Thursday, 11 June 2015

Minecraft's Role in The Classroom

We had a great Inset on Tuesday where we used Minecraft in an ECA. In fact, what was particularly useful was that rather than have CPD where everybody gathers in a room and talks ABOUT students. We ran our CPD inside the classroom with the students right there to talk to and see what they felt about the experiences they were having.  The students in the class were building 7 wonders of the world in Minecraft. (This is my reflection on that discussion, rather than notes from the discussion.)

The question is, how can it be taken from an ECA and used within the curriculum?  

Successes So Far

We have seen a few successful implementations of Minecraft within the curriculum. Tanglin has created a great citizenship unit, which teaches types of governance.  They use a world MinecraftEDU and change the kinds of government.
There are also some great units available for teaching history



James York has used it extensively to provide prompts for writing and as an engagement tool.  See his TED talk



Coding

The ability make mods and program parts of Minecraft is a real boon to hook students into coding. As well as MinecraftEDU.  There's a great version for the Raspberry Pi.  Kano have done a great job of enabling the visual programming of Minecraft. For the more advanced, you can download Minecraft and use Python to play with the program on almost any version of Raspbian.


Another option is LearnToMod  (Currently $30 per year)

Installation

Installing MinecraftEDU is not the most straightforward of installs on a network and on the PC, we had to spend quite a bit of time getting it right, so that it could be accessed across all accounts.  It's fiddly and can cause problems. 

On our network, one Desktop PC can support up to about 12 clients on a world that is on a hard-wired internet connection and wirelessly a laptop can support 6 others. It is highly variable and you would need to test it on your school network to know what can be supported.

On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi edition was very simple to do, but does require somebody with either a basic knowledge of Linux or the pre-built Kano kit. 

Probably the simplest way to get access to Minecraft is on a tablet. Most seven year olds can hook it up and be playing using a peer based server in seconds. 

The Challenges Ahead

The difficulty with these implementations is the time taken to create a world and the educational benefits from that world. Few teachers have the time or the know-how to develop a complete world fro their students.  So far, what I have seen available on MinecraftEDU are a few worlds with relatively specific educational teaching points.   It is in fact, replacing a video as a prompt or creating a place for students to explore.

Perhaps one solution is to use student clubs to make the worlds and then use classroom time to either explore the world or watch a video of the world?

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