Digging Deep: Kids, Minecraft, & Education

This summer Camp EDMO™ is harnessing the power of Minecraft to tackle a couple of exciting subjects.  In our Mod Maker and Mod Coder programs, campers will learn the fundamentals of coding as they program their own custom modifications to Minecraft.  While in our EDMOtopia and PROtopia sessions, campers will be working together to create a digital community, practicing SEL skills like communication, collaboration, task management, empathy, and more.

Did you know that there are even more skills and topics that Minecraft can help teach?  As it turns out, Minecraft has been picked up by teachers around the world and used to present a huge range of subjects.  There’s even an official educational version of Minecraft, originally called “MinecraftEdu” that is now being revamped by Microsoft as the “Minecraft Education Edition”.

Minecraft has an edge on traditional educational games in several ways:  One big factor is that Minecraft didn’t start off as an educational game; it became massively popular as a normal, “just for fun” video game.  When using Minecraft in the classroom, the engagement factor is built-in because the program is something that many of the students already use in their free time, and almost all of them have at least heard of it.  Another factor is the game’s “sandbox” nature.  Most educational games are built to teach one specific subject.  In contrast, in Minecraft the world can be reshaped (just like sand) with the goals entirely up to the player, the teachers, and the curriculum developers; so they are able to use the game and make it fit a wide variety of lessons.

Here are just a few examples of the ways that Minecraft is being used in classrooms:

  • Mathematics:  Many math concepts are already at work in the game, such as ratios of materials used in crafting recipes, and calculating perimeter, area, and volume when planning a large construction.
  • History: Students are given the opportunity to explore a digital representation of ancient Rome, colonial-era New England, and many other locations! In these communities they are able to interact with computer-controlled characters that provide them with stories about their lives and then give them a quest to learn more about history!
  • Computer Engineering:  EDMO Pro Redstone Engineering campers last summer learned first hand that Minecraft’s redstone systems can be used to create logic gates that actually represent real-world computer systems.
  • Economics:  Having students work towards a goal in a large digital community with limited resources is an excellent gateway to open up conversations about supply and demand, exchange rates, and currency.
  • Government:  Speaking of digital communities, planning out and organizing a classroom’s Minecraft community can allow campers to explore different forms of government and law.

For even more information and examples on the educational potential of Minecraft, check out the Minecraft Education Edition homepage, as well as this excellent video by the PBS Idea Channel.

**Today’s blog was brought to you by Joe Allington, who is excited to be working with Camp EDMO™ to bring game-based learning to more students.  In his spare time Joe enjoys cooking, hiking, developing alternate realities, watching movies, and (of course) playing video games.**