Medium – Steven Isaacs

You can’t walk three feet without hearing a kid talking about Minecraft. Educators across the world are talking about the benefits of using Minecraft in the classroom. It all sounds great, but if you are not a ‘gamer’ or don’t have a 6 to 15 year old at home you may think it sounds overwhelming. I’m hoping to reduce your fear and provide you with a number of practical ideas that should help you over the fence.

#1 #HourofCode Minecraft Themed Activities

Code.org and Mojang just released a minecraft themed set of 14 puzzles as part of the #HourOfCode challenge. The activities are browser based and work on the computer as well as most mobile devices. Students will immediately be drawn to the activities but as a teacher, this set of activities provides an interesting glimpse into the world of minecraft. They have brought minecraft into a 2d environment that is easy to access yet still maintains the important core ideas behind minecraft to open your mind to what it is. In the activities, students will code the characters to move, dig, mine, build, and use resources. Below is a video I produced with Microsoft to guide teachers through providing the Minecraft Hour of Code experience:

Let me walk you through the Minecraft Themed Hour of Code Activities

#2 Start an After School Minecraft Club

The idea of bringing Minecraft into your curriculum may be a bit daunting. After school programs are a low stakes, low barrier of entry way to get started. Kids will be lining up at the door! Starting a club allows you to orient yourself to the game by learning with and from your students.

#3: Invite a small group of students to lunch to teach YOU how to play!

I am all about empowering students and allowing students to be the expert. Minecraft lends so beautifully to this idea. Quite honestly, almost all I have learned about minecraft came from my students. I would play with them and they were so excited (and gracious) in terms of helping me out. I have had students create and manage minecraft servers, teach me server commands so I could at least moderate the server, and taught me the basics of mining, building, surviving, and using redstone. I truly believe this was a boon for their self confidence as well. You’d be surprised sometimes at which kids are the ones that will be the most helpful. This approach works because you can hand pick a small group and let them know that you are a noob (they would love to hear you call yourself that) and need for them to go slow and be patient with you 🙂

#4 Provide Minecraft as an option for Alternative Assessment

This is becoming a widely used approach to getting started with Minecraft as the onus is on the student, not the teacher. I continually hear teachers say that a student asks if they can demonstrate their learning through minecraft. I am quite pleased that the answer is often yes! If you want to tap into a kids passion and have them work harder for you than you could ever expect, this may just be the answer. My students create step by step tutorials about how to do things in Minecraft. The learning outcome is the procedural thinking and communication skills, but the vehicle they choose is minecraft. I teach a game design and development course so one option for students is to create their game IN Minecraft. It is amazing to see what they accomplish and the way they collaborate. Visit my Pinterest page to see some examples of student work.

Student Created Game, “Cart Wreck” — check out the explanation of the student as a demonstration of learning

#5 Join the Minecraft Teachers community google group

You certainly don’t have to do it alone. MinecraftEDU has a tremendous community of passionate and helpful educators. Any time I have a question, I throw it out to the community and receive a response almost immediately. Run, don’t walk to register! The google group includes a message board, links to lesson plans, maps, resources, etc.

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