How Can MineCraft Improve Education?

I was invited to participate with people from Microsoft regarding the use of Minecraft in schools. The focus group is part of the Games for Learning Summit taking place on April 21 at NYU. Representatives from six high profile commercial game companies will be conducting similar focus groups.

I see this as an opportunity to represent educators who cannot attend the event. I hope you will add your thoughts as I will gladly share them at the session.

I was presented with the following questions for consideration. Feel free to respond to these questions or provide additional comments that would prove helpful. I will embed my thoughts in response to the questions later, but please add ideas, comments, etc. to broaden the scope of the meeting.

What content standards could be taught/addressed with their current game or with assets from the game that could be repurposed?

ISTE Technology Standards for Students: Minecraft hits ALL ISTE standards magnificently.
CCCS — difficult to answer. Minecraft is incredibly open ended, so activities will dictate how the standards are addressed / met.

What key skills and understandings could be developed using their gameplay/environment?

I teach game design and development. All of my course objectives can be learned using MineCraft to create games within the game as well as other projects. Computer science / computational thinking skills are learned and reinforced in so many ways as students learn to automate actions in the game through programming command blocks, using redstone, etc. It is amazing to watch students in this environment as they are truly taking learning into their own hands. The design process can is fully incorporated and iteration through the design cycle is critical to the successful creation of games and projects in minecraft.

Minecraft is great for teaching 21st century skills including collaboration, critical thinking, digital citizenship in a constructionist / creative environment.

What concept or content could be taught with their gameplay/assets in a really compelling way that is really hard/time-consuming/dangerous/impractical to teach in traditional ways?

“Minecraft is ideal for teaching economics in multiplayer. Even in a non-classroom setting, multiplayer often results in a clash between privatized and socialized resource management.
The game would also be a great platform to teach climate change, with a little modding. Track each player’s carbon footprint, deforestation, destruction of wildlife habitats, pollution, and so forth. Then as students play through the regular crafting advancement, building larger and larger systems to mass-process gathered resources, they can see the effects on the environment. Be sure to disable magic abilities, though.”

What would a meld of their gameplay/environment look like if it were repurposed for awesome learning?

One thought that comes to mind is the idea of making the downloading / installing / editing maps easy to allow for teachers and students to remix to incorporate course content. This is already possible, but not easily accessible for the non-techie.

The Games for Learning Summit is being put together by the US Department of Education and The Games for Change Organization and is being sponsored by ESA. I am very excited to be part of the event as it is a monumental event as the US Department of Education is fully supporting the use of games in education and bringing together an amazing group of educators, researchers, developers, and policy makers to take part in this event.

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