Education journalist Lisa Guernsey is intrigued by the potential learning opportunities Minecraft offers kids, both at home and in the classroom. Some teachers are beginning to adopt the popular sandbox game for their curriculum.
For the uninitiated, Minecraft is an open-world game that kind of defies that “game” label. After all, there are no rules, there is no goal, and it doesn’t really end. Players use resources like stone, wood, and dirt to build structures.
Popular Minecraft videos on Youtube show block recreations of famous buildings like the Taj Mahal, and even entire cities. The game makes it easy to innovate and explore, so it’s ideal for kids and teenagers with a creative bent. It’s an enthralling game experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
Lisa Guernsey is concerned that it’s a bit too enthralling. “I’m alarmed at how the minutes can turn into hours if I’m not there to tell my kids to take a break,” she wrote on Slate. Still, she acknowledges the creative power the game can have. “My girls, who beg me each day to look at all the new buildings they’ve created, broached the idea of an educational Minecraft before I could even mention it.”
MinecraftEdu is trying to bring the game into more schools, offering it at a 50% discount. As Guernsey mentions, Minecraft was never intended as an educational tool. That hasn’t stopped educators from seeing its potential. Second grade teacher Joel Levin has an entire video series about his Minecraft lessons. Another teacher, Levin says, “has her students write nightly journal entries about their Minecraft adventures.”
It’s worth mentioning that Levin is a private-school teacher. It will probably be a long time before we see Minecraft used widely in our staid and cash-strapped public school system.
Meanwhile, Guernsey’s challenge is in getting her kids to quit playing. “In our house, we have rules about kids doing their book-reading first and making sure to have daily outdoor time,” she writes. Despite her reservations, the game has turned into a family bonding experience. “My husband, nearly as Minecraft manic as they are, has created quests for them and their friends to find treasures he’s hidden.”
Have you brought Minecraft into your house yet?