7 components to Minecraft Learning for Educational Use
I have mentioned before that Minecraft is great for educational uses. Having a virtual world to test and explore concepts like logic, genetics, problem solving, social skills, goal planning, reading, and problem solving is a teachers dream. I am using Minecraft to have "students" play games related to their grade level curriculum. It is always a challenge to connect the games back to the curriculum appropriate for the grade level, while at the same time allowing them to keep the qualities of a good game.
The games developed for the Minecraft Learning server concentrate on Math, Geography, Vocabulary and spelling. We also use wayfinding, economics, team participation and sustainability. Although these are part of the games we play, they have not yet been made the dominant focus of any of them. Each game has the core mechanics of Minecraft, a goal, a challenge, components, rules and spaces. With a little change to any of these parts I can make another very different game. So far, I have been able to change the games for each session to keep it interesting for a variety of learners. In a future article I will write about the four types of gamers I discovered.
Often, one of the biggest complaints about teaching games is the amount of time it can take students to learn how to play. I think the simplicity and popularity of Minecraft makes it a great candidate for developing learning games. I have strived to do that and make sure that the games are simple and elegant to help maximize the learning time. Another great part about using Minecraft is that it fulfills the seven components of game-play that aptly fit curriculum design as stated by KQED.org.
LEARN THROUGH PLAY
- Challenge is constant
- Everything is interconnected
- Failure is reframed as iteration
- Learning happens by doing
- Feedback is immediate and ongoing
- Everyone is a participant
- It feels like play
There are many Minecraft mods out there to help as well. The MinecraftEDU project offers great tools for teachers to control the Minecraft learning world and the players, but the mod is only available to educational institutions. I have been challenged with the task of attempting similar things with vanilla Minecraft. With the recent changes made in the last few updates (Minecraft 1.8) I have been able to replace many of the mods I was using. I say thanks to Mojang for that.