There has been a lot in the news lately about the positive impact Minecraft can have on student learning (Drzewiecki, 2014; Junco, 2014; Ward, 2013) As an educator, I wanted to gain a student perspective on Minecraft, so I recently met with Hunter, an intelligent, thoughtful 15 year old, who agreed to show me the ropes and get me started. What blew me away from the beginning was the wisdom he passed onto me from playing this game. In one short session with Hunter, I came to learn these important things:
Minecraft offers a creative outlet.
The first thing Hunter asked me was, “Are you artistic?” I immediately responded, “No,” as I don’t see myself as artistic in the traditional sense. He then said, “Neither am I. But this is my creative outlet.”
I had heard that as an educator, it would be best to have students play in creative mode as opposed to survival, because I was told there is killing and violence in survival mode. I assumed, wrongly, that Hunter would automatically prefer survival, because isn’t that what all children want to do when they play video games? Hunter says he likes creative mode best because he can build and create.
He explained to me why the game is called Minecraft, how you mine for materials, and then craft them into something useful. Obviously, this notion of creating was important to him.
Hunter’s baseball stadium at night.
Minecraft is about exploring your passion.
Hunter took me into the virtual baseball stadium that he designed and created, and I could easily see where his passions lay. He told me he builds stadiums for sporting events in Minecraft because he’s really interested in sports. What he taught me is that you need to decide what you’re passionate about before you can start building and creating.
Baseball is life.
Minecraft requires research.
To build the stadium, Hunter researched stadiums and their features, the specific dimensions of ball fields, and how the design of his stadium would impact the culture of baseball. This research was not an assigned project, but a personal exploration of a topic Hunter cares deeply about.
Note the detail in this design.
Minecraft is easily applied to curriculum.
Hunter explained to me that each block in his baseball stadium equals 1 square metre. In future building, he suggested, I might need to know that 1 metre = 3.28 feet. This was important for him to know because the measurements of a ball field are in feet not metres. He then showed me how he had applied the pythagorean theorem when creating certain aspects of the ball field.
Hunter applied math principles when building.
Hunter had ideas for other curricular links. I suggested to him that with research you could use Minecraft to construct a traditional First Nations village. He agreed. He also suggested that survival would be an excellent mode for designing a new world for The Hunger Games, because it has boundaries just like the novel. I thought about how engaged students would be, if this was an assignment they had to complete in school.
In order to get better at Minecraft, you have to have time to tinker.
I watched as Hunter “played” with Minecraft on his ipad, talking through and modeling for me different scenarios I might consider. I followed his lead and awkwardly messed around, trying to make something, anything, while he quietly gave advice. His most sage: “Don’t overthink it.” It reminded me of tinkering, where you have an idea, are not really sure where to go with it, but in playing around, you come up with something.
Hunter showed me another baseball stadium he had created that didn’t work out as he had planned, so he turned it into a tennis court. I sensed that he was trying to remind me to be open and flexible enough in my thinking to see possibilities.
I asked Hunter how much time he had spent on his baseball stadium and he couldn’t say, but he was sure it was hundreds of hours. For him, the time spent was not important. He had a beautiful creation, and his work was definitely a labour of love.
The outer concourse.
The Minecraft community encourages excellence.
Hunter’s baseball stadium has been featured on the blog News for Minecraft PC, and I think for good reason. He has obviously put a tremendous amount of thought and care into designing this ball park, and he seems proud of it. And so he should be.
I asked Hunter if he had ever used minecraft in school. Sadly, he said no.
Changerooms and facilities at field level.
Drzewiecki, J. (2014). Why educators should use Minecraft in the classroom. Education World. Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/benefits-minecraft-classroom-students.shtml
Junco, R. (2014, April 20). Beyond ‘screen time:’ What minecraft teaches kids. The Atlantic. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/beyond-screen-time-what-a-good-game-like-minecraft-teaches-kids/361261/
Ward, M. (2013, Sept. 7). Why Minecraft is more than just another video game. BBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23572742