For those two or three people who haven’t heard of Minecraft, it would be fair to describe it as sensationally successful computer game which gives ultimate creative freedom and unbridled joy to millions. Perhaps the most straightforward way to summarise it is to quote the the GamePedia wiki: ‘gameplay involves players interacting with the game world by placing and breaking various types of blocks in a three-dimensional environment.’ From simple worlds where survival is the aim and zombies are the antagonists to entire virtual art galleries and more, the possibilities are limitless.
Mojang & Microsoft’s Minecraft
Microsoft bought a huge stake in the business from the previous developer, Mojang, and developed it into an online learning environment, facilitating game-based learning, about which you’ll be hearing a lot more in the near future.
Compared to ‘vanilla’ Minecraft there are several education specific things built in to the Education Edition. For classroom use it allows up to 30 users to interact in virtual environments which the teacher has full control in setting up and managing.
For many teachers the first major sticking point will be ‘I don’t know how to play Minecraft’ – but they don’t necessarily need to – they just need to be there to facilitate and direct the session in terms of learning objectives. Clearly it would be better if they learnt to play but that can come in time. We don’t think you’ll have trouble finding children that know their way around the world inside out if you want some tips!
For example, in a history class on the Roman empire you could get the students to participate in building a forum or the coliseum. Literal boundaries set by the teacher can keep students from running off and getting distracted from the task.
Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer
One of our favourite features is the camera. Students can take photos with a cute Victorian style tripod camera in the game environment. These can be annotated and put in a portfolio which they can then share with the teacher to keep a record of what they’ve achieved.
The smart teacher will be able to make good use of non-player characters – who are static in the game; your students will naturally want to walk up to them and press a button to interact. These characters can provide guidance towards the learning objectives, suggest ways to improve what the students have done if they’ve finished their objective, or give hints about the whereabouts of items in simpler treasure hunt style scenarios. The content can be as simple or as challenging as you feel the students need, and can be improved upon for future sessions as you see how they cope with it.
Simple, Secure, Student-led Sessions
Office 365 accounts are used for login (which the school should already have) so there are no headaches with creating separate logins and forgetting another password. Once the session is set up it needs very little explanation; students can do it themselves or be guided by a teacher but generally the teacher has freedom to focus on those learning at different pace much easier.
One of the other concerns with online gaming is security. You don’t have to worry about that as Minecraft for Education is a completely closed system – it is only available within a school’s network so there is no issue with online bullying and trolling from anonymous strangers. Obviously there can still be issues with cyberbullying from students in the same classroom, but this is way easier to monitor than IRL (in real life) bullying. You can even use Minecraft to teach personal skills like politeness, assertiveness and sociability which could transfer to the students’ lives away from the keyboard – digital citizenship as well as IRL citizenship.
More (and More) Resources
There’s a huge and ever-growing library of resources (lesson plans, ready-made worlds) created by Microsoft and teacher partners available on the Minecraft: Education edition website.
- #TeamHable has developed a course to get schools set up and confident in how to use Minecraft: Education Edition, which we can tailor to your needs.
- We will show you how it can fit in to and enhance your school’s curriculum.
- We can help your teachers set up clubs for Minecrafters, and suggest content to use. It’s worth emphasising again that there are loads of resources on the website, which gets added to all the time, so you won’t need to start from scratch.
Under Hable’s guidance, Minecraft: Education Edition has already helped many schools with cross-subject integration all across the school’s curriculum – science, IT, art, and English to name a few.
Please get in touch for more information or to book a call to discuss how Hable can help you.
Follow us on Twitter for regular updates on EdTech, Office 365 and the people side of IT.
NB: Minecraft: Education Edition is only available on Windows 10 or macOS. It is not available on mobile platforms at the moment.