Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Game-Based Learning Stories Based on Minecraft

Minecraft is the vision of Swedish geek extraordinaire Markus Persson, aka Notch. It was first released in 2009 for the PC and migrated to iPhone and Android mobile versions in 2011. In 2012 the game made its way onto the Xbox Live Arcade platform. Also there is MinecraftEdu, aims to bring the video game into the classroom and use the power of its creative platform to educate kids in a way that will really grab their attention – through gaming. (it offers a 50 percent discount and teacher-specific tools, this Google Group and this Wiki are devoted to helping teachers apply Minecraft into their teaching.)

We saw game-based learning stories based on Minecraft are expanding and evolving, here are some of them…

Minecraft Block by Block: Gaming for sustainability (by Matthew Yeomans, the guardian)

Essentially, Minecraft is a virtual version of Lego. It is set in an “open world” where players are free to roam, create and construct buildings, cities, ships – you name it – using 3D building blocks made from wood, stone, concrete, bricks and glass. Players also get to grow vegetables and cultivate food stocks (cows being a main form of sustenance it appears).

In 2011, the company worked with a Swedish construction and building information company to help local residents of dilapidated public housing blocks use Minecraft to plan redevelopment of their neighbourhoods. That project, called Mina Kvarter (My Blocks) grabbed the attention of the UN and, in September 2012, Minecraft and UN-Habitat launched Block by Block, a global initiative that, as Mojang describes it, “aims to involve youth in the planning process in urban areas by giving them the opportunity to show planners and decision makers how they would like to see their cities in the future.” The first project is helping residents of Kibera, Nairobi’s mega shantytown imagine a better, more sustainable living environment.

Electrical Engineering & Minecraft (Miko’s Da Vinci Portal)

The course will help students gain an understanding of electricity, circuits, electronic components, and logic gates that exist in most all electronics. We will begin with basic circuits and wiring and how information is transferred through wires. Students will then investigate various electronic components, and will begin designing their own circuits. Much of our experimentation with circuits will be done in the virtual world of Minecraft. Minecraft is a very popular video game where students can build creations in a seemingly limitless environment. One of the great features of Minecraft is the ability to create electrical circuits and complex machines. At this point, there have been a multitude of amazing virtual computers built in Minecraft that can perform complex functions in the same way that actual computers work, using wires, switches, logic gates, and memory storage (just go on YouTube and search for Redstone Computer — it’s utterly mind-blowing). Students will use Minecraft to create their complex circuits and build their final projects.

Chris Miko currently teaches at Da Vinci Schools in Hawthorne Ca, for grades 2-8 in the STEM subjects and the arts.

Could Minecraft be the next great engineering school? (By Scott Smith, Quartz)

In short, the game is a simple “sandbox,” or open world, designed to allow layers to spawn and move about in its 3D, isometric environment. As of mid-November, Mojang, Persson’s game studio, reported it had sold over 8 million copies of the game for the PC alone, with another three million downloads on iOS, Android, and purchases for XBox 360.

Numerous solo and team efforts have constructed not only ingenious Rube Goldberg machines, but alsomechanical computers based on a schematic in an MIT textbook that can do basic functions and calculations, for example. Early introduction of mechanical levers, circuits, and more recently a modification to add pistons to the game have encouraged players to build increasingly byzantine machines using the most basic of materials. Recent modifications and updates to the game, and unofficial variations created by expert players, such as Tekkit and ComputerCraft, take game functionality to a new level with industrial machines and programmable in-game computers that aren’t for entertainment as much as necessary elements to feed Minecrafters’ growing appetite for engineering.

Driven by teachers in the US and Finland, MinecraftEdu is taking a page from expert players and developing its own educational program to work with the game. The adapted game runs on a local server controlled by a teacher, the classroom setup allows a teacher to direct play more than occurs in a standard game while still leaving open play space for students to explore.

One charter school group in Los Angeles, Da Vinci Schools, working in conjunction with MinecraftEDU and graduate students from Pepperdine University, has developed a specialized course called “Electrical Engineering & Minecraft” to teach about circuits and computing. Students build and test their own circuits in the virtual environment, and build their final projects there as well.

Across town at Brentwood School, science teacher Bob Khan is working on a similar program called “Middle School Minecraft.” Kahn says the ability to test designs with unlimited resources and without risk makes it a great platform for experimentation that couldn’t happen in the real world.

As Cody Sumter of MIT Lab recently put it in Wired UK, “Notch hasn’t just built a game, he’s tricked 40 million people into learning to use a CAD program.” 3D prints of Minecraft creations are already possible, and a new tool for iOS devices released at Minecon this past weekend allows players to walk through their creations as anchored in the real world.

Minecraft has become a kind of anarchic massive open online course (MOOC) all on its own, without developing courseware or costly new program licenses. Part of the proliferation is due to user-created video, particularly on YouTube, where a quick search yields 7.5 million mentions.

How Minecraft Can Be Used To Create A Video Game (Terry Heick, TeachThought)

Creating a video game with it, then, is as simple as creating the rules to any other “game”:

1. Establish a world

2. Communicate rules to players directly or indirectly

3. Create some system of player interaction, from simple to complex

The possibilities for using minecraft in learning are staggering really, perhaps only stunted by the perception of it as “just a game.”


Mining Minecraft, Part 1: Little gamers’ digital play through a teacher’s eyes

(Marianne Malmstrom,

From pre-packaged play to digital ‘sandbox’ Minecraft : There’s an array of MOGs available to young children today, offering a range of play styles. Popular games like Club Penguin and Pixie Hollow allow children to play mini-games, care for virtual creatures, hold various jobs, collect artifacts and make friends. Communication is restricted to pre-approved language, and the platforms are designed to offer optimal safety. While these games are engaging and quite safe, they also provide for limited creativity. Sandbox MOGs such as Minecraft, on the other hand, offer children much more freedom to imagine, role-play and create their own content. It’s like comparing books of stickers to a box of art supplies. Judging from the wild popularity of Minecraft, we can deduce that children are opting for autonomy…Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Minecraft is the community that has developed around it because of players’ passion for the game. Players – a lot of them kids – share tips and strategies and show off their epic creations in videos they produce. They’re also reshaping the game itself by creating and distributing plugins, referred to as mods (short for modifications), that customize the core gameplay mechanics – in other words, kids are writing software code! “Modding” is a growing trend in today’s gaming culture. It looks like it’s no longer enough just to play a game as it was originally designed. Players are recreating, redefining and pushing the boundaries…

How Minecraft taught my 9 year old son with Asperger’s to read and write

(in Swedish, translated)

Something happens to my son’s self-esteem when he plays. In the game world, he is confident, dare to try things and above all he feels good and clever. He gets friends in the game to practice in the social, feel connected with the groups he plays in and get positive feedback from other players. He exercises also to take defeat and letting others win for the group’s sake or for the game to go ahead.

Since Minecraft is a fairly extensive game and you can not learn everything overnight, calls it even to you yourself seek information from other sources. My son has the game learned how to use YouTube, Google and Wikipedia as a natural way to look for information that can be applied in the game. He has also started to produce their own videos which he publishes on YouTube where he teaches others how the game can go to.

Besides encourage and motivate to read and write, there are other elements that Minecraft offers. I have together with the ICT teacher Annika has produced a map showing how to learn with links to school subjects and syllabus using Minecraft.

Link to map # / 676799  

Minecraft in School

This is a wiki devoted to hosting ideas, lessons, implementation strategies and more related to using the game, Minecraft in a school setting. (hosted by –Lucas Gillispie, Instructional Technology Coordinator, Pender County Schools, NC)

Self learning is more powerful than listening to what any teacher has to say, today’s learners need the most is a playground with tools, building blocks and connections. You don’t need to rush to Minecraft if you aren’t passionate about that kind of stuffs, but the meaning behind its stories is absolutely applicable to other areas.


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11 Responses »

  1. I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this information for my mission.


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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