Adult Learning

Teaching With Minecraft EDU

I’m one of those crazies that actually enjoy professional development workshops, at least the ones that we don’t have to do every single year like blood-borne pathogens and diabetes.  Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the best professional development: Minecraft EDU. This session was based on the popular game Minecraft but with an educational twist.
For those who do not know what Minecraft is it is a ‘survival’ game where the player creates a world, invites friends to join the world and build a city. This game encourages the players to develop an economy, create villages, and survive off the land. Minecraft EDU can also be played in a ‘peaceful’ mode, like the regular Minecraft, which means the players do not have to hunt for animals that are used for survival.
Microsoft purchased Minecraft a while back. And since so many kids are obsessed with it, they added an educational component. With Minecraft EDU, teachers are able to develop lesson plans around subject areas such as social studies, science, phonics, and language arts. Once the objective of the lesson plan is established and understood, kids are let loose into the ‘world’ created by the teacher and told to accomplish the objective or objectives of the lesson plan. Moreover, this can be done as an entire classroom allowing the teacher to follow each student throughout the world and observe what is being done.
I used it for the first time this week, developing one lesson for sight words and another for creating arrays from multiplication sentences. For the sight words, I placed boards which are placards that you can choose from the equipment options. You can place the boards wherever you want throughout your world to give directions or to create a sign for other players. My students had to find each board, write down the sight word, and write a sentence using each word.
For the arrays, I placed boards throughout the world and listed a multiplication fact. The kids had to create arrays from the fact. I loved seeing how receptive they were to this format and how creative they got in representing what was asked of them. If I had them do this during small groups, they would not have been that excited. The collaboration was also incredible. When my students would see each other in the game, they would lead one another to where they needed to be, helping out the group collectively.
The other component of this program is how data can be collected for individual students. There are many different administrative options available to collect important black and white data for student usage and advancement. The worlds can also be exported so students can work on assignments at home with their parents. There are so many different ways to utilize this program in a classroom that it can become overwhelming. Minecraft EDU can be used for every school subject; however, planning out your lesson, or using one of the pre-created lessons will keep it manageable.
This game can also be used for all grade levels, as long as your students are interested in Minecraft. I am a special education teacher serving students in kindergarten through third grade. All of my classes enjoyed this avenue of learning and have been asking for more. A teacher friend of mine who teaches sixth-grade social studies and shared her class was receptive as well.
This program is available for purchase through site licenses by accredited schools and includes on-site training. The EDU trainers lead an unbelievable workshop which includes plenty of support after the training ends. An entire year’s worth of teaching could potentially be done within this program! And not only do the kids love it, but teachers love it too because their students are enjoying the curriculum.
The ability to create lessons that my students are excited about accomplishing is a trait I view as priceless. Many of my colleagues, including my principal, have come into my classroom to see what the kids are talking about and most of them cannot wait to apply for the next training!

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