For good reason Minecraft Education Edition is exploding in popularity and landing in classrooms all over the world. Not just a game, Minecraft Education Edition is a platform that allows students to freely explore, imagine and create through virtual environments and collaborative worlds. It’s no surprise that Australian educators are rapidly uncovering the pedagogical potential of this platform and providing opportunities for their students to be immersed in interactive virtual learning experiences through Minecraft Education Edition linked explicitly to the Australian Curriculum.
In a recent webinar, we asked four Australian innovative educators to share their experience using Minecraft Education Edition in their classrooms. Not only did we hear how engaged the students were in their learning, most importantly they explain the synergies between Minecraft Education Edition and The Australian Curriculum Learning Areas and The General Capabilities.
Humanities & Social Sciences: Civics and Citizenship
For Jason Milner (Teacher at Northholm Grammar School in NSW) it’s important to always start with learning outcomes first and consider the best technology tool or platform that will facilitate this. As teachers we are always exploring cross curricular links, so for his unit on Democracy, Minecraft Education Edition was more than just covering the History Curriculum, it also enabled the integration of Geography (students investigated change in the natural Australian environment), Literacy (comprehension a range of text in different media and technologies) and well as Mathematics (position and mapping using grid referencing and x and y coordinates).
Jason set the task for his students to design and create two different worlds. One that demonstrated a dystopian society and another that represented a democratic society. Students had used the texts that they had been reading in their literacy sessions about dystopian and democratic society and were able to recreate and model their understanding of this in the world of Minecraft. Having students use the screen record function in PowerPoint and tour their world whilst verbally comparing the two societal concepts provided Jason with valuable formative information about what students had learned from this experience.
“As this was my first time using Minecraft in the classroom, I was initially fearful that collaboration between students would decrease with being engrossed in their screens as they build in Minecraft. The virtual collaboration provided quite the opposite and was a great stimulus for supporting team work and dialogue in my physical classroom.” Jason Milner
Humanities & Social Sciences: Australian History
Move over dioramas, hello virtual worlds! An early adopter and keen Minecrafter himself, Laurens Derks (Teacher and Leader at Abbottsleigh School in NSW) is finding Minecraft Education Edition and the classroom tools has made it even easier for fellow teachers to adopt Game Based Learning into their practice too.
“Thanks to the Minecraft Education Edition integration into Office 365, Teachers now have a powerful tool to create and simulate worlds and environments for our students to discover and build understanding of key concepts.” Laurens Derks
Early Settlers of Australia
Students in Grade 4 had completed a topic learning about the Early Settlement of Australia and were learning about building materials as part of a Science Inquiry. With access to an unlimited inventory (building materials) in Minecraft Education Edition, students were invited to join a collaborative world taking on the role as those who had arrived on the First Fleet. Challenged to recreate dwellings and infrastructure of the first white settlement, students were required to justify and explain how an Early Settler had access to particular building materials and the processes required to build with it. Laurens noticed that in this setting, students who were not traditionally academically strong, shone as leaders, great collaborators and peer mentors for others during the virtual build.
Victorian Gold Rush
During a Grade 5 unit on the Victorian Gold Rush, teachers used Minecraft Education Edition to create the basics of a gold mining settlement. Students were immersed in this environment and encouraged to act as miners searching for gold. A key understanding for the students was to understand the different ‘classes’ that emerged during the time of the Gold Rush, so an economy was established to model this. Some students were poor miners and others with rich. Rich miners were provided with high quality tools and inventory to help them with their mining – and “we found that the students started to demonstrate real life behaviours where by they would cluster in class groups, plan acts of theft and even sabotage other ‘richer’ players in order to survive in simulation. This was a fantastic opportunity for the students to gain a sense of how and why people behaved during this time” – Laurens Derks. In this example, learning became and experience.
ANZACS (Mapping and 3D Printing)
Traditional learning in History often places students as consumers of information. For Lynne Telfer (Teacher at The Grange P-12 College and M:EE evangelist) Minecraft:Education Edition has enriched the experience of learning about the ANZACs providing the chance for students to work as creators to collaboratively build and print a model of ANZAC Cove using mapping tools and structure blocks to 3D print Minecraft Education Editions artefacts.
“I have taught my students about The ANZACs for many years. This is the first time, even as a teacher, that I have felt immersed in the story and captured a sense of what it would have felt like to be at ANZAC Cove.” Lynne Telfer
Digital Technologies Curriculum
With the integration Code Builder in Minecraft Education Edition, Lynne Telfer’s students have been exploring ways to program their Code Agent powered by Microsoft Make Code. This requires students to access their computational thinking and develop a set of algorithms (set of instructions) for the Code Agent to create with structure blocks within Minecraft Education Edition. The Code Agent is a fantastic way to expose students to both visual programming and free coding in Java Script. Students experience the benefits of its application through the designing their own commands and solving efficiency challenges when building digital artifacts.
Learning in a collaborative digital environment
Like any technology, simply allowing students to access Minecraft Education Edition in the classroom will not automatically engage students in purposeful learning. For Chris Cividino (Callaghan College, Wallsend Campus NSW) the key to successfully integrating Game Based Learning is ensuring learning is scaffolded through the digital collaborative experience.
At Callaghan College, students use OneNote Class Notebooks to manage and plan their Minecraft Education Edition projects. Chris and his team have adapted Problem Based Learning templates to enable students to create a portfolio of evidence and manage their team work.
“Creating easy to follow instructions with clearly identified rules and expectations is essential to the success of any collaborative Minecraft Education Edition project.” Chris Cividino
Before inviting students to collaborative in a virtual learning space such as Minecraft Education Edition, it is important to prepare them for this type of learning. Whilst many of our students are familiar with playing in Minecraft, learning and collaborating through this digital environment is often new to them. “Setting clear ‘rules of engagement’ for using Minecraft Education Edition is critical” (Chris Cividino).
Involving students in a dialogue and building behavioural norms strengthens their capacity as digital citizens. Experience Minecrafters will know the term ‘griefing’ which is the act of destroying another players creations in Minecraft. These virtual worlds are an extension of the classroom and therefore our values remain the same. Respecting one another’s work and creations in Minecraft is just as important as doing so in the physical classroom.
Watch the Webinar: Hear from 4 x Microsoft Innovative Educators as they share their Minecraft Education Edition classroom tips and lesson ideas:
For more support material for getting started with Minecraft Education Edition visit https://Education.minecraft.net