Minecraft in Classrooms

by talkbackty on Apr 14, 2012

Part 13 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. To see all entries, click here.
This is another post in my series zen and the art of teaching. You can see them all here.

Minecraft is the greatest educational tool that has never been used. That's because it is new and a videogame, and if there's anything the educational system hates more than things that are new it is videogames. Minecraft's simplicity is what makes it so compelling. It is basically a version of legos. It lets the player build anything and everything they can imagine. Minecraft is by far the easiest tool that lets a person's imagination be seen by others.

Players could build a cathederal.

Or recreate a set from Lord of the Rings.
The game can be individual or played in groups. As a history teacher I may ask my students to build a French village. They may decide a village isn't challenging enough.
Limitless possibilities rarely present themselves in reality. In Minecraft the only limiting factors are a player's ability and dedication. Reality continually tells people not to try, to take the easy road, to get by instead of thrive. That's why high school is treated like a painstaking process students must survive instead of an opportunity to learn and grow. But what if by changing the manner in which problems are presented we can change the attitude of the participants.

Schools teach facts so that students can take tests where they can answer questions. What schools should teach is the ability for students to answer the question "what do you want to do?" Because when someone knows the answer to that question, all other questions become easier to answer. How do I do that thing? What are the challenges that will present themselves? How can I deal with those challenges?

Currently, schools try throwing a lot of tools at children and expect them to go into the world and know how to use them. Schools teach algebra in case you need algebra, writing in case you need writing, science in case you need science. But this is the worst possible way to go about learning. We have all had that thought, "Why in the world are they trying to teach me this garbage?"

When the first question is "what do you want to do" the second question is always, "how?" The how is what should guide the learning process. How do I become an astronaut? Science, mathematics, diet and exercise. By starting with "what" students will become self-motivated to figure out how. And self-motivation is the only lasting attribute any school can hope to teach.

Schools need to turn away from their roots as places where a person goes to seek facts and become places where people go to learn how to solve problems. Minecraft is a problem-generating simulation that allows for infinite creativity in the player's responses. But, above all else, Minecraft is a game that begins with the simplest of questions, "what do you want to do?" As in life, if you never answer that question then nothing else will work as well as it could.

Minecraft can be student's testing ground for the simple, driving questions that are so important to answer. And with those answers, they can create entire worlds.
If you have 20 minutes watch this TED talk by a public school teacher who presents a fantastic example of what I am trying to say.