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Is Minecraft the Future of Learning?

All video games are not created equal.  In fact, I’d argue that there’s a valid place for some of them in the world of education.

We hosted our first Minecraft camp last weekend and it was a big hit with kids and parents, alike. The camp filled up in just 10 days, and the waiting list nearly matched the class size. We’re hoping to host another this fall. (Sign up here to be the first to get details!)

13701117_1389620431053405_1475069692938203835_oDebates about “screen time” are nothing new and lots of parents regard it as something to be given minimally. But is it really fair to lump Minecraft in with everything else?

It’s a video game, sure, but it’s also a building toy. Basically, Minecraft is this generation’s digital version of legos.

Kids don’t love it because they recognize that it’s educational…kids respond to Minecraft because it’s a creative, collaborative environment where they’re in control of their own projects.

When we use Minecraft as an educational tool, we aren’t simply turning the kids loose to play, and the goal isn’t for them to get better at “playing Minecraft”. When kids come to Minecraft camp, they’re given challenges that develop different abilities, which are tied to coding, digital literacy, spatial reasoning and STEM skills.

Challenges can also link to specific curricular standards and objectives. In the case of the treehouse challenge we used at camp, students used concepts from geometry like area and perimeter.

In order to set their students up for success in the 21st century, teachers often look to the 4 C’S:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity

Minecraft has some unique advantages for integrating each one.

Critical Thinking

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Minecraft requires a good deal of debugging. When what you’ve built isn’t working the way you want it to, you have to carefully go over it to figure out what’s wrong. Problem solving is one of Minecraft’s most powerful tools for learning.

It’s an idea that computer programers know and wrestle with every day, which is that programs are rarely flawless at first. The work isn’t so much in writing code but in debugging it, figuring out what you did wrong and coming up with a fix. The game encourages kids to regard logic and if-then statements as fun things to mess around with.

Communication

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When working through Minecraft challenges, students are given specific instructions for how to complete the task ahead. They have to listen effectively before they can even get started.

When students explore either other’s creations, they’re giving instructions and taking feedback.

During “Show and Share” time, students practice expressing their thoughts clearly and articulating their ideas during oral presentations.

Collaboration

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Collaboration is essential because it’s largely how work is accomplished once children move on to adulthood.

Our campers worked on two different challenges, and both were completed in teams of two or three. They had to learn to build something with a team. In the case of the escape room challenge, teams had to figure out how to connect each of their individual builds to create a cohesive game.

Creativity

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Creativity and innovation are drivers in today’s society and Minecraft is a source of endless possibilities.

Before beginning challenges, students are tasked with brainstorming and idea creation to create and refine their build plans.

In creative mode, the goal is to build structures in an open 3D environment. The open-ended nature of the game gives students the opportunity to be inventive and really feel a sense of control over their environment.

We owe it to 21st century students to respond to a constantly changing world and provide them with the necessary skills to prepare them for success.

One of the benefits of using technology in education is how much more engaged students are as a result. If kids enjoy what they’re doing and have fun while they learn…everybody wins!

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