Tuesday, February 25, 2014

California Missions, Redesigned with Minecraft EDU

The Historic El Camino re-envisioned in MinecraftEDU

According to Dr. Mimi Ito of Connected learning, Gaming is the entertainment medium of this generation. By capitalizing upon students’ love of Minecraft, we can engage kids in curriculum in ways that were impossible before. The multiplayer aspects of Minecraft and the creativity it fosters within any type of student, opens the doors to deeper understanding.

A bit of backstory, Minecraft is a popular sandbox game, think virtual legos. It is an amazing learning tool because it allows students to discover, to create, and to imagine in ways that are impossible in a traditional classroom setting. It is amazing to see the creative power that students can unleash in the world of Minecraft.

Sometimes it is hard to know where to begin with a new tool. When I started on my Minecraft journey, the first order of business for me was to play the game with no strings attached, just play, just for me, not for thinking about my educational agenda. Once you are comfortable with the game, it is far easier to dive in and think about the powerful tools that MinecraftEDU has that are specific to assisting teachers in utilizing the game in the classroom.  

The idea of gaming melding with education may seem odd to some, but according to Katie Salen, a game designer, animator, and educator:“Playing video games is a kind of literacy. Not the literacy that helps us read books or write term papers, but the kind of literacy that helps us make or critique the systems we live in…. When we learn to play games with an eye toward uncovering their procedural rhetorics, we learn to ask questions about the models such games present.”

Gaming teaches students skills we want them to have in the real world. It teaches perseverance and risk taking. It allows students to work together to solve problems and to discover solutions. It allows kids to understand how steps of a puzzle fit together to allow a person to reach a goal. All of these skills are essential to real life vocations.

Currently, I am working with grade 4 students on crafting improved missions in Minecraft. The project stemmed from the question: “How might we modernize the California Mission project and focus on student learning?”

Working in the tutorial world in Minecraft EDU

Beginning with a far fetched idea of integrating philosophical questions of colonization on future alien planets (see original assignment), the teachers and I reached a consensus to utilize MinecraftEDU as a way to leverage connected learning in the classroom (see final version).

Connected learning is about the crossroads of interest and education (see a good introductory article on Edudemic, What is Connected Learning? ) In order to capitalize upon student learning, tapping into their interests is an ideal place to start. Thus, Minecraft was a go to platform.

Surveying the classes, (see survey)we found in each room there were several self-proclaimed experts which we realized would make the project both easier and more challenging. As a team, we brainstormed skills we thought would be tested while utilizing the game as a learning platform: risk taking, perseverance, patience, collaboration, and team-work all came up continuously.

Each mission will be designed by two students. They have had the opportunity to work through a Minecraft EDU tutorial world, and are now diving deep into planning out their missions on paper before constructing it in Minecraft. Students must propose the materials that they need to their teachers and justify why they feel they need the items.

We are thrilled about the possibilities of combining gaming and PBL and more.

Minecraft resources as well:

Minecraft Introduction
Collaborating on navigating the tutorial world in Minecraft EDU

Can Minecraft be Educational?

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