Minecraft is an amazingly creative, digital tool. Yet, it’s much more than just a computer game or electronic Lego. Minecraft liberates creativity and allows individual students to freely express themselves, in a variety of ways.
For those of you who are not familiar with Minecraft, it’s a digital world that allows you to construct anything (yes, anything) using blocks and an inventory of supplies. You can create LAN worlds where several users can join together and collaborate on projects.
At Primary school age, students can freely express their understanding of words and books by creating worlds that accompany them. They can practice phonics in their own Minecraft “Wordworld” (created by them) which is something that they find extremely empowering.
Younger children can build animal alphabets in a Minecraft zoo or make their own digital dictionary. Imagine a seven-year-old student who is reading Roald Dahl’s book, The Twits. Then imagine that they can build the Twits’ home in Minecraft and include labels, objects and books inside it. The text they create can help them to understand key vocabulary and they can even adapt the book and re-write sections from it.
They are able to complete comprehension tasks inside Minecraft where visual tools bring the learning to life. Better still, they could work in small groups and create a collaborative e-portfolio that they can re-visit (and adapt) over time. It allows them to see their own progress and the learning is personalised. Students are able to make their own world, stock it with meaningful trigger items and text, and do it in a fun way!
At GCSE level, students can devise worlds that bring literature alive. Imagine recreating quotations within a Dickensian-themed world, or character props and reminders.
The visual stimulus that has been crafted by the student in Minecraft ticks many learning boxes. Our year 10 students are studying Lord of the Flies and can build their own version of the tropical island (by reading Golding’s descriptions) where key quotations are hidden on pathways that each tell a different story. By building the texts in their own worlds, the students are personalising the words of the author in a way that they understand. Imagination takes over and lets the students learn in a way that works for them. They take ownership of the words, their meanings and interpretations. The text becomes more memorable and powerful because they have built it.
Minecraft is currently available in several formats. Regular Minecraft is playable online but a membership fee is required for each individual player.
MinecraftEDU is a special version (also paid for) that allows teachers to teleport to student locations within a given world. Pocket Minecraft is built for the iPad and is very simple to use. This has a few limitations but is great at an introductory level. Given the contents of the Minecraft inventory, it also makes the game an ideal learning tool to support a STEAM curriculum as well… all you need is a little imagination.
By Lisa Finch
Lisa is passionate about providing the best learning experiences for students, combined with the integration of technology that kick-starts innovation. She has successfully introduced Coding, 3D printing, Drones and Design Thinking into the DESC curriculum. Her aim is to enable students and teachers to be creative problem-solvers who think differently, and diversely, but who also have fun with technology.