How Minecraft Can Help Students Learn

Let me start out by stating that my nephew tried to teach me Minecraft and I got really frustrated and had to quit and walk away. Am I done playing Minecraft? No. Was I really mad and confused? Yes. Do I understand the draw to this game? Not yet. Will I become addicted to it before the summer is over? Probably. Am I going to play again tonight? I don’t know, maybe. Do I want to use it in my first grade classroom this fall? Definitely.

While taking a break, I started thinking about how the game works and it’s educational benefits. I thought about how my students will love that it is virtual Legos because my students LOVE Legos. Before I began, I read the How To Play Minecraft page and paid close attention when I was instructed thatupon entering a new world, the two most important things to do are crafting tools and building a shelter, all before the first night-cycle hits. Finding trees and harvesting wood are the first steps towards making tools” (Minecraftopia, n.d.). I learned just how important that was when I found exactly zero trees and was repeatedly attacked when night fell. My nephew tried to help me at this point and taught me how to fight the monsters, but there were too many of them, which caused me to die over and over. That’s when I walked away.

I think my first grade students would love to journal and draw about what they build and learn each day. I can see them naming their character and writing stories about their adventures in the game. I could also teach about shapes, seasons, addition and subtraction. I agree that “Minecraft can have huge educational benefits for children; it can help teach numerous subjects both with and without adult involvement. Learning in Minecraft can be faster than traditional methods of education, as children are often far more motivated, get more practice, and feel that what they are learning is useful” (Gamepedia, n.d.). However, I was still concerned that it would be too difficult for first grade students to learn how to use. I searched online to see if anyone had used Minecraft in a first grade classroom. I found a blog by a first and second grade teacher, Joel Levin, who was inspired to teach Minecraft to his students after watching his five-year play the game. Levin wrote, “Not only did we have a productive and fun unit, but I would say that this was the best project I have ever done in the classroom.  In my 8 years of teaching I have never seen students so excited and engaged.  They run up to me in the halls to tell me what they plan to do next class.  They draw pictures about the game in art.  They sit at the lunch tables and strategize their next building projects.  And not only the boys, but girls too” (Levin, 2011). I found his words to be very encouraging and I am going to follow his blog this year and learn from him so I can create a Minecraft unit for my first grade students.

References

Gamepedia. (n.d.). Minecraft in education. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from Minecraft Wiki: http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Minecraft_in_education

Levin, J. (2011, January). A Classroom Experiment with Minecraft. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from The Minecraft Teacher: http://minecraftteacher.tumblr.com/post/3922255282/a-classroom-experiment-with-minecraft

Minecraftopia. (n.d.). How To Play Minecraft. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from Minecraftopia Beta: http://www.minecraftopia.com/how_to_play_minecraft

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5 thoughts on “How Minecraft Can Help Students Learn

  1. I appreciate the tension you feel for your younger students as you consider using this technology. I teach 6th grade and our buddy class is a 1st grade classroom. I wonder what it would be like for buddies to Minecraft together? I wonder how much Levin used Minecraft himself, prior to using in his room. I found statistics about non-gaming teachers vs. gaming teachers and their use of games in their classrooms. I am not a gamer, and like your experience of frustration in playing Minecraft, I too am frustrated by the controllers and the buttons. We are much less likely to incorporate gaming into our rooms as non-gamers. I also share the goal of finding a way to bring this into my classroom this next school year. Good gaming!!

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    • I had a hard time figuring out how to make my own Minecraft community for my students. I do know that I would like to keep it simple to start with and not have monsters come during the night to attack them. I think that could be scary for some (not all) of my first grade students. I would like it to focus more on building a place to live and finding supplies. I wonder if I could “create” other problems, like water and food shortages. I definitely do not know enough about Minecraft yet, but I know the answers are out there and I just need to find them!

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  2. I understand your frustration. As a gamer, I know the frustration levels of gaming, and to create in a hostel world, it is difficult. I like the idea of the game in the classroom, but survival has to be turned off. There are too many kids that like to destroy others to feel powerful, and it would be detracting from the game. This is not the kind of game I would play, but I can see the benefit of it at several levels. I would have loved to see the giver being played to see how kids react to the game and structure environment. I really like your post, don’t get frustrated, try again, if you need to, use cheat codes to build then work to survive.

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  3. I am very much like you when it comes to Minecraft! It is a whole new world for me and the learning process has been quite slow. However, I really do see the benefits of incorporating Minecraft in the classroom. I loved your idea of having students journal about the game. I think this could really open all kinds of ideas and thinking for students. Their journal could serve almost like their user manual for the game. They could keep notes, write stories or talk about upcoming things that they would like to do. It would be a great way for students to incorporate a lot of literacy into their game experience. Thanks for sharing all your great ideas! I am excited to start using Minecraft in my classroom.

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  4. Minecraft is new to me and I like how you described it as playing with 3D legos. I’m impressed that you are ready to try using it with your first graders. Do you know what type of lesson you will do? I think I would have to come up with a really good lesson plan to be able to use Minecraft at my school. I was thinking about an after school Minecraft club. My own 6 & 10-year old love it. My six-year-old has picked it up pretty quick. It sounds like Joel Levin was successful. I will check out his blog and maybe it will inspire me.

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