Inspiration and learning in video games
Teachers and children played “Minecraft” together for the first time at a Beaconsfield school.
As an educator, last week I got the chance to play with Minecraft. I was 16 and I was playing it with my best friend’s older brother. They invited me to play with them. My friend and I played for a few hours.
It was awesome.
For people that know about Minecraft, the idea of having teens and younger children play a video game together is odd to say the least. But it is a game that children are obsessed with, and the influence of this gaming culture can be felt long after they stop playing. The interest doesn’t die down when they stop playing.
“Minecraft” is a multigenerational experience, not just for teens but for adults as well. It’s both fun and educational. It’s both a learning tool and a romantic experience. It’s everywhere. It’s on our cell phones, our coffee tables, and I actually just had one friend explain to me that she used to work in a candy store and sometimes she had a six inch stack of Minecraft blocks in the window. It made sense! Why, even in an age where the Internet can be used to distract us from focus and crucial learning moments, there were two people with six inch blocks in the window – me included – focused on the game.
As a teacher who has been researching “Minecraft” for my book, I got the chance to play with a 14-year-old student as well. I was amazed at how she was able to solve some of the Minecraft puzzles I was assigned for my PS4 test. This past week, I got the chance to teach the game to third and fourth grade class at a PS 6 in Beaconsfield and it was just as exciting to me as it was to those young students.
“Minecraft” is a game, not a cultural phenomenon. No one has discovered it and it seems like it will never become what “Minecraft” was for me. But teachers who can create learning opportunities in it, who can create themed lessons around it to motivate and engage the student, and who can capture that moment at the end of the time spent, can take a great lesson and a great teacher can turn it into a full-blown interactive learning experience. “Minecraft” was not something I could predict and I don’t look at it as “teaching an artificial scarcity of things” like it is. In fact, “Minecraft” made me realize I could use my gifts to teach something, something that was exciting and demanding and interesting. In this case, it was a game.
I can’t predict how the world will go with Minecraft. We’re hearing more and more about genomics (or figuring out how to upload a human brain), and science and technology is becoming exciting again. Will science and technology (which already uses Minecraft) be the next way to engage children? Does education need to change to incorporate the first gamer?
I don’t know – I wouldn’t put a bet on it.
What I do know is that it was a blast to do.