The NZ Microsoft Education team are providing a series of hands-on introductory workshops that support teachers to use Minecraft as a vehicle for learning in the classroom.
Minecraft is an online game that allows users to create a variety of structures in a virtual environment. You could think of it as a digitised version of Lego; players construct buildings and mechanisms using pixelated cubes.
"It's amazing what they come up with."
– Tim Muir, STEM teacher at St Thomas of Canterbury college.
Expanding on the game's potential for play-based learning, Microsoft released an education edition of Minecraft in 2016. Included in the education edition are tools designed for learning management, such as:
Minecraft: Education Edition is included in the Ministry of Education's software agreement with Microsoft. Through to December 2021, all students and school staff in New Zealand gain free access to Microsoft 365 A3 suite, which includes Minecraft Edu.
Minecraft's hub for teachers contains:
Minecraft is a "sandbox" game, which means players can explore, build, and play inside the game with minimal limitations. There is no set way to do things, so the game facilitates open learning. "Choice" and "autonomy" are key words here: players can define their own game goals.
By encouraging choice, Minecraft can be a tool for developing "learner agency" – a pedagogical approach which emphasises the role of choice and autonomy in student engagement.
Minecraft is a building simulator. Players mine materials which they use to craft 3D blocks for building structures. This makes Minecraft a fun and efficient tool for model-making. Students can explore their curriculum subjects to greater depths by building dynamic representations of them in the world of Minecraft.
Computational thinking is about addressing problems of scale by designing systems and automating solutions. In Minecraft, this could mean programming a building action: instead of building something yourself brick-by-brick, you could direct the game to build it for you according to coded inputs. You can do this with Minecraft Edu's "Code-builder " tool, which encourages players to tinker with the Minecraft game-world through a simple block-coding interface.
Computational thinking in Minecraft could also mean using "redstone", a game material that acts as virtual wiring. By transferring power between blocks, redstone works like a real-world electrical connection. Players can fashion "circuitry" by connecting redstone blocks to on/off switches. This enables players to create systems of controllable and automated moving parts, anything from sliding doors to illuminated disco dancefloors .
Minecraft:Edu contains a range of features that enable learners to apply content from STEM/STEAM learning areas. Focus on individual subjects, or do project-based challenges that apply concepts from across STEM/STEAM disciplines.
The Minecraft world is composed of 1x1 metre blocks, which makes it an ideal tool for applying learning around measurement and spacial geometry. Challenge your students to build something according to specific measurements, or find a challenge from the Maths subject kit .
To enable learners to explore concepts from science and engineering, Minecraft has developed "biomes". Biomes are virtual environments containing conditions that mimic real-world climate zones.
You could challenge your students, for example, to build a sustainable home in the Mesa biome , which mimics a real-world desert environment. Challenge them to build in a way that has limited impact on surroundings, making use of local materials and renewable energies.
In this Minecraft-endorsed training module, teachers learn how to facilitate the building of student-designed "biomes" in Minecraft. This biome is designed to both mitigate and adapt to climate change effects. The lesson encompasses all STEAM learning areas:
The chemistry lab is composed of a series of tools in Minecraft that allows you and your students to explore real-world science. Experiment and craft a range of items like fertilisers and helium balloons by combining elements and chemical compounds.
Minecraft is a social game. By enabling multiple players to interact and build in the same game-world on secure servers, Minecraft is optimised for collaboration and teamwork. In educational contexts, this means students work together to plan, build, problem-solve, and realise projects in the same virtual environments. Explore how Minecraft can foster key competencies by encouraging your students to:
My Minecraft journey
A step-by-step online training module covering everything teachers need to know about using Minecraft as a learning tool.
These lesson plans, projects, and challenges have been organised into learning areas. Find challenges and lesson plans that directly connect to your learning goals.
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