How I Use It
Our Grade 6 students built an ancient Roman village together. Students learned about Roman culture and history as they built. After students created individual and small-group residences, they collaborated on larger public structures like bath houses. We're lucky to have a wonderful social studies teacher who turned just about every Minecraft moment into a teachable moment that encouraged students to discuss facets of Roman life.
In the beginning of the project, the teacher created furrows in the ground to designate the places where students would build houses. He described the engineering and religious traditions Romans associated with these earthen furrows.
Building individual residences enabled students to learn about social classes in Rome. From size to building material to geographic location, what were the key differences in the way plebians and patricians built their homes? What could their homes tell us about their lives?
Discussions continued as more facets of the village took shape. Creating the village together and having their avatars walk through it and interact with other avatars brought this learning experience to life.
The success of this project makes us think about even more ways in which we could use Minecraft. Could we use it for three-dimensional art projects? We've read that it's possible to use a 3D printer to create physical printouts of the structures one creates in Minecraft. Does this mean it could become the computer-assisted design tool of choice for our engineering projects (like building boats)? The ability to create avatars and have them interact in a virtual world opens the door to more activities and simulations in language arts and social studies classes, too.
MinecraftEDU let our students build and collectively inhabit a three-dimensional world. Many students described immersing themselves in this world as one of the most exciting things they did last year. Because Minecraft is a popular video game, many students had already used Minecraft outside of class. The educator tools that came with MinecraftEDU enabled us to keep Minecraft fun while eliminating distractions and maintaining online safety. (The world in which students interacted was accessible only to our students and teachers.)
As an interesting side note, we observed that most of the students who had used Minecraft before our activity were male. By the end of the activity, male and female students were equally passionate about Minecraft.