There’s a popular fast-talking video making its way around the web that showcases how Mincraft may very well be “the ultimate education tool.” Whether you agree or not, the video raises some interesting ideas. Basically, the Idea Channel folks (who made the video) posit that Minecraft is such a valuable tool because it’s so customizable. They talk about how video games have long been used in education but how Minecraft offers a new approach by letting the player construct the game. In other words, a teacher could build his or her own video game tailored to the lessons being taught in the classroom. The students could then enter that custom game and explore, learn, and even build upon it themselves.
Exciting, right? I thought so too. Minecraft is loads of fun and, aside from the learning curve, is certainly a useful educational tool. I don’t know if I’d say “ultimate” but that’s not the point. The point is weighing the pros and cons of using Minecraft in education. In order to do that, I turned to people far more boisterous and knowledgeable than myself: the Reddit crowd. Turns out they had been weighing in on the usefulness of Minecraft in education for quite awhile now. Below are some excerpts from comments left on a Reddit thread about the video.
I think Minecraft has about as much inherent educational value as an overhead projector, in that it depends entirely on the skill and vision of the instructor using it. Its a great blank canvas system, and the tools for leveraging that canvas are only getting better with time. That said, its not gonna work for everyone, but I wouldn’t expect that of any educational intervention. MinecraftEDU is more an excellent example of an instructor noticing how they might leverage an existing artifact to engage their students. His enthusiasm was probably just as important as the game itself in making a difference for those kids. -naxareth
Well said. This is similar to all of the excitement around interactive whiteboards and now iPads (and other tablets). Many people think that purchasing these devices will revolutionize learning in their schools – and they make these purchases without any planning or vision. MindecraftEDU is a great resource, but education is not a One Size Fits All system nor should it be. Like you said, “it depends entirely on the skill and vision of the instructor.” -futboler
Useful in a school context? Would just kill it. The thing that made Minecraft good for [my son] was the unguided aspect of it. -sreyemhtes
First 20 seconds of the video: “Minecraft is like first person Lego”. Lego is not considered the ultimate educational tool, but this which is a virtual version of it is? Of all the examples the person gave, only one actually seemed educationally viable: using Minecraft for area, volume and abstract 3D objects. That is one use in a very specific part of mathematics. Not exactly the worlds “ultimate educational tool”. -ShadyBiz
Tools are simply artifacts, but they also exist to amplify our capacities. There certainly exists an instructor who cannot get a point across with a book that they could using Minecraft, there also certainly exists a teacher who can engage students better with a lecture than a game. As you said it is not a one size fits all environment. -naxareth
What do you think about Minecraft? Would you use it in your classroom? Has your teacher used it at all? Just how much work would it take to build a high-quality learning environment within the game?