It’s a new year and maybe you feel like trying something new in your classroom. Maybe that thing is Minecraft. It’s scary though because you don’t know the game yourself. I know that’s how I felt a year ago when I first ventured into the world of Minecraft with my students.
Where do you start and how do you make the most of the resources available in- and outside your classroom?
Here’s a quick guide on how to get started with Minecraft: Education Edition if you’re not a gamer yourself.
Let go of control
You will never be better than your students at playing Minecraft. And that’s okay.
My unofficial first time trying Minecraft in the classroom was in January 2016. I call it unofficial because I wasn’t that involved and because only a few students used it. We were starting a dystopian writing project for 6th grade theme day. The students had to write the first chapter of a dystopian novel and present it with Office Mix as a sort of audio book with drawings and pictures. I had a few students I was concerned about. I wasn’t sure they would be able to engage in the writing. They rarely engaged in anything – except for Minecraft. Every time they had a spare 5 minutes they were playing. I the other theme day teachers that I thought we should let them use Minecraft for their presentation and when I saw the fear in their faces I promised to take full responsibility if it didn’t work out. I told the boys that if they wanted to use the game they had to figure it out themselves as I didn’t know how to play the game. I had just let go of control – and it went so well. It was amazing to see the collaboration and communication going on the have the text and the build add up. Sometimes the build was writing the story, sometimes the story was creating the build. The boys were more engaged than I had ever seen them before. After this project, I knew I had to get more into Minecraft.
My first official time using Minecraft in the classroom was in May 2016. I had been at the Global Educator Exchange a few months before and had met some truly inspirational educators (James Protheroe, Stephen Reid and Brian Aspinall) that had convinced me to go back to school and use Minecraft. I had signed up for the beta of Minecraft: Education Edition and could hardly sleep the night before the first use of the game. I had no clue what I was doing, but through all those Minecraft Tuesdays in May I got comfortable with the fact that my students were better at using the game than I was. I also found out that I didn’t have to be an expert at playing the game to be able to create great lessons.
Use the resources available
This past year the Minecraft: Education Edition website launched and it’s packed with ‘get started’-videos and tutorials. With the most recent update the game is even born with the tutorial world.
I learned so much from playing in the tutorial world. From how to get around to how to craft. Most importantly I got a feel for the Minecraft language. You don’t have to be fluent in Minecraft, but knowing the basics let your students know that you are trying.
As soon as you try the game and get a better feeling of it, you will see endless possibilities.
Make new friends
Get involved in the MinecraftEdu community. Follow the hashtags: #MinecraftEdu #MCEEDPD and #MinecraftMentor.
I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for the instant support I felt from some of my now fellow Minecraft Mentors. I remember posting a picture of my first build back in March. I had built a house (or more like a box) that didn’t have a roof and a flamingo (as big as the house). People encouraged me to keep going, which is one of the biggest reasons why I am where I am today.
#MinecraftEdu: Everything that is related to using Minecraft in the classroom. Also, the hashtag used at the weekly MinecraftEdu Twitter chats.
#MCEECPD: Used with quick and easy how to’s.
#MinecraftMentor: We are 60 Global Minecraft Mentors all over the world, so chances are that there is someone near you who is ready to help.
Use your students
Your students are the experts, so that’s a great resource right inside your classroom. Use them to get ideas, have them teach you and have them build for you – they love it!
Student ideas: I often ask my students for ideas on how to use Minecraft in the classroom. One of the ideas was doing a presentation about our city in Minecraft for Skypeathon. I didn’t think we’d have time to get it remotely done since we only had 90 mins to prep, but the kids managed to build our school, the cathedral, the harbor and Viking ship museum and Roskilde Festival
Let your students teach you: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I do it all the time and my students love it. They also love seeing if I’m making progress with my builds. I recently started a Minecraft after school club where I play with my students.
Have your students build for you: It’s no secret that with my Minecraft skills it would take me hours to build anything. I recently needed a Middle Ages fortress set in a desert for a history lesson. My students were happy to help and got it done faster than I ever would be able to.
Just get started
It doesn’t matter whether you just let your students play for fun and watch how amazingly they communicate and collaborate or you grab a finished lesson plan and world from the website and dive into learning immediately the important thing is that you do this even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone and letting your students be the experts.
I teach 4th – 6th grade math and history at Skt. Josefs Skole, Roskilde in Denmark and have done so since 2008.
Last year I participated in Microsoft’s Global Educator Exchange in Budapest and have been using Minecraft: Education Edition since then. I have been a Global Minecraft Mentor since July 2016.