Minecraft

Spiraling sandbox of adventure and creation gets kids to dig deep

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 40 reviews

Privacy rating

Not yet rated
Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

3–12

Subjects & Skills

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

Great for

Game-Based Learning, Instructional Design, PBL, SEL

Price: Paid
Platforms: Linux, Mac, Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Pros: Delivers open, creative, and purposeful play supported by frequent updates.

Cons: Open world can lead to power struggles and community problems without a shared code of conduct.

Bottom Line: An irresistible and seemingly limitless incubator for 21st-century skills that, with a little guidance, can chart new courses for learning.

Minecraft is super flexible, so just about any classroom can find a way to make it work for the content. It's engrossing, and students are likely to work long hours on projects both at home and at school, so be wary of time management as well as issues -- such as "griefing" -- that may arise from at-home and potentially unsupervised use. While playing in class, teachers can help students negotiate norms, roles, and responsibilities and foster trust and a sense of consequence for individuals' actions within a community.

Students can use Minecraft as a portfolio, creating structures and systems that model topics or concepts covered in class. In a math classroom, students can tackle problems using a set number of blocks (the basic unit of Minecraft) or calculate area and volume. For writing practice, students can keep explorers' journals or compare and contrast the biomes and geologies of their Minecraft worlds with those of their home states. Teachers who are looking for a more structured experience for students can try Microsoft: Education Edition.

Minecraft is a sandbox game that can be adapted to fit nearly any objective or subject, with lessons lasting as short as one period or the entire year. Players collect and combine resources into new, useful items that enrich gameplay and help further exploration and creativity. Although it has an "End" zone for players who want to fight the game's boss (a dragon), Minecraft has no plot -- the story is up to the player to define. Depending on what players choose to build, they'll task themselves with collecting specific resources necessary to craft items that can help them build cooler and/or more useful things, or explore. Each completed project inevitably leads to a new one with new resource and item needs, sending the player deeper into the world. Selecting Creative Mode, as opposed to the default Survival Mode, removes the need to collect resources, the monsters, and health and hunger meters, allowing players to build easily and in peace. Creative Mode is probably best for younger students who might get too distracted by monsters or lessons requiring complex builds in a short amount of time. Other modes include Adventure, Hardcore, and Spectator. 

To get started, players create accounts on Minecraft.net, purchase a license, and then download and install the game. Players can create a brand-new unique world on their own or join other people's worlds (via local area network or hosted servers), fulfilling both solitary and social players. With an extra paid subscription, Minecraft Realms allows players to host their own world (on a server that Minecraft runs) and invite whomever they'd like to join.

Since each new world begs to be explored and reshaped, Minecraft cultivates 21st-century skills: goal-setting, collaboration, creativity, design and systems thinking, and engineering. The game empowers students to experiment and make mistakes through trial and error. Teachers should be aware, however, that the game's emphasis on open creation, collaboration, and communication also means that students playing together can get into conflicts or get distracted and off task. If framed less as problems and more as opportunities, these issues can be made into powerful learning experiences that guide students toward successful and respectful collaboration.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

Students have free rein over one-of-a-kind worlds bolstered by deep customization options and frequent updates that add new challenges and content.

Pedagogy

Design thinking, problem-solving, and resilience will stay with students, but specific content-knowledge transfer is dependent on how classes use the game.

Support

Lacking a robust built-in tutorial or manual, Minecraft can be intimidating, but this also promotes peer learning both among students and in the larger online community.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Students Programing Inside of a Video Game!

My overall opinion on using this resource as a teaching tool is that it is nearly perfect. It can keep the students engaged in a never-ending sandbox where they can create whatever they desire. All the teacher needs to do is to be the bridge that allows them to connect the two. Even long after the camp was over, the kids I know who were programming within Minecraft were still looking up different lines of code to write in order to make different and more complicated things within the video game. What's interesting is that some people even use this opportunity to make money and create different actions for other players to enjoy. There is an applicable sense to the idea of creating new programs in Minecraft. It's great that students want to go out of their way to work on this project, to the point where homework doesn't even feel like homework anymore. And as a teacher, when the students are actively engaged and want to learn more about the topic, that's all you can ask for as a teacher.

Continue reading

Privacy Rating

This tool has not yet been rated by our privacy team. Learn more about our privacy ratings