If you have been living under a rock or cut off from civilization for the last year or so, you will have heard people talking about Minecraft, especially kids. I know I first heard about it from my nephews, but really did not pay much attention to it honestly. But then I heard my students constantly talking about it, and then it started creeping into conversations on Twitter. Intrigued I decided to check it out, and what I saw really amazed me as I started looking more into it.
At first glance, it might not seem like much – an online computer program made up of building blocks, many have said its kind of like Lego building. But honestly, it is much more than that and it’s opened a door to a realm of possibilities in my classroom.
With MinecraftEDU (different than the Minecraft students will play at home) I am able to set up “worlds” (the basis of the challenge or assigned task I have for my students) I can set the parameters, whether I want them in creative mode -where they are just building and creating or survival mode – which is just as it sounds, they must find the tools and things they need to survive. For my grade 3 littles, most of my worlds have been in the creative realm because it suits what I am wanting them to do.
The wonderful thing about MinecraftEDU is that it gives my students the opportunities to go wherever their imagination can take them. In math I used it to reinforce concepts in patterns – they could see the pattern come to life as they were building it; measurement – they were challenged to build structures with a variety of perimeters & areas; and lately in multiplication – their array city assignment had them showing & explaining the arrays they came up with.
In science for their structures assignment they were challenged to research and find a famous structure in the world. Then try to recreate it in Minecraft. Interestingly enough one of my students really wanted to do the Sphinx of Giza. I explained how this might be hard being that in Minecraft the blocks are not rounded at all, but he explained he wanted to try so I let him. The result below was one he and I were both proud of.
In Language Arts, I have had many opportunities for my students to use MinecraftEDU. We have recreated important settings from the novels we are reading and created new homes for characters from our stories, based on what we thought would suit them.
The great thing is that now my students have become so adept at using the program, they are now sharing their knowledge. When the grade one teachers wanted their students to build dream houses for their structures unit, my students were called on to now be the teachers. I explained their job was to find a way to show using words vs just grabbing the mouse and building for them. Trust me the irony was not lost on me when one of my students came up moaning “It’s hard being a teacher. Those grade ones don’t listen very well sometimes.”
They have also talked to teachers via Skype showing how they build and create in Minecraft, answering questions about how they have figured out how to do different things in the program. I am so proud when I see my students confidently answering questions, clearly explaining what they are doing to adults – again being the mentors and teachers.
For those that wonder what about those students not interested in using this, I’m sorry to say I have yet to meet one. I have used this with both my gr. 4/5 students and gr. 3 students – the ones that did not know much about the program, I partnered up at first with the more experienced students and now months later they are confident and building on their own. This program builds so many skills in students. When older kids who walk by my students and say, “Look, they get to play Minecraft” my students tell them because we have talked about this many times, “We are not playing – we are building, we are creating, we are problem solving.” And you know what, that’s just fine with me.