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How can a teacher incorporate social media technology into classroom learning? This important question is largely unanswered in today’s educational world. Minecraft, an online game which allows users to build environments and interact within those spaces, provides a fascinating solution to this issue.

In NYU student Evan Gehring’s research on Minecraft, he noted that “Minecraft can be used, mainly on the elementary and middle school levels, to assist in the teaching of subjects including math, geometry, physics, logic, electrical circuitry, computer programming, and much more (MinecraftEDU).” (Gehring). Before reading this, I had a preconceived notion that most online video games were simply a brain drain, an abstract escape from the challenges of daily life. However, after reading up on how Minecraft can be used in the classroom, I have become fascinated by the creative power of this tool.

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Image courtesy of: Wesley Fryer

Zoe Branigan-Pipe,an author for GamingEdus.org, a website devoted to supporting educators using videogames in the classroom , describes a lesson which uses Minecraft as a tool for teaching design thinking skills. Students are asked the question: ” How are Urban Landscapes changing to meet the needs of people and communities of the present and future?” and then taken through a series of exercises which lead to a final project in which students build their own urban landscapes on Minecraft (GamingEdus). This lesson, which is geared toward 7th and 8th graders, is a shining example of how Minecraft can work in the classroom.

Some notable qualities of the lesson:

  •  At several stages in the lesson students work collaboratively, by discussing issues and solutions, designing together on collaborative servers, and sharing ideas.
  • Both globally and locally focused. The students research examples of urban landscapes from both their immediate surroundings as well as from around the world.
  • Emphasis on the design process – students are encouraged to sketch out ideas and workshop them, the final product is not the immediate goal.

So what happens after the lesson ends? This is where the beauty of Minecraft’s social media capabilities comes in.  For students who are already linked into the Minecraft community, it is likely that they will share this idea with others and perhaps even expand upon it. For others who are new to Minecraft, they have already gained skills in using the technology, and are likely to engage in further  Minecraft projects with their newfound knowledge in mind.

Minecraft is just one of many online tools which can be easily and effectively integrated into the classroom. Be sure to check out the amazing lesson plans on http://www.gamingedus.org/ regarding gaming and education.

Featured image: Photo Courtesy of: Wesley Fryer

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