youth

Announcing… The Massively Minecraft Project

Today, Minecraft has become a global phenomenon, available on mobile, tablets, consoles and computers. With sales of over 8 million copies of the game, millions of servers offering all manner of immersive experiences, thrills and creative adventures. Around Minecraft are numerous sub-cultures producing a constellation of videos, tutorials, art, writing and more. Thousands of schools have purchased the game as well as not for profits and other community groups. For children, finding joy and companionship in the game is second nature. For teachers and parents, learning new strategies to media the game comes with significant challenges and rewards. It’s this which we focus on — how to let the most significant new game of the last decade into the classroom and home to help children explore their own imagination, creativity and online power towards healthy and productive goals.

In 2011, Massively Minecraft was founded as an out of school, global learning game for children aged 4-16. February 2014 will see the the launch of the new Massively Minecraft Project lead by Dean Groom and Bron Stuckey. Both have a long history in education, online communities, games and academic research. This project seeks to research and build on the lessons learned in the original Massively Minecraft while taking a laser like focus to three major research agendas in and around Minecraft:

  1. family play, specifically parents and children
  2. teacher professional learning
  3. educational developers and developments.

Over the month of March 2014 we will launch each of these three key areas. To join us in our launch events and activities or just stay informed about the project please email us bronwyn.stuckey@gmail.com or deangroom@gmail.com

Minecraft for small-group learning

This post offers that pedagogical and analytical lens to argue for Minecraft in classrooms from kindy upwards. Minecraft has become the cultural core of a vast user-generated media movement. From Deviant Art to The Tate Gallery, Minecraft is being recognised for it’s ability to engage creativity and imagination. Unlike traditional field games or board games, the computer upholds the rules  – what you can and can’t do. It is this inner-sense of — what can I do? … just where can this end? — that has had such a profound impact on what the public think a game could be and resulted in a media explosion of new material.

Minecraft has become very popular on smart-phones, tablets and consoles. Though the game play is not quite the same as the PC/Mac version, they all have a strong following and millions of sales.For teachers,these versions make promising low cost alternatives to Minecraft or Minecraft EDU on PC. As Minecraft isn’t a ‘curriculum’ tool,  teachers should consider the pedagogical advantages of this game as a learning-tool. Being at the fore of popular culture isn’t sufficient, nor simply because kids become engaged with it. Before a block is placed, teachers need to be clear what their goals are and articulate them as arguments. That is essence is what this project is about.

Minecraft-Xbox-360-Edition

From a pedagogical lens, little is known about regular video-games play with large numbers of school-age students. Higher education on the other hand has extensively studied virtual worlds in education such as Second Life for many years. One recurring finding that intimacy is a key factor in the students motivation and enjoyment of learning. Whereas popular edu-culture uses the term ‘personalised learning’, I believe it is important reframe this is ‘intimate play’ in the classroom. Let me give an example. School ‘group work’ rarely uses groups of twenty to thirty students. Virtual world research shows successful group work with between 4 and 8 students provides higher levels of intimacy and autonomy in student learning. The same has be found in educational games such as Quest Atlantis, and to a lesser extent (few studies) MMOs where ‘working groups’ or ‘parties’ are often similar, allowing each player to take on a role, where different skills are needed to solve a problem together.

Hypothetically, Minecraft on consoles (allowing 4 up play) or small-group tablet has a stronger pedagogical basis than 30up on a PC-server when viewed though the analytical lens using archetypes found in Quest Atlantis and Second Life as school systems look for clear linkages in educational evidence and often suspicious of popular culture.

As all use of Minecraft in school requires interpretation and remediation if it’s to meet standards and set outcomes anyway — consider Pocket and Consoles as an equally viable option. It isn’t necessary to ‘control’ students use of the game but essential for the teacher to be ‘in control’ over the objectives and limits of the learning episode. In this way, the teacher would not have to be in the game at all and with practice could turn Minecraft into an activity which children would control without the challenges of networks, accounts and creating maps.

We’d be really interested in your thoughts — and especially if you’ve used Minecraft Pocket or Console in your classroom.