable motives I brought in her primary classes many aspects so dear to the makers movement such as tinkering, coding, STEAM and 3d modeling activities.

At a certain point we noticed every kids at school talked about Minecraft and so we asked ourselves: “Why don’t we try to introduce Minecraft in the didactic?” In addition to this reason we decided to use Minecraft also because it is universally acknowledged as gender inclusive tool thrilling in the same way boys and, I stress, girls.

I now see Minecraft at the center of the educational universe: Minecraft and “learn by doing”, Minecraft and computational thinking … and digital literacy … and project-based learning, … and virtual reality … and 3D printing … and so on. I see Minecraft as a garden where flowers are: programming languages (java, javascript, python, Scratch), IoT (arduino/raspberry pi/Intel boards), virtual and augmented reality, tinkering (papercraft, littleBits), robotics, 3d modeling (tinkercad, thingiverse), 3d printing, artificial intelligence.

Taking into account the eclecticism of Minecraft we started a long journey looking for a way to mix traditional learning activities, those ones I call 0.0 (zero dot zero), with new technology, pushing Minecraft

“to the infinity… and beyond”.

Have you ever seen how the TATE Modern museum of London decided to allow kids to “enjoy artworks like never before” exploring “imaginary worlds inspired by famous paintings and the real-life places they depict” ?

We loved it. But we wanted to do more and let our kids be the real protagonists. We asked ourselves: is it possible to insert their physical artworks in their virtual Minecraft worlds ? They don’t need to be still passive spectators in the age of the new technologies and they should also discoverer the beauty of the ART.

During a Microsoft Italia event in Rome I met the founders of the child-friendly social network Creatubbles.com, whose aim is to showcase the creativity of young people all over the world. With the help of their platform we moved our Minecraft server from the classroom to the cloud and share it with several schools and after-school activities from all over the world.

We contacted several educators, teachers, Minecrafter and art lovers using the most important social networks. So far we have attracted schools from Canada, China, USA (Colorado, Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Hawaii), Brazil, Switzerland, Pakistan, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, Poland, Croatia, Nigeria and South Africa. We were able to virtually visit several schools, great places and make new friends such as Steven Isaacs, Michael Drezek and Lee Hewes.

What a perfect example of collaboration and educational exchange between children and young people at a low cost. The students have been invited to create art about the town, city or country where they live, and share it in one of the eight art galleries built within the game. Every class had the ability to meet up in the same virtual place.

The aim was to show our children that other young people in the world, who may even come from a different culture or social class, have a different language, are at different age, or are very far away in a different country, they are nevertheless all related by virtue of the creativity and of making things.

They had a way of sharing with each other the beauty of the places in which they live, by showing, through art, what their own countries or cities look like. Even living in a tiny village, such as Allumiere (near Rome in Italy where I live), kids can now share their creations and interests with other young people who have their same desire to learn about the world.

And yes… we did it “playing with Minecraft”

Marco Vigelini: Global Minecraft educator, DBA in a social cooperative for disadvantaged people and CoderDojo volunteer.

I’m planning a new International Minecraft project with schools and after-schools activities. If you are interested contact me by Twitter or drop me an email marco.vigelini on gmail.com

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