App review by Chad Sansing, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2012
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World-building, resource-gathering game almost as good as PC version

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Subjects & Skills
Critical Thinking, Communication & Collaboration, Creativity, Character & SEL

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Pros: Open sandbox gameplay puts users in charge of what kind of learning gets layered on top of the game.

Cons: Its mobile nature and small screen can cause frustrations with controls, resources, and supervision.

Bottom Line: An excellent collaborative, creative, and critical-thinking resource for classrooms using mobile devices, but doesn't offer all the learning opportunities of the PC version.

The best part of the mobile version of Minecraft is its sandbox gameplay, where kids have the hands-on ability to create living worlds from natural resources. Looking at the app as a series of worlds to manipulate, each with different needs and challenges, gives you and your students the chance to use the game for studying geology, geography, math, and storytelling. For example, you might ask kids to build different geometric solids and calculate the surface area and volume of each. Or kids could compare and contrast Minecraft's biomes and geological strata with those of Earth.

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In the mobile version of the popular PC-building game Minecraft, kids gather basic resources (in cube form, dirt, stone, water, and trees) to assemble more complex tools, materials, and structures. Up to five kids can work together over local Wi-Fi, making collaboration an option. Two gameplay modes accommodate distinct experiences: creative (think abundance and peace) and survival (think scarcity and monsters).

At start-up, kids can begin a new game (which is visible to others as a Wi-Fi game) or join an existing Wi-Fi game. Then kids choose between creative and survival modes. Minecraft builds a unique world for each game. Players can also input "seeds" –- special codes found online –- to generate specific worlds. Kids use a virtual thumbstick to control navigation and swipe, tap, and hold to interact with the game world. In survival mode, kids collect basic resources to build more complex products and structures. They'll also need to withstand the monster-infested nights. Creative mode fills kids' inventories with an infinite supply of all the materials and tools available in the game and turns off the night.

Though smaller in scope than its PC predecessor, the mobile version of Minecraft preserves wonder and delight in exploration, discovery, and making. As kids explore the game's unique worlds, new possibilities for creativity and strategy meet them at every turn. Deciding what and where to build lets kids set goals and shape gameplay, and it's crazy fun to boot. You can suggest more specific goals and guidelines to address a diverse range of classroom objectives. Unfortunately, the limitations of Minecraft are the very things that allow for mobile access; the game's short viewing distance and sticky, thumbed controls suffer in comparison with the PC game's scope and user interface.

Overall Rating


Can be adapted to a wide range of learning objectives and a great investment for promoting collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. The PC version offers more opportunities for more complex and sophisticated engagement.


Lots of opportunity for imaginative creation here, especially for builder/tinkerer types. Also great for layering on top of in- or out-of-school learning.


Recipes for creating in-game items are built into its crafting interface. Creative mode is relatively anxiety-free, but surviving the first night of survival mode can be challenging for novice players.

Common Sense reviewer
Chad Sansing Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Patrick B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Coachella Valley High School
Thermal, United States
Minecraft - Pocket Edition is an unsuspecting and revolutionary app bursting with raw potential and 21st century skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
Minecraft - Pocket Edition for iOS is one of the best classroom apps for gamifying your classroom and fostering 21st century skills. Its power lies in its potential; your students can do anything they want with this app. It fosters communication and collaboration as students assume roles and responsibilities within their team, relay information about their Minecraft world to each other, and together create something that would not have been possible individually. It fosters creativity as students select ...
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