Minecraft -Connecting, Deepening and Extending

This week I have started supporting a teacher in Year 1 who had seen some potential in their Geography unit for using Minecraft.    This was exciting as possibilities for using Minecraft as part of Geography often occur to me but there hasn’t yet really been the opportunity.    Working with younger learners and minecraft also, is something that has tempted me…….but, I have to admit,  also worried me.  The reason for this is that I would want the learning intent to be clear and the potential outcomes to be clear…..in order to be able to justify it to others, but also to ensure future use is not put at risk.     Teachers are skeptical of Minecraft – partly because they don’t understand it and don’t see the attraction but also because they know they are automatically not the expert in the room.   I was worried that putting 25 minecraft obsessed children in front of a screen to use minecraft would just immediately reinforce their views.   My son is this age and I know the depth of his knowledge and that of his mates………and I know how scary this might be to someone who just doesn’t ‘get it’.

A key difference here was that the teacher came to me because she saw the potential.

The ACARA Inquiry Question is:

How do people use places?

As part of this unit the students investigate the inquiry question of

  • What are the different features of places?
  • How can we care for places?
  • How can spaces within a place be rearranged to suit different purposes?

I poured over the documentation from the Australian Curriculum and saw links everywhere.   I don’t see myself as an expert at Minecraft by any means…..but I see myself as someone who can see the potential, knowing I am surrounded by experts if I need to know anything.   To me, the justification is obvious.   We are looking at features of places, talking about managed, constructed and natural features…….discussing how we care for things and rearrange things………

In Minecraft, can they not:

  • wander within different environments and identify features
  • create different environments
  • construct buildings
  • manage the environment by planting plants and watering them, fencing animals, chopping down trees, building a path or bridge
  • …..and the list goes on.

Our local interpretation of the Australian Curriculum listed using places as the playground and school yard and I get this.  But then the assessment task includes images of Slovakia and other equally disconnected images.  Why can’t we use a familiar place as a minecraft world that they have built and love?  Why can it not be a world in which they have invested so much of themselves?

I was still a little worried about using it but the teacher’s enthusiasm calmed me and my knowledge of her skill, experience and general approach.   I looked at the first few lesson ideas and immediately saw that even the use of Minecraft images would enhance the learning in the first couple of lessons. This was easily achieved – printed and laminated and delivered.  The teacher said that upon using them, she saw the lights in kids’ eyes come on and this was, in a few cases, with kids with whom she struggles to get a connection in terms of much of the subject matter.

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That afternoon, the class was over with me doing their Library borrowing.  The teacher took the Library iPads and discussed with them a 10 minute task and off they went into their Minecraft worlds in groups of 2 or 3.  I visited and joined them and was amazed at the quality of the discussion and the collaboration going on.  Children were using the language and responding to adult’s questions about the features of the environment. They were building a path or bridge to add the  managed feature or looking at natural features and commenting on the cuteness of a chicken (as a natural feature).  The below image is quite delightful as I just noticed that the book inside the boy’s borrowing folder is a minecraft one.   Perhaps he is being motivated in his reading now too.

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I’m excited to see how the learning within this unit evolves.

Welcome back SB.

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