The Increasing Potential of Minecraft in Education

Many people have tried to persuade teachers to use Minecraft for Education as a learning tool, as claims that it has the power to enable students to explore, create and imagine in a completely different way than they could ever do in a traditional classroom (Edutopia). The popular world-building game, no doubt, does have the power to unleash creativity in a digital manner similar to Lego bricks, but how teachers can implement this in the classroom is a challenge facing many who can see the potential of the technology. The jump to iPad and Android has allowed Minecraft to become more portable, but a research project by the Art and Design Academy at Liverpool’s John Moores University is aiming to provide tools and teaching materials which make it easy to use Minecraft as a platform for collaborative design between young people.

minecraftimmersiveimageOne of the main advances in helping this drive forward is 3D printing, which now allows for designs made within the Minecraft game to be printed into tangible creations, which show a physical outcome to a learning project, rather than a result which remains hidden within a computer device. Using Printcraft, it is now possible to build and 3D print Minecraft structures, and with the help of touch screen technology and projectors, a fully immersive experience can be created.

One of the researchers exploring the technology is Dr Mark Wright, who is interested to see how Minecraft can be best implemented in learning, telling UKEdChat…

“We want to see Minecraft as a tool to encourage learning and doing, rather than just treating it as a black box. With this technology, you are making that leap from Minecraft into the real world. I think it’s a really interesting space that we don’t understand yet. We feel that there is something here, and we’re trying to work out the real potential about it.”

“We’ve created a digital space which you can be immersed in. Minecraft is a social space where people can collaborate – you get ten children collaborating over a design; communicating about what materials they are using and what model they are going to make next. It also has the potential for critiquing work, but you can do this critique in the worlds – people can come into the world and try it out.”

It’s all about creating a fluid relationship between the Minecraft world and the real world, but the benefits of the technology had surprised the researchers in how the technology engages children with special needs.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from people who look after special needs, Asperger’s in particular. We had a boy looking at the project, and he is completely calm in the Minecraft world, and the adults with him were amazed on how calm he was…he just loved the environment.”

Currently based within the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) in Liverpool, the aim of the project is to build resources and ideas for educators who want to incorporate the Minecraft technology further.

“The legacy of what we’re trying to do is put together some documentation on how to put breadboards together, lesson plans, put them all online for free and hopefully it will be sustained beyond the research project once the funding stops.”

Don’t ‘get’ Minecraft? See the video below which shows some of the potential!

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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