Since its release in 2009, Minecraft has conquered the gaming world, made its dent on popular culture, and taken over your free time. But there’s another important aspect to Minecraft that many people might not know or think about: its educational value.
Last week, in the midst of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) convention, and right before Minecon in London, Microsoft launched its new Minecraft in Education destination site.
Using Minecraft as a source of both entertainment and social change struck a special chord with me while I was at ISTE. Not only do I write about social issues like education for MTV, but I’m also a Minecraft novelist. My first Minecraft novel, "Escape from the Overworld," is an adventure story with a deeper meaning that's been incorporated in girl-empowering, anti-bullying curriculum and featured by Forbes.
But how exactly does the game itself turn into something genuinely educational (and not something we just call educational because it sounds good)? Teachers have begun utilizing the game to teach everything from math (both simple and advanced), to lessons on world religions (after learning about sacred sites students build them in Minecraft), to building cell models for biology. The Chicago Architecture Foundation even uses Minecraft to teach young people about design as their first step to becoming architects.
At the very least, even if you’re just playing for fun, Minecraft will teach you basic problem solving and building skills. (Think about it — you were learning all along!)
“Minecraft is finding a place in classrooms thanks to passionate players and visionary educators around the world,” Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Education for Microsoft, told MTV News. “Our goal with Minecraft in education is to stay true to the Minecraft experience while providing educators with the best resources to effect positive learning outcomes. Educators around the world tell us that Minecraft, in addition to our many other offerings to schools, is one of these resources.”
If you like Minecraft and want to use it for educational purposes at your school, you might find your teachers onboard . . . or they might be hesitant. If your teachers have stigma against games and especially against games as education, the new Minecraft in Education site can give them tips on how they can implement Minecraft into school and why they might find it useful after all.
Marianne Malmstrom, a teacher at ISTE who wore Pac-Man earrings when I met her, said she has successfully used gaming in education, and that kids should advocate for the types of learning styles and educational means that work for them, including gaming.
“I see kids doing brilliant things outside of school and then you go into school and power down,” she said. “I don’t understand how kids can be so engaged outside of school and then come into school and get through the school day and be talked down to. The kids I’ve talked to just accepted it as the way it is.”
“In response to the growing interest from educators to bring Minecraft into their classrooms, we’re excited about our new Minecraft destination designed to provide them with a forum to share their ideas and receive inspiration,” Salcito told MTV News. “We expect this new community to help educators get inspired about what’s possible with Minecraft in education and we look forward to providing even more ideas here in the coming months.”