Minecraft: Teaching Tool or Time Waster?

You can’t make a very good birdhouse with a set of tweezers. Eventually, you might squeeze a few nails into the right places, and I suppose if you got a splinter, at least the tweezers would be more helpful than a hammer.  When you want to do a job well, it’s important to choose the right tools; otherwise, you waste time, effort, and sometimes (at least when I try any home renovations) your sanity!

We do some great jobs (also known as learning) in the classroom, including building birdhouses (with the proper tools and adequate supervision and input, of course) and building forts! When we studied Explorers and the Fur Trade, we crafted forts modeled after Fort Langley. One group of students jokingly asked, “Can we build our fort on Minecraft?” My first gut reaction was, “No!  That’s a game, and it won’t help you learn about the qualities of forts.” My second thought was, “These guys might be on to something—I know there is benefit to allowing students to use media they are comfortable with to achieve the same purpose of making a fort…”

Fort MinecraftFortunately, my second thought won out, and I was amazed at the detailed, focused creativity that emerged while one student worked on my iPhone and the other on my iPad, using Minecraft (I still have to charge the school for that app!) to fabricate an amazing fort (see picture). Once I learned the students would be limited to only building if they went into “creative” mode instead of “survival,” it was a seamless integration of a technology tool with a classroom “job.”

It’s exciting to investigate some of the educational applications of an app like Minecraft. Take a look at what some other teachers are doing with the app. Very solid approaches to accomplishing a job with the right tool!

Am I now spending countless hours dreaming of ways to use Minecraft in the classroom? No. There are far more learning opportunities that would actually be hindered by Minecraft than not (imagine PE?). And my students (and I) need to keep learning which tools will be best for the various tasks we experience.

Oh, and like a friend once jokingly told me, “All things in moderation, including moderation.” In this case, I take it to mean that not everything in life has to or needs to be a job, task, or accomplishment. Life also needs to include rest and recreation—a model established for us at Creation! So whether you are planning seven ways to help your child’s learning with Minecraft, whether you want them to spend 15 minutes playing the survival mode of the game, or whether you’d rather have them read a good book or go ride a bike, know there are great tools for certain jobs, and great tools for recreation too!


1 Comment on "Minecraft: Teaching Tool or Time Waster?"

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Interesting perspective. I talk to so many parents about Minecraft and get so many opinions but I like that you’ve given some pros and cons and were willing to try something new in your classroom.