Thursday, 9 July 2015

More about Minecraft

If you know children aged between about six and 14, then you have probably heard of Minecraft.

Minecraft is a digital game, a popular cultural phenomenon and a powerful platform for learning. It is one of the most successful digital games of all time and continues to grow in popularity.

Educators have a great interest in Minecraft because children and young people seem to be driven to learn new knowledge and skills to play the game with a passion that they often lack for their everyday schooling.

On the surface Minecraft appears to be a rather “blocky”, “sandbox” game. The objective is to collect materials (mine) to create new items (craft). Players can choose to fight monsters, if they wish, but the primary task is to design, build and share ever-more elaborate structures.

Even young children can quickly progress from building a simple survival hut to creating impressive structures. For instance, the year three girls in a research project called Serious Play rebuilt their school in Minecraft. To achieve this they had to use a range of design, maths, art and geography skills.

Like Lego, Minecraft is an imagination system for applying design possibilities and then displaying the outcomes for others to see. Unlike Lego, though, Minecraft allows creative media production on a massive scale.

The eagerness Minecraft players have for learning about the game is an eagerness to be involved in an immersive digital culture. They aim to communicate within, through and about the game. They are rewarded for knowing how to achieve things in the game and for sharing this knowledge with others.

In this sense, Minecraft is not so much a game, but a social network that values and circulates expertise.

There are many questions to be asked about the use of Minecraft in schools. It is important to ask how teachers can become skilled enough to implement the game in authentic ways and to avoid taking the fun and complex learning out of gameplay.

In addition, there have been no studies to date about whether playing Minecraft increases student performance in specific subject areas.

Despite these challenges, there is no doubt something is going on with Minecraft and learning. Young Minecraft players have a passion for acquiring knowledge and skills in new and complex ways that teachers should not ignore.

The ConversationMichael Dezuanni is Associate professor, Creative Industries Faculty I Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology.

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