The Minecraft phenomenon looks like it’s here to stay – and isn’t that great? The game just keeps giving, with the recent updates to the mobile platform revealing even more adventure, creativity and opportunity – children and adults alike get enthused with the creative aspect of Minecraft – something educators are starting to tap into to support learning within schools.
So what’s it all about?
Comparisons are regularly made to LEGO, and it’s easy to understand such an appraisal both are open-ended, offer creative creations, and share the essential ‘blockiness’. The main, huge and significant difference in comparing the two is the lack of any instructions from the Minecraft creator. Buy some LEGO, and you are given guidance on how to create your model, but with Minecraft the virtual world is yours to discover – with hidden nuggets, tips and knowledge all secreted within the platform.
In fact, for those who want guidance or inspiration, there are a plethora of books, wikis, galleries, YouTube videos or online threads which can encourage – but what’s the point? There are PC/Mac, game console version of the game, or (Minecraft Pocket) apps which support portability for Android and iPad/iPhone. Two modes are available (Pocket edition), with our main focus for this article based on the ‘Creative Game Mode’ for tablets*.
Within the game you can build, destroy or grow using the tools and blocks as you command the main character, Steve using blocks programmed within the game.
That’s all very well, but why is it relevant to education?
- Encourages Creative Thinking
- Encourages Problem Solving
- Encourages Dialogue
- Encourages Story-Telling
- Encourages Logical Thinking
- Encourages Learning through Play
- Encourages Planning
- Encourages Individuality
- Encourages Concentration
- Encourages Engagement
- Encourages Design Thinking
- Encourages Cross Curriculum Opportunities
Minecraft is also very popular with children, so the kudos gained by using the game as an impetus for learning should not be overstated. Thinking creatively, there are opportunities to add Minecraft into many subject areas: mathematics (for example: size, symmetry, adding, multiplication); literacy (for example: creative story writing, instruction writing); Design & Technology (need we say more?). In fact, with the development of 3D printing, it is possible for designs to be actually ‘printed’ out, so pupils have something to show for their design work (see our article at bit.ly/uked14aug10) using PrintCraft technology.
Some schools have embraced the idea of using Minecraft as a cross-curriculum stimulus for creative topics. Staff at a primary school in Northamptonshire showcased the work of their pupils when the whole school embraced on a Minecraft inspired project called ‘Bridgecraft’. The cross curriculum element was explained by teacher Stacey Ramm: “I’d been doing some training with the University of Northampton in an area called STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths – so we felt we’d be looking at those subjects with something that the children had been trying to teach me about – Minecraft. So we wanted to see how we could incorporate something that the children were already engaged with and hijack it for learning in school.” See UKEdChat article at bit.ly/uked14aug11.
Isn’t Minecraft Just a Craze?
Well, if it is, it has been going for quite a while now. With the updates and further developments promised, there is little chance of the game stagnating. Maintained in Sweden by founder Markus Persson the game was released in 2011 and estimated to have sold tens of millions of copies since. It is possible to get fully immersed in the game, with some dedicated Star Wars fans recently creating part of ‘A New Hope’ from within the Minecraft platform (see bit.ly/uked14aug12) – the options are endless.
Minecraft Pocket is available for:
iPad/iPhone at bit.ly/uked14aug13
Android at bit.ly/uked14aug14
Initially, we were sceptical about the potential that Minecraft has to offer for education, but once you get to play around with it, start creating, and look at how engaged children become with it, you can soon get captivated, working out the possibilities of your own creativity.
*The full version of Minecraft, on PC and Game Consoles can allow for online collaboration with remote players, therefore teachers have an opportunity to talk about the Internet Safety issues that this raises. Collaborative play is allowed on the Pocket Edition (Tablets), but only with users on the same Wi-Fi network.