I am choosing to review Minecraft as a vehicle for creative play, active learning, collaboration and problem solving.
The 4 questions I have been asked to address are:
- What do you think you could learn playing this game?
- What (if anything) did you find engaging?
- What (if anything) did you find demotivational?
Minecraft is a sandbox game that allows free-play through building, mining and crafting of objects to make new ones.
Minecraft has the potential to teach many things. For example, it allows players to solve simple or complex problems, collaborate on massive building projects or simply work together to find resources and survive.
I have learned so many things from Minecraft. I know that I can collaborate with people from all over the globe on massive on-line projects that would simply not be possible in the real world. It has helped me to develop my thinking and problem solving skills as well as observing and reflecting on how others learn in-game.
It is particularly good at allowing learners with confidence issues to develop new skills and work together in a safe environment where mistakes are encouraged ans failure is just an opportunity to learn. Minecraft can be set up in so many different ways to allow for a good learning experience. You can host your own server locally and just have a few people on the same network joining in with your game, or you can have a game on your tablet and let other tablet users join in or you can participate in huge on-line communities across the globe. It is completely scalable.
What is motivational?
I find the satisfaction of lots of small ‘wins’ most engaging. The first thing you have to do in a Minecraft ‘survival’ game is to survive the night. You can do this simply by ‘punching’ a piece of dirt/ground/wall until you have a space big enough to crawl, walk or otherwise hide in (2 x blocks high 1 x block deep). Very quickly you realise you need to block yourself in when night falls to prevent the mobs (zombies, spiders and skeletons) from attacking you and killing you. Well done, you have just built your first shelter with excavated blocks gained by punching… Now go build THE WORLD!!
Well, you might need a few tools along the way, so you go gathering stuff to build other stuff with. For example, you go punch a tree to collect blocks of wood, then using the crafting menu, you turn those logs (blocks of wood) in to wooden pallets. You can then use those wooden pallets to make a crafting table (4 x wooden pallet = crafting table). Once you have a crafting table, you can start to make tools like Pick Axes, Axes, Shovels and swords… and so on and so on…
This small reward system, the satisfaction of crafting something from a raw material NEVER goes away. It just gets more rewarding the rarer, more complex items you craft.
Combine this with the satisfaction of building whatever your imagination can create and you have an endless world where you can create, play, try, test, think, act, chat, collaborate, design.
What is demotivational?
Dying… In most Minecraft worlds, there are areas that if you die, you will lose everything you are holding on to and all your collected experience points. This acts as a motivation not to die, but it can be hugely frustrating if you get caught out by a sudden drop/lava flow/mob attack that leaves you with nothing and you lose your precious Enchanted Diamond Pickaxe (You need 4 x diamonds – rare), two sticks and at 30 experience points to get a top pickaxe). It does act as motivation to tread carefully though.
From a learning point of view, it can be quite daunting playing with people who are experienced minecraft users as they seem to know all the crafting combinations and how to make great stuff. However you can create spaces with a little knowledge and host PC and you can soon be hosting your own worlds that only your friends can join.
As a teacher, MinecraftEDU allows you to have a much greater degree of control of your learners and your environment and is worth a look .
Minecraft in Education:
Below is an infographic on the gamification of learning that you might find interesting.