I recently returned from a holiday in Orlando, Florida, where I was privileged to be able to attend “Minecon”, a convention for the popular sandbox game “Minecraft”, developed by Mojang AB.
Personally I’m a big fan and long term player of the game, and I’m amazed at how this ‘phenomenon’ has swept across the world. It was great to see how the game is being used and where the game is heading in the future. You might think this is an odd thing to write about on an Education related blog, but there is a link, trust me… read on
One of the exhibitors at the convention was TeacherGaming, an organisation who have chosen to focus on ways in which games can be used in an educational setting. Their current, ongoing, project is starting to make schools and educators sit up and pay attention. Introducing MinecraftEdu.
What is MinecraftEdu?
According to the MinecraftEdu website:
MinecraftEdu is the collaboration of a small team of educators and programmers from the United States and Finland. We are working with Mojang AB of Sweden, the creators of Minecraft, to make the game affordable and accessible to schools everywhere. We have also created a suite of tools that make it easy to unlock the power of Minecraft in YOUR classroom.
Yes, the MinecraftEdu project has been developed to capture the natural curiosity of students and their desire to play, and bottle that into a gaming environment that can be used, quite effectively, to teach. The MinecraftEdu package modifies the code produced by the original game’s developers to provide additional features to help Minecraft to be used in the classroom, giving the teacher control over what the students are able to do, perhaps setting them challenges, or creating special maps and buildings, or whatever they want to guide their students, work with their students and, most importantly, teach their students but within the virtual world of Minecraft, which, let’s face it, most of the students are probably already familiar with.
The stats in the above video are actually a little out of date. At Minecon I was able to pin down Co-Founders, Joel Levin (@MinecraftTeachr) and Aleksi Postari (@Kulttuuri), to get some up to date stats. They inform me that MinecraftEdu is currently being used in around 2500 schools worldwide (100+ in Australia). This is an impressive figure considering the company does not use any paid advertising or self-promotion (other than their own websites), and, in general, their product is advocated by the students themselves, approaching the teachers to ask if this teaching tool can be used in their classroom.
Why Use MinecraftEdu?
- Teach students in a way they will find fun and engaging
- Get your students excited about their History class, or their Social Studies class, or virtually any other subject, by hosting the class in a virtual Minecraft World
- MinecraftEdu provides great flexibility for customising the student experience to your subject/course material
- MinecraftEdu provides controls to prevent your students running amok and straying off course
- Many students will already be familiar with Minecraft, reducing the learning curve
- Minecraft worlds and projects created by other teachers are already available to download and use, making implementation easy and cutting down course planning time
- Setup and installation is easy, and the load on your IT resources is easily manageable
- Did we mention it’s fun and the students will love it?
For any who are already familiar with Minecraft, here’s some technical babble. MinecraftEdu is both a Server Mod and a Client Mod, this means the server software adds the controls and features, but a special client package is required to be able to access the modified server software.
Both modifications, as well as a tool-set including the MinecraftEdu Launcher and a Servertool for managing world creation and saving/launching, are provided by MinecraftEdu, and they have developed an installation process with as little as 6 clicks, and a 4 click install to launch a fresh server, making roll-out across a school network very straight forward.
Both the server and client software work in “Offline Mode” meaning that, unlike the original game, no internet connection is required to handle login or the multi-player environment.
What can MinecraftEdu Do?
The nice guys over at MinecraftEdu have provided the following links to some of the projects they are aware of where MinecraftEdu has been used to bring education and play together:
- Middle school science teacher using the game to model an experiment (among other things)
- Danish teacher using the game to teach English, programming, and game design
- History Teacher in Kuwait made a MASSIVE world to let his students explore ancient cultures
There are also lots of other examples on the MinecraftEdu Wiki page.
MinecraftEdu In Action
The Big Question…
Could MinecraftEdu represent the start of a new approach to learning, mixing something the students enjoy, and perhaps already use outside of school, with an educational environment to teach via gaming? (That’s a long question, feel free to comment on any part of it!)
With a following of over 12.5 million registered Minecraft players, it’s no surprise that many of the student blogs on the Edublogs network see regular traffic to their posts about the game. But, as an example of the impact the game is having on youngsters on our network, and how MinecraftEdu is already being used by many, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the Minecraft related posts from our network of teacher blogs who are already using the MinecraftEdu package:
Recent Minecraft related posts on class blogs
Medieval China Build in Minecraft. is a perfect example of the kind of projects that schools can focus on with the aid of MinecraftEdu. John Miller, of Chalone Peaks Middle School, highlights his task to recreate an ancient Chinese city using the creative features of Minecraft.
Crossmaglen Public School provides another great example of the possible ways in which MinecraftEdu can be used to mix play and education. Their class produced live models, drawings and then Minecraft recreations of Citadels as a part of their implementation of the NSW English Syllabus. Their “BYOD: Bring Your Own Device” incentive is a great way of reducing the school’s cost of such an idea.
Virtual Rainforest Project: MinecraftEdu/Sim-on-a-Stick post from Mrs. Booth at Coffs Harbour Public school shows how Minecraft has been used as a part of their Rainforest project, giving students the opportunity to build rainforest tree-houses where they can display the results of their rainforest related research.
With the excellent innovation being put forward but such teachers as these, I only wish we’d had these kinds of resources back when I was in school!
If you’re interested in more information about MinecraftEdu, head over to their site, or add your question in the comment below and we’ll be happy to answer if we can.