Last year, I started investigating the possibilities of incorporating the use of the sand box game Minecraft into our school. I wrote about my research at the time. What I lacked was enough knowledge and the confidence that it was worth giving it a go. I know the benefits of aligning our activities with student interests and passions and here was a perfect opportunity. I have had a large degree of pressure from a persistent group of students – you know the ones who will catch you on yard duty and say “When are we going to …. ???” .
Well, we have finally taken the plunge and thanks to Adrian Camm and the staff at Quantum Victoria, I am now further along this journey. Recently, thirty Year 5/6 students attended a one day Minecraft session at Quantum. The Quantum project promotes the positive use of games to teachers, parents and students. The Quantum staff catered beautifully for our diverse group of minecrafters, ranging from long term enthusiasts to first time users. There was a great buzz amongst the students on the day and the best part was the collaboration occurring. On return to school we asked them to evaluate the day and encouragingly they identified a large range of Personal and Interpersonal Skills that they had to employ throughout the day.
It was challenging for the more experienced players to have to spend time helping others but they did a marvellous job. I found that despite many having played before, they had not played Multi-player mode before and they admitted that they enjoyed the collaborative nature of the day. The newcomers demonstrated amazing persistence and problem-solving skills. Playing the game in this mode also has the advantage of being overseen by Quantum staff who are quick to guide those who require it and ready to step in if anything goes awry.
The school of thought that doubts the benefits of these games is quite loud in some communities. The addictive nature and the violence are often cited. I admit that they can be addictive – we have had discussions about life balance and healthy lifestyles and encourage negotiated and regulated use.
My next step in this journey is to play alongside them and learn from them (we have continuing access to the Quantum Server). We will battle school filters and hopefully have Lunchtime Minecraft Club. I already have students wanting to achieve the variety of achievement badges that enable them to take on leadership roles. There are opportunities to incorporate Minecraft experiences into creative writing activities which might just capture the attention of some of avid gamers who are less keen writers. I shall be on the look out for all opportunities to harness the strengths of these experiences.
Jenkins has “…. identified a set of core social skills and cultural competencies that young people should acquire if they are to be full, active, creative, and ethical participants in this emerging participatory culture:” (Jenkins et al, as below)
I compared the skills and experiences that were exhibited on the Minecraft day with Jenkins’ list of 21st Century skills in the ‘White paper - Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century’. I can see a strong connection – perhaps we are on the right path – it is certainly worth exploring.
Some more references that I have gathered since last year
Andrew Miller – Ideas for using Minecraft in the classroom
Rob Newberry – Some thoughts on setting up Minecraft at school