Seriously!? Minecraft in School?? Yes, without doubt. Minecraft, the blocky video game sensation of digging, diving, building, and burrowing has a very comfortable place in education. I know it seems like we spend an awful lot of time trying to pull young people AWAY from time consuming, mind occupying activities like this, but, if used correctly, Minecraft can be a valuable tool in the educator’s arsenal. Especially now that there is a specific edition targeted at the education environment.
MinecraftEdu is a specialized version of the wildly popular video game, recently purchased by Microsoft, that allows the player to become an engineer in his or her own world. Most of the game involves collecting resources, refining them, and using them to survive. The opportunities for education are endless.
I am going to emphasize the Computer Science aspects of Minecraft because that is my area of expertise. During the first year of our programming class I had a waiting list of about 40 students because I announced that during the last two six week periods we would be modding the game of Minecraft. I have never seen kids so anxious to get into a classroom. These kids are 100% engaged.
Modding Minecraft is a fairly involved process of installing the Eclipse Java IDE, Minecraft itself, and a facilitator and mod loader called Forge. Once these programs are properly set up and aware of each other, it is a fairly simple matter to add items, armor, mobs, or even entire biomes to the mix. The mods can be shared between students and published to the Internet. My only complaint is that the process can’t be done in Greenfoot. Eclipse is the best way to go.
If you would like an easier setup option, then the Minecraft modding curriculum provided by YouthDigital The package is modestly expensive but provides video lessons, one touch installation, and complete technical support for a year. I would recommend running through it yourself before you offer the class to students. By the time you complete the coursework you will be very familiar with the process of creating mods for Minecraft. If you choose not to go that route then there are plenty of books, web sites, and tutorial videos to be had on the Internet.
The bottom line is that ANYTHING that captures a child’s interest to this extent can be used in education. A little imagination will go along way in helping you find the tools you need in the most unexpected of places.