It has been close to a year and a half now since I started using Minecraftedu (the educational version of Minecraft) in my classroom. I started out using it with my grade 4/5 class and then when I did the move to my new school and new grade, I started using it with my grade 3’s (my littles). There were a few bumps in the road in the beginning, mostly on my part as I started to figure out the in’s and out’s of the program. But even though there were a few challenges, the benefits of the using this program far outweighed them.
Minecraft gave a level playing field to many of my students. It’s a hands on way of them being able to share their understanding of something we have talked about in class or face a challenge I give them. I had some students who found reading challenging but when I let them use Minecraft to share their understanding of a book we were reading, they couldn’t tell me enough. For those students who didn’t enjoy writing, it was the same thing – I couldn’t get them stop building and creating so they could share their understanding.
With Minecraft, my students were now the teachers, they were the experts. When we first started using the program, I partnered those students more experienced with Minecraft with those who did not know the program at all. The funny thing was that it did not take long for my beginners to catch on and become very skillful at using the program. Quite often this year, my littles were called upon because they had now become the experts. They shared their knowledge and skills with the grade one classes when they were doing their structures unit, they skyped with teachers to explain how to do Minecraft and even helped some of the grade six classes. Seeing my students confidently answer questions or explain how to do things to the older students was a moment I was so proud of them.
In Minecraft there are so many chances to have students show their understanding of curriculum objectives. I have written sharing all the ways I used Minecraft in my classroom in different subject areas in an earlier post. But more importantly I think Minecraft builds on those more important skills – creative thinking, problem solving and collaborating. In all the projects I had my students work on, there were moments when things went wrong or something didn’t work. They would come to me and I would tell them I was honestly not the one to ask, so they would have to either work through it on their own or work together with others to figure out a solution. Most times they either figured out the solution, got help from a classmate or just worked their way around the problem. All important skills that can carry on into the classroom.
With MinecraftEdu there are multiple ways you can use the program. My students were able to build on desktops or use the laptops (definitely easier with a mouse attached). However this summer my 6 year old daughter has been showing me the possibilities of using the pocket edition of Minecraft on our iPad. So I definitely will be looking at using this more next year in my class.
The one thing that I tell teachers about Minecraftedu that I love is that I can control the “worlds”. Depending on what I want the students to do I can have them be in creative mode or in survival mode, I can give the tools they need to create or challenge them to figure out how to build the tools they need. When I am looking at what I want my students to do, I can decide the parameters I want to set. But I have left the door open to the possibility if they can explain why they need something – a certain tool, block or animals/villagers I will give it to my students. The important thing to note is that Minecraft is a tool – it is up to the teacher to decide how it will be used to showcase the student learning.
There is a time and place though for it to just be fun and with my Evil Genius Club – my extra-curricular club, Minecraft was a place for them to build and showcase what they could do. Quite often, I would challenge them to show me what they could do in Minecraft. I was very honest with them and explained I did not know as much about Minecraft as they did, so I would ask them to build something that really showed me something they were able to do. And the things they came up with, these grade 2 and 3 students, really blew me away.
So for those on the fence about whether or not to try using Minecraft in your classroom, I cannot say enough about how you should take the chance and jump in. It’s a tool that will engage your students and showcase their learning. I will say that when my students were excited about something coming together that they built, I was just as excited. I’m so happy I tried Minecraft in my classroom and I think you will be too.