Using Minecraft as an Educational Tool
The widely played sandbox game Minecraft is adored by teachers everywhere because of its potential as a pedagogical tool. In a conventional school setting, kids would never have the opportunity to discover, create, or imagine in the same way that they may while using this technology. The brilliance of the game lies in the fact that it encourages creative expression in both the students and the instructors.
However, for Minecraft newcomers like myself, it might be difficult to know how and where to start unleashing all of that creativity. If you are just getting started with Minecraft, it could be beneficial to include the game into an activity that you have designed on your own. Before beginning to use Minecraft Edu as a creative tool for your students, it is recommended that you construct a digital environment for your students to explore as a means of acquainting yourself with the powerful features that are available in the educational version of Minecraft Edu.
In the science class that I teach at Quest to Learn for ninth graders, I only just started using Minecraft for the first time. To achieve a certain educational objective, which was to improve the students’ comprehension of our DNA extraction lab, I made the decision to include the game in my lesson plans. Students put into practise in this lab a step-by-step process that involves adding certain chemicals to a mixture of cells in order to break apart the cellular components and isolate the DNA molecules. The process involves adding certain chemicals to a mixture of cells in order to break apart the cellular components and isolate the DNA molecules.
In collaboration with a game designer from the Institute of Play who was visiting my school, we developed a useful cell model in Minecraft. This model was able to simulate the actual properties of a cell as well as the actual interactions that occur between a cell membrane and the various chemicals that are used to extract DNA. Students were able to experiment with this model in Minecraft.
If you are thinking about utilising Minecraft in your classroom, the following guide will help you through the process of incorporating the game into your lesson plans.
Step 1: Define the Learning Goals
Because I wanted to help the kids have a better grasp of our DNA extraction lab, I decided to use Minecraft as a learning tool. When I did this experiment with my students in the past, they came away with very little knowledge as to why they followed those steps and what exactly was happening on a cellular level.
The goal of my Minecraft project was to make a model of a cell that students could examine and control. By participating in this pre-lab activity, they would be able to utilise a variety of “chemical instruments” to disassemble the various components of the cell and, as a result, generate a list of the components that are required to finish the DNA extraction lab.
Step 2: Create the Mechanics and Build the Virtual World
Even though I am new to Minecraft, I was able to collaborate closely with a game designer named Claudio to assist in the creation of a realistic cell model. Claudio changed the names of the Minecraft tools to reflect their chemical functions with the help of the educator tools provided by MinecraftEdu. He also discovered out how to make some of the materials sensitive to specific chemical tools, while making others of the materials impermeable to other kinds of chemical tools. After we had worked out the kinks in this mechanism, we were able to rapidly generate the environment of the cell.
In the end, we were successful in creating a single-player, immersive universe in which students had the opportunity to investigate the interior of a cell while employing chemical tools to attempt to access the DNA. They were making use of their prior knowledge to locate the DNA, and they were determining which chemicals were required in order to dissolve the various components of the cell.
Step 3: Focus the Exploration
I made a handout for the students to act as a guide that would help them concentrate on their investigation. In addition to providing directions for setting up to begin that exploration, the handout provided a checklist for investigating the cell as well as questions for students to answer as they engaged with the various chemical tools contained within the cell.
The handout that was given to the students was designed to serve two functions: first, it was meant to provide them with some sort of direction as they explored, and second, it was meant to point out connections between the game and the material that we covered in class that they might not have noticed on their own. We improved the model by include additional organelles, and we even constructed a realistic cell membrane that is an accurate representation of the lipid bilayer that is present in actual membranes. This game served two purposes: one, it helped the kids get ready for the following lab activity, and second, it was a review for our topic on cells.
Step 4: Assess Progress Toward Learning Goals
In addition, I was able to evaluate the pupils through the use of the questions that were included on the handout. In addition to getting a clear image of whether or not they were able to complete the learning goal and recognise the chemicals that were required for the experiment, I was able to determine whether or not they were capable of making links back to the course content (review). When we actually finished the lab, the students felt comfortable talking about it and were able to successfully explain why we used each chemical. By the time the activity was over, they had a solid comprehension of the transformations that occur within the cell during the DNA extraction procedure, and this comprehension was maintained throughout the duration of the lab.
The endeavour was met with remarkable levels of achievement. The level of participation was greater than it had ever been before. Students who struggled in their scientific classes were given the opportunity to approach the material in a manner that was most conducive to their learning and satisfied their personal preferences. Some kids who were new to Minecraft had difficulty getting the hang of it at first, but after receiving a quick instruction from an experienced Minecraft player, they were able to pick it up rather quickly.
The question of when we will utilise Minecraft again is one that I get asked frequently by my kids. I already have two projects in the works, and they both include using Minecraft as a creative tool so that students can genuinely create something of their own that is one of a kind. Stay tuned in order to acquire additional information regarding these projects!
Check out the webinar series presented by the Digital Media & Learning Research Hub of the MacArthur Foundation and the webinar presented by the Institute of Play to learn more about the ways in which Minecraft has been utilised at our institution.