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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

So what's so good about Minecraft?

As a primary teacher I was asked this question early in 2013. My response ashamedly was very naive and ill informed. At that time I had only seen it through the eyes of pop culture. Many of my students had been using it to the point of addiction and frustrating me with conversations about creepers, modes and worlds. 

Thankfully after much research and experimentation my reaction to this same question is vastly different.

A bit of history on Minecraft – it is one of the original block building games created by Markus Persson @notch in 2010 then further developed by Jens Bergensten @jeb_ and the Mojang team. In 2014 Mojang was acquired by Microsoft.

A proven way I have been able to describe Minecraft is it is like a digital lego. Students are able to do many things, they are in control of the learning, they experiment, take risks and learn from their mistakes. The by product of this is their engagement and motivation level is high so disciple problems rarely surface. The basic edu version contains two modes: Survival and Creative. Survival is more like a traditional video game and Creative mode, there are no bad guys; the fun is just in building things using various forms.

It has the ability to engage all form of learners, the problem solvers, the tinkerers and the storytellers have as much fun as those who want to create and foster communities. The possibilities for collaboration are endless and are only limited to the teachers willingness to experiment with the tool and the problem the student is presented with.

My Example Unit
This year I successfully implemented a unit of work on transport using Minecraft. It provided a real world 3D environment where students created, designed and collaborated together on the systems needed to provide a make believe island with a fully functioning transport network.

I set this project up based on a structure presented by the Buck PBL Institute. We had an initial two week period of creating a need to know. As part of this process I invited an industrial engineer in to speak with my students about the buildings he designs demonstrating drawings, 3D CAD programing and 3D printing. This provided a real world career that used skills that were going to be developed using the tool.

I had one of our high school students create some short basic tutorials and then we played using survival mode. Students were given a limited supply of resources to create a shelter or house with in a given time. This gave me an insight into the skills students already came with and possible groupings.

Students were then given one hour in teams of four over a seven week period to create a working transport system linking two or more forms of transport. We had trains, boats, planes (including an A380) built. Students needed to research environmentally sustainable forms of powering these forms of transport and look at supporting infrastructure e.g. airports & train terminals.

At the end of the seven weeks we had a gallery walk event where we invited parents, teachers, engineers, the principal and others we knew who worked in the transport industry. Students needed to talk about how and why they had created their teams forms of transport. They needed to show designs and explain how it met the needs of the community and demonstrate what they had created had a sustainable footprint.

This was a challenge but look at the following videos to be inspire about what can be created by an infants class. Videos 1 - 8 are our tutorials and videos 10 - 20 are the students work. If you are interested in how to get started click here!

A list of great of Minecraft projects has been provided by Coffs Harbour Pubic School

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