Several years ago a group of students at my high school in conjunction with the Technology Director at Cordova High School began looking into the educational benefits of Minecraft. At that point I had no idea what Minecraft was and I was skeptical that it could be used for any real benefit. That group of students went on to develop many great ideas and applications for MineCraft in education and presented them during an ASTE conference in 2013 (CSD Board Minutes). That same year some of the students submitted a project in my World History class on trenches in the Great War and I was very impressed with the evidence of learning, creativity, and critical thinking skills needed by applying Minecraft to education.
Like most things regarding technology in education, if you are having a hard time applying uses for the technology it is likely because you are not thinking big enough. As I have learned more about Minecraft and its educational benefits the last few years and I have become much more enthusiastic about the many cross curricular benefits. Coding, Mathematics, Writing, Music, social networking are just some of the areas where Minecraft can benefit students (Minecraft in Education). Primarily what makes me excited is that students are quickly engaged when using technology, Minecraft in particular. Applying the Constructivist Learning Theory to Minecraft in education is an easy fit. “This theory states that learning is an active process of creating meaning from different experiences… This has led many educators to believe that the best way to learn is by having students construct their own knowledge instead of having someone construct it for them” (Constructivist Learning Theory). Or in reality, it is not so much about what Minecraft game I could create for my students but what my students could create for me that reflects their learning, creativity, and critical thinking skills.
I live with a Minecraft enthusiast and his mother and I have long tormented over the costs/benefits of video games and screen time in particular. In the video below, you can see his perspective on Minecraft. While he does take a minute to warm up, you can see that he is enthusiastic about Minecraft and the freedom and creativity it allows him to express. While there are certainly some video games that we would not allow him to play (for lack of educational benefits) we feel that he has grown academically from Minecraft and would continue to benefit from Minecraft applied in a more organized educational setting.