In the first chapter of the eBook, Play This, Learn That by Chris Haskell, Ed.D we are introduced to the idea of using commercial games in an educational setting. Game based learning engages learners in some type of activity they find fun in order to reach a desired learning outcome. In an effective game based environment, the learner works toward a goal, makes choices along the way, and experiences consequences for their choices and actions in a risk-free environment while actively learning and practicing the right way to do things. The participant is highly motivated to think critically and perform actions in an environment that can eventually be applied to real life situations. Game based learning should be an essential component in today’s education system because it transitions learning from being a boring, passive activity to something engaging and fun.
Minecraft is one example of a program that can be used for Game Based Learning. It is a simple game with blocks like Legos that players can use as they wish to build, dig holes, or tear stuff down. It’s simplicity makes it easy for even the youngest person to learn which makes it non-threatening. It is also flexible enough to adapt to all types of learners no matter their skill level. Minecraft provides a visual representation that lets the user see his or her progress providing instant feedback and evaluation. It allows the user to advance in different directions, take risks, evaluate what they have created, and make changes. Minecraft is so open-ended that it has the potential to be applied in some fashion to any subject matter.
Minecraft and Minecraft.edu are very similar. Minecraft. edu hold the same appeal as the original, but with some added features. Minecraft.edu allows schools to purchase licenses at a cheaper rate. Schools can host their own server and educators can control the users and player settings and manage the worlds. Minecraft.edu also has additional build blocks that are not available in the regular Minecraft game. It also offers a growing collection of activities and lessons created by teachers. In addition, teachers can save their worlds and share them with other teachers thus saving each other from reinventing the wheel.
The “sandbox” play that both Minecraft and Minecraft.edu offer allows for the enrichment of any kind of learning experience. While reading, Play This, Learn That, I learned how two educators, Glenn Irvin and James Pike, used Minecraft in their classroom. Glenn Irvin was able to use Minecraft in his Spanish class. By using this tool, his class was better able to immerse themselves into learning the Spanish culture and the language through the virtual environment of Minecraft. Likewise, James Pike used Minecraft in this third grade classroom to teach area and perimeter. By thinking creatively and building in Minecraft the students are able to understand these concepts and formulas in a more tangible way.
While it may seem like a simple game of building blocks, Minecraft can be transformed into a quality educational experience for students. Minecraft allows students the opportunity to creatively make decisions, problem solve, reflect and full immerse themselves in any learning experience.