Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

The Wonderful World of Humanities in #MineCraft


MIT Technology Review just discussed the phenomenon of Minecraft in this article :

More than 22 million people have paid to immigrate to his world and settle there (nearly three times as many as live in the gigantic multiplayer game World of Warcraft), be it on PC, smartphone, or video-game console. Released without backing from investors or publishers, Minecraft is inspiring a new generation of independent game makers to strike out on their own, and to approach their medium in new ways. Meanwhile, the profits it’s generated—$86 million in 2012 alone—rival those of the world’s largest entertainment releases.

Minecraft places its player in the game’s world with few directives. There are almost no goals.

It’s this freedom that becomes the hotbed of players’ creativity. You already know MinecraftEdu is an environment in Minecraft providing friendly means for classroom purposes. (A Short Introduction to MineCraft Pedagogy) Many teachers are already using Minecraft to teach different subjects. But you probably don’t know there is a teacher – Eric Walker – who has spent 600 hours to build a “World of Humanities” for learning Social Studies.

He said :

I originally set out to create not a “Minecraft world”, but more of an educational “World of Warcraft” experience. It has taken probably about 600 hours so far, and has been a huge but very rewarding challenge. The good thing about the world is that once teachers figure out how to install it and get it running (which can be a complicated process, especially getting the mod files in the right folders etc.), it pretty much runs itself. And it can run itself even outside the classroom (if hosted on an external server), and so far I have had it running for my students for about 16 months straight, almost unbroken. And no student, that I am aware of, has ever found EVERYTHING there is to find/do in the world.

The physical design of the world is what jumps out at users, but the writing is actually what has taken the longest. I have had a lot of help, from students and other Minecraft world designers, in creating the landscape and buildings themselves. But the written text in the info blocks, link blocks, character dialogue, and quest design has taken a long time, and that is the part that delivers the actual content of the learning. If you were to extract all info block text and all character dialogue, and paste it into a single-spaced Word document, it would be over 300 pages long – longer than a novel! There is so much to learn in the world, yet it is not linearly directed – so students may not learn “everything” for quite a while. But this is how it is designed – to let students freely explore the world, focused more on the quests and acquiring of rare “loot” — and meanwhile they are almost learning by accident.

Minecraft for learning social studies

According to his description :

It feels like a “whole new game”, more like an online RPG, than just Minecraft. Some of the features include:

Hundreds of characters from history, that students can meet and have conversations with.
Over 100 quests students can embark on, for rewards and experience points. These include finding ancient artifacts, talking with people from history, solving puzzles, discovering new lands, and many, many more.
– An in-game economy, built on different types of coins students earn from completing quests or selling items to merchants.
– New clothing and armor items for students to wear/wield to differentiate themselves. These can be purchased from merchants or earned by completing quests.
– New crafting recipes not included in the original Minecraft, some tied into questlines.

Trailer video 

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An interview with Eric Walker

The content is specific to social studies/ancient history, but there are many connections to English, Science, and Technology within the world. It’s most suitable for 4-8 graders. Students also learn digital citizenship in the world, here is a good example.

Yes, Eric shares all the creation and related documents out for free! Always visit here for the most updated information, resources and install instructions. (You do need to install MinecraftEdu, first of all.)

A note about a new feature:

 I used Wondershare Quiz Creator http://www.wondershare.com/pro/quizcreator.html to create the quiz. I saved it as a Flash html file, and then have it simply hosted on Dropbox and linked from a “Link Block” in the new version of my world. The new version of the world, which I will release before summer break is done, has over 100 link blocks around the world that link to supporting web documents, learning activities, and 360-degree panoramas of the real-life locations the world is based upon (which allows for a more realistic “virtual field trip” experience than blocky Minecraft can create). Here is one example: http://www.360cities.net/image/cave-point-door-county-wisconsin

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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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