‘It’s only ever been a success’: Teachers hail Minecraft in the classroom

Teachers have hailed Minecraft as a key learning tool in the classroom that can help children from across the world work together.

Education experts from across the UK told a special Microsoft event in Edinburgh that the popular block-building game can aid learning when used alongside traditional teaching methods.

“We always start with the curriculum,” said Tracy Broadbent, ICT technician for Manor Park CE School in Dorchester. “We’ve never started with Minecraft; we always start with what we’re already doing and then see if we can use Minecraft. Then, if we decide to use it, the children have 30 to 40 minutes of screen time only, but the learning they get from it lasts a lot longer.

“There is no negative reason for using Minecraft. It’s only ever been successful for us.”

Broadbent, who used Minecraft to recreate life in the 17th century and the Great Fire of London, was joined at the event by a host of speakers as well as local schoolchildren, who took part in workshops to learn how to code using a new version of Minecraft.

Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a free coding tutorial for students and teachers, lets users make their own world in the popular block-building title and program the rules. The online-only program, which will be available in 50 languages, has been released to mark Hour of Code, a global initiative that aims to get more youngsters interested in technology and coding.

Stephen Reid, founder of Immersive Minds, which uses technology as a tool for learning, told the audience in Scotland it was impossible to argue that Minecraft didn’t help children engage in the classroom when so many of them use it.

“Minecraft is paving the way for games-based learning, but games are only part of the answer. Kids should use it along with books,” he said.

“Millions [of children] play it [Minecraft], and there are not many tools you can say that about. Not everyone uses a tablet or is a writer or artist, but every child is playing Minecraft.

“Adults are afraid that they will be judged by the marks their kids get, but kids don’t care about that, they care about learning. If you can have kids in Poland and kids in Scotland working together, which we have done in Minecraft, that’s real collaboration.

“Maybe kids are telling us how they would like to learn by using Minecraft and maybe we should listen.”

James Protheroe, assistant head teacher at Darran Park School in Rhonda, Wales, created a global competition for Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday to see which school could create the best Minecraft world based on the author’s books.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be great to design a literary unit to use in classrooms that contains reading and writing embedded throughout,” he said.

“The planning part was crucial. A lot of the work was the usual literacy work they would normally do but the kids knew they were working towards a purpose and sharing it globally, that was the stimulus for them. They knew it had to be good quality. The quality of the writing came with building in Minecraft, it wasn’t about the building itself. When the building finished, the kids kept writing. That was really impressive.

“Minecraft is a collaboration tool, and it is only a tool. It’s got to be planned for within a broader learning experience. For this Roald Dahl project, my kids only used Minecraft twice in three weeks.”

In Dundee, children have recreated their entire school in Minecraft so primary school pupils can virtually walk around the site before they join. The move has increased confidence among new starters and helped them settle in quicker.

Already used in 10,000 classrooms across the world, Minecraft: Education Edition allows pupils to collaborate easily inside the game. Teachers can also take photos of work and create plans, guides and chalkboards to help with a range of subjects, from maths and physics to history and languages.

Sample lessons include “City Planning for Population Growth”, “Exploring Factors and Multiples” and “Effects of Deforestation”.

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Minecraft lesson plans