Like many teachers, MinecraftEDU was a program that I watched my students play and enjoy yet I was reluctant to bring it into the classroom because of my limited crafting skills. I decided that as the technology coordinator, I just had to make a leap of faith and venture into the MinecraftEDU world. I started by allowing students to play around with it informally during Library time. Becoming a Global Minecraft Mentor made me take a more formal look at how MinecraftEDU enhances learning. My particular area of interest is in how, as teachers, we can bring MinecraftEDU into an already crowded curriculum.
The advice I offer colleagues is to begin by identifying your own ‘inventory’
- What learning programs do you have available?
- What are you mandated to teach?
- What technology tools can you access?
Once your inventory is established take time to reflect upon the resources you have and design a unit of work that is ‘built’ from as many of these resources as appropriate, keeping MinecraftEDU as the main tool. I refer to this as ‘layering-up’ the lesson. Remember that students are very creative lesson ‘designers’ and we should encourage them to be part of the process. Give them the curriculum and simply ask ‘How could we show this learning in a MinecraftEDU world?’
I did exactly that with my Year 6 (12 year old) students. Together we read through a science unit on energy. We discussed the key concepts and the possibility of MinecraftEDU being the main tool for learning. The students assured me they could demonstrate and explain force, energy and gravity within a MinecraftEDU world – and WOW – they were right!
As I drafted this Science unit I looked for opportunities to bring in visible thinking, which is a current school focus. We used the thinking routine Chalk Talk to determine prior knowledge on energy and force (See Project Zero – Harvard). We set up a OneNote section to record ideas and notes and kept the 21st Century Learning Dimension of Self Regulation as a key skill throughout the unit. This ‘layering up’ of inventory items ensured the unit of work was more meaningful and relevant for students and opened up time within a crowded timetable.
The results were outstanding. View Evie’s work sample on youtube – https://youtu.be/PYi6PqVaizU
The full lesson plan is available at https://education.minecraft.net/lessons/the-force-of-minecraft/
I used a similar approach for a Maths task that involved liaising with the sporting company Supercars.
This task involved a student, Ben, emailing Sam at Supercars to gather information, in particular, maps. The unit had a focus on Maths, as well as thinking routines and skilful communication.
What I have learnt is that we need to respect the knowledge and skills of our students. Allow them to help design their learning within a framework prepared by the teacher. Survey the class to find the ‘Masters’ and have them lead with you. As a Mentor I share these ideas via workshops and webinars and my advice is always to just make that leap of faith – and start crafting.