Professor Minecraft or: How I Learned to Stop Digging and Love the Craft
I have been an MIEE for 3 years and I think of myself as an advocate for the use of technology in the classroom. I have delivered assistive technology workshops at international conferences and have been teaching teachers about assistive technology for two decades.
But I’m not going to lie to you, when it came to Minecraft, I was a skeptic. The idea of gamification is not a new one, but I couldn’t see a use for Minecraft in my classroom.
As a self-proclaimed “expert” in educational technology this is kind of embarrassing, but I was that guy who downloaded Minecraft Education Edition the first day it came out, installed it and was ready to play. Then, I dug a hole, couldn’t get out, and turned it off permanently. That was about 3 years ago.
I have teacher friends who use Minecraft all the time. They would post about how they were using it in their class regularly. I just didn’t get it.
That changed last week when I attended the Minecraft Summit at Microsoft Canada’s headquarters in Mississauga.
Wait. Don’t get too excited.
We were told to do the Minecraft tutorial before the Summit, so I did that. The tutorial was a basic “how-to” for Minecraft so it wasn’t the most exciting introduction to Minecraft. I was bored. I thought to myself and then said to my kids, “This is so boring! How can you guys play this game?” They respectfully disagreed with opinion.
My boredom was short-lived once I arrived at the summit. It started with a simple concept: they got us building and collaborating right away. It was an easy open-ended activity. We chose to build a castle in a group of four. Immediately, we were talking to one another in order to decide how we would divide the work and each of us was building at our own pace and level of ability.
There were various experience levels in our group just like there would be in a classroom setting. I had never played before and there were other in the group who played every day. It was a great intro activity. I immediately saw classroom applications. We were taken through the chemistry tutorial and I was convinced. Minecraft wasn’t just a game.
We’re less than two weeks away from the first day of school now and I’m planning on using it on day 1. I have an activity that I have done for years that has students describe their ideal classroom. This year, they will be building their ideal classroom in Minecraft and adding them to a school that I’ve built.
It feels good to finally dig my way out of that hole. Wish me luck!
About the Author:
Nick DiFlavio is a father-of-four from Grimsby, Ontario and lifelong learner. Nick is an MIEE Fellow and award winning innovative educator, who currently teaches in a mental health day treatment program with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.