Listen as Stephen explains how to harness student passion for Minecraft in your teaching in this Tch Talks podcast.
Minecraft has altered my perception of the value of games in education and has opened my eyes to the possibilities inherent in leveraging student knowledge and passion when it comes to supporting our teaching.
I’ve been part of the Minecraft Educator community since 2011, and I began writing about my experiences on my blog a short time later as a way to support others on their journey to becoming Minecraft Educators. I hope this podcast and post support you in seeing some of the possibilities of incorporating Minecraft into your classroom.
How Important is Engagement?
As educators, if we don’t have our students working with us, we’re missing out on the opportunity to teach our students in an effective way.
Minecraft is a game first and foremost in students’ minds. Allowing students into this virtual world leaps many engagement barriers and gives us the ability to really push our students to not only learn, but to demonstrate their learning in new ways.
Supporting Student Learning with Minecraft
As a math and science teacher, my main focus has been on these content areas. Here are some examples within the world of Minecraft that teachers can support student learning:
- Give students the opportunity to collect data within Minecraft and then explore that data to support student learning.
- Students can use data collected in Minecraft to create graphical representations.
Solids, Liquids, and Gases
- A demonstration for junior science students on how the particles are arranged in solid, liquid, or gas forms.
There are many ways to incorporate Minecraft into other content areas as well, or to incorporate several content areas into one large project. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Digital Storytelling with Minecraft
- Literacy Through Minecraft: Lesson Design Model
- Kotoba Miners (English as a Foreign Language through Minecraft)
Leveraging Student Knowledge
It’s possible that many students will have interacted with Minecraft before, and you, as the teacher, won't be the expert in the room. Is this scary? It sure is -- but the value of letting go and becoming a learner with your students largely outweighs any initial discomfort.
Connecting Minecraft to the Real World
There are many ways to make connections between Minecraft and the real world. For me, it was all about having a discussion with students about the similarities and differences between what we did in the virtual world and what happens in the real world every day.
The world of Minecraft is also an excellent place for teachers to support students with the “unwritten curriculum,” or social learning, digital citizenship, and 21st-century skills. Here are some resources that speak to these points:
My First Minecraft Lesson
- My first lesson within Minecraft was a neurotransmitter demonstration in which students were acting as neurotransmitter molecules.
- As mentioned in the podcast, this lesson asks students to create contour maps within Minecraft to help them understand how they are created, what they mean, and for what purposes they are used.
- In exploring gravity within Minecraft, students were tasked with explaining how Minecraft’s gravity is different from real world gravity by writing a scientific report based on experiments within the game.
The Minecraft Community
The Minecraft community, the education community in particular, is very strong. There’s an exceptional network of educators willing to share their knowledge and support students and teachers to incorporate Minecraft in the classroom. Not only that, but students will very quickly support their peers, allowing students to become leaders in this virtual world.
One example of the student community evident within Minecraft is this “Limited Lives” lesson, where students had to work together as a team to continue in the same world.
The hardest part is getting started, but there are plenty of places to get support as you begin to incorporate Minecraft into your classroom instruction. I recommend you first get the game and play it for a while to get comfortable with the mechanics and how the virtual world operates. You can also leverage student experts to support you in your journey. And there are Minecraft Global Mentors -- find one in your area and make contact.
There are many more lessons on my YouTube channel that you might look to for support as you begin your adventure, and if you need any further support, please feel free to contact me via the Minecraft Global Mentors site or on Twitter: @EduElfie.
Stephen Elford is a Virtual Learning Coach in Victoria, Australia. In this role, he supports teachers from around the state to incorporate virtual learning opportunities into their classrooms. Stephen attended Monash University to receive his Bachelor of Science and LaTrobe University where he received his Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary). Prior to his current role, Stephen was a secondary math and science teacher who enjoyed giving students access to new technologies that supported their learning. Stephen is a Minecraft Global Mentor. Connect with Stephen on Twitter: @EduElfie.