I have to quote my stepson for the easiest definition of what it is, to which he sarcastically commented, "Well you can mine and you can craft things!" He is borderline obsessed, when I asked him to elaborate further, I was astounded at how rich his enthusiasm and willing to talk about this game.
Personally I don't get it, but I soon realised that I don't need to. As a teacher, I just need to know it will get my class engaged and can be used to inspire writing. After a quick tutorial from my stepson and trawling through some great websites about minecraft in the classroom, I soon realised the unbelievable potential with this game. Some of the best ideas I have come across have come from @thecommonpeople and he has a long list of ways to use minecraft in the classroom on his Youtube channel, including this, which could be a fantastic story telling tool:
The tool used to create these story paths isn't yet available on the iPad app yet.
As far as a programming tool it seems incredible and there are plenty of teachers using it, including @sezzyann72, in this way but I really want to focus on how it can be used to inspire writing and other curriculum areas.
Engaging reluctant writers is always a challenge and I constantly look at new and exciting ways in which I can get children on board and writing. MineCraft could be the best tool to inspire writing mainly because it has endless possibilities and children can decide exactly what they will do with it. It is an open platform that just needs a teacher with a valid challenge and the outcomes will be astounding.
I decided to try it with a Year 5 class, as I was still getting my head round the game, it was more of a trial lesson however one of the most fascinating afternoons of my year so far.
The class gasped in disbelief when I explained we would be using Minecraft in class. The game they spend hours on at home, they would be able to apply their expert knowledge and skill to the classroom. There were some children who hadn't played, I made it quite clear that my knowledge was limited but children relished in the opportunity to coach and teach others.
Within the iPad app, children can create one of two types of games - creative and survival. If the iPads are connected to the internet, one child can create a game and others (around 5) can join that game. So within creative mode, 5 children can all be working together to complete a challenge. So the challenge to start was fairly simple, but challenging all the same. Can the children build and design a model of the classroom. At first I was thinking school but I thought if we started small we could extend. The challenge for the children was trying to be creative in the way they designed parts of the classroom using the different blocks and materials.
I was left speechless by how engaged the class were and how determined they worked to create their replicas of the classroom. I was also amazed at the language and talk that was going on between the children - it was truly incredible.
At the end of the lesson, I asked the children to come to the front of the class, link their iPad to my laptop using AirServer and discuss their classrooms, which I recorded using a screen capture tool. This was where I linked it with Literacy - Speaking and Listening - how well could the children explain and describe their efforts.
Here is the children's efforts:
For more ideas and examples of how Minecraft has been used in Literacy and Numeracy see @MattPEducation's blog - http://5tanfieldlea.weebly.com/1/post/2014/04/minecraft-literacy-and-numeracy.html