Let there be Minecraft!
One of the best perks about being a teacher is having FUN at work, and today was one of those days. I will admit that I was somewhat nervous to rollout Minecraft: Education Edition with my students. I've never used a commercial game for instruction before, let alone a virtual world. However, I've experienced the incredible potential for learning through interacting in a creative sandbox through my graduate students, and I am determined to let my students feel the same joy as they build understanding of content. The first step in that journey toward implementation was introducing kids to Tutorial World II.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I've learned when it comes to quest-based learning is that every quest needs to require a deliverable. The deliverable gives teachers a way to assess the student's learning and provides a jumping off point for the type of feedback that can hone understanding and/or confirm the concept connections that are made. So, I am applying this thinking to Minecraft as well by requiring a deliverable as a result of gameplay. Today, students logged on to their Minecraft-ready devices and generated a new Tutorial World II. Then, they logged on to Google Classroom to pick up their copy of the Google Doc deliverable. In the Google Doc, they documented their gameplay by taking screen captures of specific places, people, or accomplishments.
The pairing of Minecraft and Google Docs worked well for the class, but most especially for the students who have little gaming experience. Though the Tutorial World II has many visual cues, including posters, signs, and boards with instructions, students still benefitted from the cues they received from the Doc. For example, students were able to anticipate what they should be looking to do or see next in the game, and that helped them stay on track. For the most experienced Minecrafters - and I discovered that I have some real MC rockstars in my classes - the Doc helped them to stay focused, too. There was a lot of temptation for experienced gamers to move off course, so having the task of screen capturing certain things was beneficial. The MC rockstars finished the Tutorial World first, as expected, but that actually led to a pretty cool development. The early-finishers just sort of naturally started mentoring the kids who were the newest to gaming. Watching the numerous helpful exchanges going on around the room, I issued a general invitation to wander the room the lend assistance as needed. The net effect was decreased anxiety in a few of the newbies and an overall collaborative spirit.
Here's a clip of how gameplay went today:
If you're a teacher looking to use Tutorial World II with your students, I'm happy to share the Google Doc deliverable I designed for my students. One of the challenges of implementing Minecraft is the fact that my students need to put aside their usual Chromebooks and utilize a roving cart of Minecraft-ready devices (laptops that run Windows 10). At the top of the document, there are instructions for how to take screen captures, because my students ordinarily use Chrome. So, other teachers could simply substitute their own screen capture instructions or remove them entirely.
Author: Jessica Pack
California Teacher of the Year. CUE Outstanding Educator 2015. DIGICOM Learning Teacher Consultant. 6th Grade Teacher. Passionate about gamification, Minecraft, digital story-telling, and fostering student voices.