Teachers should embrace Minecraft: research



Teachers should use the hugely popular children’s digital game Minecraft to help teach maths, design, art and geography, research from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) shows.

For years studies have warned of the dangers of letting children have too much time on electronic devices.

But researchers at QUT have urged educators to embrace the game, which is hugely popular with primary school children, to assist their learning.

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Associate Professor Michael Dezuanni said his research has shown that Minecraft should not be limited to children’s playtime.

“I’ve had the opportunity over the last couple of years to work with a couple of schools using Minecraft in the classroom,” he said.

“We’ve seen some real success with engagement, problem solving students, with design and their creative work.

“The teachers working with those students have been quite impressed by the way students work with the game as well.”

Professor Dezuanni said the game is not violent and teaches teamwork and resilience.

“It’s best to think of it as a sort of digital lego,” he said.

“You enter a world and you have to gather blocks which become your resources, you do that by mining, and each of those items is a block.

“You then craft those mines into various items. You start off with the basics and over time you develop more resources so you can do more in the game. The ultimate objective is to build more impressive structures.

“You actually can’t really win Minecraft. You get to share what you’ve created with others.”

Last year, YouTube reported that Minecraft was the second most searched for term after “Frozen”.

Professor Dezuanni said teachers should be encouraged to tap into that popularity by integrating the game into the classroom.

“There are teachers who are developing maths challenges within Minecraft. People are [also] teaching geography skills, because you are in a world that is an open space and you can navigate that space,” he said.

“People are developing social studies knowledge and skills. In one of my projects for instance we had the students break into two groups and they then had to each create a village.

“They had to collaborate and cooperate to actually be successful in terms of their small society surviving. So all those are rich ways in which you can align activity in the game to the curriculum.”

Another option for children to learn

The game is also proving particularly useful for children who are not responding well to traditional classroom teaching, Professor Dezuanni said.

“One of the things that teachers were most excited about, was that it involved students who weren’t traditionally successful in the classroom, so suddenly these students were successful, the other students saw them as leaders in the classroom,” he said.

“They saw that they could learn something from those students and it turned the tables in many ways in terms of who were the high achieving students in the class. So it absolutely helped the students develop their self-esteem as learners.

“Too often we are told that we need to go back to basics and that’s fine, certainly we do need basics in the classroom. But at the same time we need digital basics as well.”


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