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Something really interesting happened on November 20th, 2019. Minecraft: Education Edition was added to Self Service for students and staff to use. Without any information being provided, students immediately starting using it, especially at the Middle School level. Less than 24 hours later, the app was temporarily pulled from Self Service so we could inform staff and students that it was available and how it could be used. Once pulled, students at West Middle School started a petition to have it brought back. As of the writing of this post, the petition is up to 281 signatures.
So what is the lesson we can learn from this? That kids LOVE Minecraft! And as educators, anytime we can tap into the passions and interests of our students, we should jump at the opportunity.
A principal (and parent of a Minecraft-obsessed son) once described Minecraft to me as "digital LEGOs." It is a space where students can solve problems, collaborate with peers, and be creative. The sky is the limit for what students can do inside a Minecraft world. So how can you use it with your students? Let's start with a video.
Interested? If so, I highly recommend going through "My Minecraft Journey" to get trained. It will walk you through how to use Minecraft: EE with students. From there, I'd recommend checking out the Minecraft: Education Edition website. You can find lessons for many subject areas and Hour of Code activities to get ideas or use the templates they have created. Here's a list of a few ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities:
- Have students recreate a historical event, battle, or city in Social Studies.
- Have students use one of the biome templates to explore an ecosystem and interact with wildlife in Science.
- Have students explore perimeter and volume "physically" by walking around in a world that has various shapes. Once students have identified the shape's volume and perimeter, have them construct someone of their choosing and identify its perimeter and volume.
- Taking that last example further, one school had students create a digital replica of their new school addition that was going to be built. Students had to use blueprints for the new additions, do unit conversions to convert feet into meters, and then build and problem solve together.
To pull it out together, your students can either use a screen recording or share the world with their teacher using a link. If they screen record, they can include a voiceover so you can hear them explain their new learnings.
All the features mentioned thus far can be used on an iPad. On MacBooks, teachers have more administrative tools so they can monitor student use, turn on/off features and in-game events, and track progress. This is called Classroom Mode. Click here for more information. Hopefully Classroom Mode is coming soon to iPad! In the mean time, I would recommend using Apple Classroom to monitor student use.
Behavior Disclaimer: I know this is probably in the back of your mind so let's address it! In the event that a student is misusing their iPad or MacBook (whether it be a game in Safari, Minecraft, the camera, etc.) the same classroom expectations apply. Keep records of student behavior, discuss at PLC/team/academy meetings, and hold them to consistently high standards. Refer students to admin as necessary.