There are advantages that are unique to Minecraft gaming in the classroom, as opposed to other types of gaming that involve pressure to continuously defeat a foe or to participate in pre-set role/character play. For example, Minecraft is self-directed with opportunity to explore.
As noted in the article by Overby & Jones (2015), it is imperative that the administrator and technology team be informed about, or even permission sought for, plans to use Minecraft. In dimension 2 of a study about the use of MinecraftEdu in the classroom, students, parents, and teachers were surveyed to carefully investigate values and attitudes about the use of classroom time to create scenarios or worlds that represent what students are reading or learning about in the classroom, Saez-Lopec, Miller, Vazquez-Cano, & Dominguez-Garrido (2015). The findings say to me that as teachers, we need to be ready to show the connections of what we are doing in Minecraft to what students are learning and to the standards.
As shown by the quote below, some authors have had a concern that there is little or no theoretical basis in the area of game-based learning. “I challenge anyone to show me a literature review of empirical studies about game-based learning. There are none. We are charging headlong into game-based learning without knowing if it works or not. We need studies” (Cannon-Bowers, 2006, p. 2). The current study is an answer to that concern. I think it is difficult to empirically prove the level of higher-order thinking skills that are developed while problem solving, making inferences, predicting, or visually conceptualizing to organize thinking about what is read. The value of cooperating with students; either in a student’s own school or from another part of the state; to plan for building an environment, to make trades that are valued by each to build their separate respective scenarios, or to write to each other to a common prompt about their experience within a common Wiki blog environment, can only be truly appreciated when adults observe and consider the social skills being used to create that indeed translate to the digital age their students/children are growing up in.
So far I have to agree with “fifty-five percent of teachers use video games in the classroom on a weekly basis, and many find these games to be an effective tool to motivate low-performing students. . . “(Meyer, 2015). Although I have not specifically used a complete video game environment to teach, I have used reading and math programs that have game features embedded within them to motivate learning. What I have seen was students who struggled with learning specific basic and comprehension reading skills in the context of teacher directed environments, or even in the bi-lingual partner design of reading pairs, become completely transfixed with the computer screen and delve deeply into the computer environment. Conversely, I have noticed that these same programs can present video clips that speak too fast for English Language Learners (ELLs), or presume a certain foundation of background knowledge that may not exist for that group of students. What I like about using Minecraft is that learners of all ages and skill levels work together to create environments related to the story they are reading. When students create separate areas/worlds, they have the opportunity to fly over different regions to view another student’s interpretation of a chapter concept (Lorence, 2015). How could this be less desirable than participating in a discussion group with roles assigned to students to get them to communicate?
Cannon-Bowers, J. (2006, March). The state of gaming and simulation. Paper
presented at the Training 2006 Conference and Expo, Orlando, FL.
Lorence, M. (2015, Apr.). School of minecraft. School Library Journal, 61(4), 1-5.
Meyer, L. (2015, Aug./Sept.). 4 innovative ways to teach with video games.
T H E Journal, 42(5), 20-24.
Overby, A., Jones, B. L. (2015, Jan.). Virtual legos: Incorporating minecraft into
the art education curriculum. Art Education.
Saez-Lopec, J. M., Miller, J., Vazquez-Cano, E., & Dominguez-Garrido, M. C. (2015).
Exploring application, attitudes and integration of video games: MinecraftEdu