Engagement matters for making a lesson memorable. While nothing is engaging for 100% of students, we do know that Minecraft is very engaging for many students. Heck, I personally spend hours playing Minecraft and lose all track of time. We may know Minecraft as a game that our students (and personal children) play. Yes, Minecraft is a game. But what defines a game??? A game has a goal. That is it. That is the definition of a game. Minecraft has no points. No levels. It’s a game because you have a goal to to build this world (and in survival mode, to survive doing it.) So let’s give students a goal that is more academically focused that they can use in Minecraft.
You do NOT need to know how to play Minecraft to teach with Minecraft.
The most basic way to teach with Minecraft is to give a challenge that the students who have Minecraft can do in Minecraft. “Demonstrate concentric circles… in Minecraft.” “Use sign posts to show examples of figurative language.” The students submit a presentation with screenshots or a video screencast of that they did. So long as you’re okay with accepting a video for the assignment, you can teach with Minecraft.
Make a Template
The second level beyond just throwing on the words “do this in Minecraft” is to create your own template world that students can use to learn the content. The most basic thing you can do is drop down chalk boards in the Minecraft world to create a presentation and let students take notes.
Option 1) take notes off this PowerPoint
Option 2) take notes off this Minecraft World.
You have to start somewhere and this is an excellent place to start!!! Dare I say you’ll enjoy doing it.
Minecraft: Education Edition
I am making an assumption from this post that your school has a license to Minecraft: Education Edition. It is $5 per student and the value it brings to bringing in students who may be disenfranchised definitely makes it worth it just for that reason alone. You don’t need Minecraft: Education Edition (shortened to M:EE) if you are just providing challenges they can do in Minecraft “Make a farm that is 1/3 wheat.” Students can use any version of Minecraft and submit a screencast. If you do have M:EE though that does has some unique features specifically designed for education.
One feature that is unique to Education Edition is chalkboards. In Creative Mode, press E to open the inventory and search for BOARD. This will allow you to add a chalkboard to your inventory hotbar.
The most basic Minecraft lesson that you create would just be putting chalkboards of information around the Minecraft world and letting students take notes from it. Now obviously I have a lot of ways that the actual Minecraft would could enhance that content, but let’s just get started here!!
Left Click = DESTROY
Right Click = BUILD
Right click to place a chalkboard down on the ground and type some words that you want the students to read. Could be a vocabulary word and a definition. What is the difference between this and a PowerPoint? While not much, it at least has the student in an environment where they feel they have some sense of control since they can move their avatar around. Very likely they are familiar already with Minecraft and feel comfortable navigating the world. For students, it does make a difference since they possibly enjoy being in a Minecraft world.
After placing chalkboards around the world, press escape to save and exit. Click on “Your Worlds” and click on the world you just made and go to “Settings.” In the settings scroll to the bottom to “Export world.” This saves the mcworld file to your computer. Post this file anywhere students can download it.
After downloading the world, students use the “Import” option to open up the world you just made. This is a copy. All of my kids agreed they would really enjoy destroying the chalkboards after writing down the notes. It’s a small detail, but Minecraft is all about destroying and building. It feels good. Our next steps in teaching with Minecraft is to move to asking students to do build challenges that visualize their learning, but step 1 start small. Just add some chalkboards around the Minecraft world. Export the world and share it with students.
The website education.minecraft.net has a lot of premade lessons to help you teach with Minecraft. But before you dive into the awesome lessons educators have shared and created, start simple. Just place some chalkboards or sign posts around the world and let kids walk around and take notes. Go from there.
I have 5 kids, I asked their opinion:
“Yea, that would be more enjoyable than a worksheet” – Jackson Keeler age 14
I asked my son if this would be a good place for teachers to start with using Minecraft. Now mind you, he is a power player of Minecraft and when I walk in on him playing he is fighting in the nether world or something. So this is a more basic usage of Minecraft than he is used to. At first he was like, if I’m just writing down vocab I’d rather do the PowerPoint because it’s faster. That is true, when given an option of something they don’t really care about I have found that students would just like to do a worksheet to get it over with faster. However, when I pointed out that he could walk around and destroy the sign post afterwords, he admitted that would feel good and he would enjoy that.
“Teachers making something in Minecraft would give give the students a better visual and some form of entertainment. It would be more interesting.” – Jackson Keeler
“Yes, I want teachers to teach with Minecraft” – Keaton “Bacon” Keeler age 9
“It would be more interactive and easier for students to be learning through games and stuff than doing boring stuff.” – Nixon Keeler age 12
“When you are a teacher and you mention Minecraft to your students then everyone is on board. My teacher did this and everyone was really excited.” – Bacon Keeler
“Minecraft is the best game in the entire world” – W Keeler age 7
“I put a lot of time into projects that I make in Minecraft. I do not put this much effort into other projects I do.” – Reagan Keeler age 16