Minecraft for Learning, pt. 2

Minecraft for Learning, Part 2:

(Follow me on twitter at @jmccarthyeds to stay up to date on following posts.)

mc_building_top In the last post, I mentioned that minecraft is a way to include student voice into their learning. Students can help teachers make the connections by describing how they spend hours doing any of a variety of tasks. Minecraft is an open ended, unstructured experience. The core game has no missions or quests to complete. Players play in Survival mode or Creative mode.

Survival mode is just as it sounds. You appear on a randomly generated world and biome–such as plains, desert, arctic, forest, or a combination. With no resources other then your brain and hands, you explore the terrain, gather resources, and build shelter. Capture or grow food for energy and to avoid starvation. Oh, avoid or fight spiders, zombies, and skeletons. Or die.

Creative mode gives you unlimited resources to construct any structure you want. Build an elaborate home, a roller coaster, a farming community, or perhaps a city in the sky or deep underground. Monsters will roam but they can’t see your avatar, nor fight back when you decide to clean house.

Both modes offer a wealth of opportunities for learning curriculum (of course there are more wrinkles to the game that enhances the opportunities). Here are some examples for the two modes:

Survival Modemc_inside

  • History is full of explorers, pioneers, and generals. Both groups ventured into unknown territory, seeking wealth, land, or understanding. The dangers they faced from starvation to hostile people, animals, and other organisms do not quite have the impact on paper to students then if they were charged to explore a biome in minecraft and build a thriving settlement. If students maintained a video or written journal about their experiences each session, consider the connections they’d make from reading primary source documents of the journal accounts of those who they study in history.
  • The life cycle of plants and trees can be explored as students figure out how to grow plants, and use the results to sustain themselves and care for farm animals.
  • Explore technology and innovation to create tools and construction from raw materials. Different combinations of materials lead to a variety of combinations tools and objects of value.

Creative Modemc_Creativemode2

  • Design communities modeled after historical and geographical areas of study.
  • Create designs of scaled models of architecture and/or land formations to provide a 3D view for a proposal and/or presentation. Craft a written description of the process and/or proposal that uses the model to illustrate key factors. This opens up Math, Engineering, English, and Social Studies.
  • Create designs that demonstrate art  principles. Consider incorporating Math concepts, and possibly be inspired by art from different cultures.

These suggestions only begin to demonstrate how Minecraft can be incorporated into learning. Minecraft is not just a game you can play solo–be dropped into a world and survive. It is a multiverse. Anyone can establish their own server with their carefully constructed world, and open it up to anyone–anywhere–to play. This will be Part 3 of this exploration of Minecraft.

One parting thought: A key to success of connecting education with Minecraft is to involve students in the decision making process for how best to include the game. Give them a goal, and let them figure out how to demonstrate it in Minecraft. Also, explore the game yourself. Before Minecraft, my kids played Terreria, a 2-d version with only survival mode. I learned much from joining them. I learned even more when I jumped into the world of Minecraft where they became my teachers. Let the kids become your guide to brand new worlds.


    • Liam Bayer on December 17, 2013 at 12:02 am
    • Reply

    Great post, John! I often find it difficult to incorporate learning into video games, and I appreciate your attention to both teaching and learning here. I have so many more questions now and would love to learn more. Having grown up with SimCity, how close is Minecraft to SimCity, and have you had a chance to check out SimCityEdu? Considering that we can design communities modeled after historical and geographical areas of study, is Minecraft a good way to teach students about the environment and climate change? Finally, is it purchasing Minecraft – Pocket Edition?

  1. Thanks.
    I’ve not used SimCity lately. From early experience, the environment and climate change components are more useful in SimCity. I’ve heard that the latests version of SimCity is post to be very good, especially for what you’ve listed. I will look at SimCityEdu this week. What’s your take on it?

    Minecraft has a weather feature including rain storms. It also has different environmental biomes that a player travels through, survive, and build a living space. What I’ve shared so far is based on the computer version, and can be done in the Pocket Edition. I have both, and prefer the big screen 🙂 Although, the pocket edition is cheaper. I’ve a later post that will look at the networking options which would be best on the computer. There is a vast universe of network worlds to explore and build.

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