Minecraft – Yay or Nay for EdTech Resource?

Update: Check out my response to Chelsea Byblow’s blog post here!

My partner for this blog prompt is Chelsea Byblow. We are gathering info on our own and then comparing and commenting on one another’s blogs. I am taking more of an angle of supporting the resource, whereas she is taking the angle of trying to prove it isn’t effective, or is defective in some way. After she has written her blog post I will respond with solutions, or side with her that some aspects of it are not good.

Before My Online Perusing:

Have heard personal concerns from family members over addiction to Minecraft. Because there is so much to do, you don’t really get bored and could spend hours on it, and the online usage of it has consumed the children so much that grandparents have said their grandchildren don’t want to participate in family functions (eating, playing with grandparents) and they feel less connected to them. I would counter this argument against this edtech resource by telling parents to teach their children appropriate digital etiquette by setting schedules up for times they can be on the computer and times they can’t, and stick to this schedule. If they are forced to have distance for part of the day from the online world, it will help them function and enjoy themselves in the real world and hopefully lessen the addiction (and value the time they do have on the computer more).

I also, myself, had concerns that Minecraft is more entertainment than educational, so I am sure other parents and educators have felt this way. We may worry that students won’t learn useful skills that can transfer to work and “the real world”.

My last concern was in regards to communication problems that might arise, because you have such young children online who are still in the process of learning how to share, compliment, criticize in kind ways, and so on.

Exploring the Internet:

Minecraft: Education Edition touts “creativity, collaboration and problem-solving” in their game – all areas that are revered in the school curriculum.

twitter_knowledge

I read on Twitter (see screenshot above) that knowledge is no longer as powerful because it is easier than ever to get. Nobody holds the key to important knowledge – it is transparent and open to people of virtually all socioeconomic levels via the Internet.

Therefore we don’t need to learn content, as much as we need to learn the skills to utilize/expand knowledge. While Minecraft doesn’t seem (at my first glances) to have a lot of knowledge that will transfer to the real world, it does have a lot of skill-building potential. For example, students learn how to use the digital 3D building media, and can recreate/represent virtually anything they want. They learn various keyboard and computer controls, and learn how to multi-task (use several steps to create final product-s).

After Skyping with my niece (also an Education student!) she commented that she knows nothing about it but knows it is popular and lasted quite a few years – it is not going anywhere so teachers are figuring out how to integrate it. This sentiment was echoed by homeschooling mom and author of this site.

Minecraft can be used to practise a variety of mathematical concepts – providing a visuals to use for computing and spatial awareness.

Minecraft is useful for learning about historical geographical locations (Social Studies curriculum). This site gives the idea of comparing images and Google Earth views and then designing what you learned in Minecraft.

Minecraft is simply another medium to design with, and our Saskatchewan art curriculum discusses using diverse media!

Another aspect of Minecraft I personally would be wary of is privacy and online etiquette. I know from public opinion that it is a game where you can ‘meet’ other users online, and talk, and therefore private information can be seen and recorded and there is the potential for it to be used inappropriately. There is also opportunity for cyberbullying when there is a difference of opinion, or a bully senses someone who has low confidence. However I believe this is where Amanda Todd scenario comes in – we need to teach students how to be responsible from both ends. For example, you shouldn’t give out location or name if someone asks you, because this game is about building things online – not networking – but, if we are going to introduce this EdTech resource to our students, we also need to have serious conversations about how, just like in real life, we should not bully people online.

Kids will run into scenarios that make them upset or uncomfortable (for example people wandering into your house when you don’t want them to). The disruption could also be someone being rude through texting over a chatroom. However instead of arguing that it is too dangerous or complicated to expose students to this open of an environment, we as teachers can use these problems as teachable moments to discuss what it means to be a good citizen. This is what the teacher in the above link realized, and started a discussion about peoples’ personal property. If you wouldn’t take someone’s house apart in real life (I am guessing that is what someone did in this scenario) then why would you online? Just because you CAN… SHOULD you?

The author of the “Ask a Tech Teacher” blog on WordPress explains that, in Minecraft, students learn cooperation, resource management (economy/business skills – and also environmental education ties), and creativity. These things are important to develop in our children, but also specifically in a digital context that can be applied to other websites when they are older. Minecraft is designed to promote leadership/cooperation, as players can come together for a single goal (for example to build something). The “Adventure” server of Minecraft supposedly has puzzles, and that can help with logic and problem solving skills.

The author of the above link said educators can help students discuss how Minecraft communities are communities. I think that if we compare those communities to our real communities, that compare/contrasting and critical thinking will be good for language and literacy building. Also, communities are a specific unit in some grades for social studies.

The site also discusses how students can learn to host their own servers and begin to network socially (something I shut down at the beginning of this post). I am realizing now that students will likely figure out how to do it on their own anyway – so why not help them to do it in a responsible, safe way in school?

Where do you begin in teaching Minecraft? I think you can teach students right from beginning of the downloading process and include it in lesson planning. In elementary school this will be the first time many have discussed how to responsibly install a program. For example, how do we make sure the website we are downloading from is “safe” (don’t download from third party site, always download from the site with the same name as the game, etc). We can make sure have virus protection, and follow all instructions instead of just clicking OK to speed up the process. – “Adventure” server has puzzles (logic and problem solving)

I watched this tutorial of the Education edition. For myself, all of it was a major headache. Seeing the camera spin and move that fast makes me feel sick to my stomach. That is nothing new – unless I am playing the original NES (which is 2D and pixelated), I can’t do video games, because the 3D movement gives me a migraine. However for teachers who are a bit more apt to “game”, I think that this could be a really good resource to implement in the classroom. It could be done as an interdisciplinary unit, with how many different subjects it can touch on!

 

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2 thoughts on “Minecraft – Yay or Nay for EdTech Resource?

  1. Hey Taylor
    I had no idea there was an education edition of minecraft. I’ve contemplated using it for landscape and building design so a drafting student say, could see the finished product in colour and detail. I’ve also attempted to use it for a class project to give a virtual tour of an environment.
    – Brandon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Minecraft as an educational tool? – Welcome to my blog!

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