I’ve heard heard the buzz about MinecraftEdu for about a year, now, but didn’t know much more about it than that it was Minecraft that had been “teacher-fied.” I’d looked into it out of curiosity, but never had an opportunity to actually deploy it in a classroom. When I was asked to create an Exploration Course (2-week special activity at the end of our school year), I thought that this was an ideal situation to explore a number of questions I had about the platform, which I will explore below. I ended up using MinecraftEdu within the context of a Systems Thinking course, where we explored elements of Systems Thinking through physical group activities, basic coding through the Land of Turtles Map for MinecraftEdu, and then an application portion where the students played a Survival Map and could use the coding they’d learned in the context of a collaborative map of Minecraft.
Technical: My first question was this: How much technical know-how did I need to run a server, could I run it off of my computer, and how much lag (skipping and degradation of play quality) would there be? Turns out it was relatively easy to set up (installation to first play through), and once it was set up, “running the server” could be distilled down into a 5-step cheat sheet that anyone could follow, regardless of technical acumen.
Age-appropriateness: Most of what I’ve read about MinecraftEdu is targeted towards ES or MS students, but I had 9th and 10th graders, so I was curious as to how that would go and whether they would enjoy the platform and remain engaged. In the end, they enjoyed themselves and were engaged throughout, but a lot of that was on me as a teacher to create age-appropriate challenges for them.
Educational value: Ultimately, I wanted to use this to teach coding concepts to the underclassmen, and I wanted to make sure that it was effective. The map we used, the Land of Turtles, did a good job of introducing our students to basic coding and loops (For and While Loops) through a series of in-game challenges.
Summation: MinecraftEdu is a platform on which you can build a wide variety of lessons. Its efficacy is dependent on the maps you choose, and whether or not you can use the available resources in a way that is challenging and appropriate to the age your working with and the subject you are teaching.
This is a great resource for people who are invested in it and will put in the effort to make it work in your context. It’s strength lies in its adaptability, not how immediately effective it is out of the box. I was surprised at how much time I had to spend out of class to prepare for the next day’s lesson to make sure that everyone had things to do. That said, I had a class of 12 students with widely varying levels of coding experience (some WAY more than me, and some brand new beginners), and each of them were engaged and took something away from the course.
It depends on what maps you use. The ones that come to mind are focused on Humanities, Science, Math, and Coding, but I’m sure there are a lot more out there.
Do I plan to use it?
If I get the opportunity, I’d love to use it. I’ll be teaching PE next year, so that is probably the one class where I struggle to think of a Minecraft application.
Commitment and Learning Curve
Commitment: Medium-High. It’s an awesome learning environment that can be an amazing resource for teaching a number of subjects, but you have to make it work for you, which takes time.
Learning Curve: Pretty low, particularly if you have already played Minecraft. If you haven’t, and need to learn how to move in the game, then there are more things to learn.
Best for ES MS or HS?
Mainly ES/MS, but I think it has applications in the HS
You need one server license per class, and then licenses for each student. The cost covers the cost of the game, though, which would usually be more expensive if purchased individually.
Server License: $49
Student License: $18