The more I talk with elementary and middle school social studies teachers, the more I realize that a ton of their kids are playing Minecraft. My question to the teachers is pretty simple. How can you leverage the interest in this tool and begin to incorporate Minecraft into the learning that happens in your classroom?
And the response has been fairly positive. A number of teachers are working to find ways to use Minecraft as part of their instruction. Yesterday, I wrote a quick post about my own experience of being the type of teacher that focused instruction around the memorization of content knowledge, rather than the authentic use of that knowledge.
It was Trivia Crack instruction – random facts that mean nothing without context.
Over time, I moved away from that and begin to realize that there are a ton of ways for kids to learn and for me to teach. One of those methods is to integrate the use of games and simulations into the learning process. The cool thing about games and sims is that to be successful while playing often requires “non-traditional” types of classroom learning: non-fiction and technical reading / writing, research, teamwork, cross-curricular content, emotional connections to content, cause and effect, and the use of lots and lots of evidence.
Another cool thing about the use of Minecraft is the fairly easy ability to mod – modify – the game. Many current games have this feature built in but Minecraft software is basic enough so that even elementary kids are doing it.
And several weeks ago, I got an email from a group of middle schools students at a school in Wisconsin who are busy doing exactly that. They call themselves “The Fellowship of the Brick” and are developing their own idea of using Minecraft as an instruction tool. Part of their project is to share their idea at a variety of academic competitions. And apparently they’ve done pretty well, ramping up for a run at the state championship.
I love that they started with a compelling question:
How can we improve the way someone learns history?
. . . making short Minecraft videos for kids so they don’t get bored in class. They would be video reenactments about moments in History with commentary. We thought of our solution because almost everyone on our team likes to play Minecraft. Also, since so many people watch Minecraft videos, we thought that many people would want to watch historical Minecraft videos. Teacher feedback would help us see how our idea would do in the common classroom.
They put together a short demonstration to show what it might look like in the game itself. They used one of my favorite moments in history – the Battle of Crecy – to illustrate their point. The cool part of all of this is that both the kids making the Minecraft short and the kids watching the Minecraft short all get smarter.
Video games and sims like Minecraft make powerful emotional connections to foundational content, helping to create long-term retention of not just the facts of specific events but a broader understanding of context and connections to other events and ideas. And when kids themselves are the ones actually creating the game? It’s a no-brainer.
So . . . Wesley, Brevon, Ryan, Evan, Wilder, Miranda, Levi, Curt, Aryanna. If you haven’t already competed in the state championship, good luck. If you have, no matter the result, you guys are awesome. Love the idea. Love the Battle of Crecy reenactment. And I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work.
For the rest of you, here’s a quick list of a few Minecraft resources to get you started:
- Teaching in the Age of Minecraft
- Official Minecraft Wiki
- Minecraft Apps, Cheats, Tutorials
- Minecraft Teaching Resources