Skip to main content
Building the way to a more exciting education
MONDAY, AUGUST 04, 2014 10:13 AM

Despite the misconceptions many have about video games, the media form, which is also legally considered art, comes with a lot of potential benefits. Educators have been making a fine example of this fact. As teachers have free reign to teach Common Core State Standards in whatever creative way they can think of, some have turned to the virtual world for help. Though game developers have created numerous programs that fit into educational platforms, today we'll focus on the phenomenon that is Minecraft.

Building a new (digital) world
Minecraft was made by independent video game developer Markus "Notch" Persson. Mojang later published the game. Players have access to digital building blocks they can use to create just about anything they can imagine. The game takes place in an open world and has no real tasks for players to accomplish, though they can play on numerous game modes. It's the epitome of unstructured play. Think of Minecraft as a virtual Lego world. Since its launch, Minecraft has garnered millions of players, some of whom have gone on to build entire universes filled with detailed structures. For instance, fans have recreated cities from their favorite TV shows, imagined their own ancient ruins or recreated landmarks such as a space shuttle launch site.

What does Minecraft have to do with education?
As you can see, Minecraft is widely unstructured, which means the player can form just about any experience he or she wants. Teachers can even use the game to create educational lessons. According to NPR, that's exactly what Jason Hubler, a fifth grade teacher from Louisville, Kentucky, did. He set up a version of Minecraft for his class to use. Students built a computer city, populating their corner of the Minecraft universe with coffee shops, stores and houses.

While students enjoy moving their avatars through the space and inventing their own digital classrooms, Hubler is able to use the game to teach. He can build a grid (which fits right into the aesthetic look of the game) and teach his students about mathematical data-plotting concepts. Additionally, students can chat with Hubler, if he's online, outside of school hours. Students ask questions or work with one another to complete the problems Hubler assigns.

Minecraft for teachers
Educators who like the idea of using Minecraft in the classroom but don't know how to implement it have some help. A group of teachers worked with Mojang to publish a version of the game tailored to educators. MinecraftEdu features numerous tools that help teachers use the game to build lesson plans and execute fun hands-on activities. The game's influence on education just goes to show that classrooms can be creative and meet the Standards.