We've spent a really productive afternoon today with year 5/6 children from the local area using Minecraft Edu to inspire creative writing. The children were set a series of tasks to perform during the course of the 2 hour session and then asked to write notes about what they could see, who they met and how they felt along the way. These notes were then used in literacy to develop their creative writing.
Minecraft Edu: better classroom management
Although some of this could have been achieved by the pupils playing the standard Minecraft game, Minecraft Edu is better suited to the classroom environment due to the following features:
- Students have secure logins with individual avatars
- Student activity can be tracked
- Students and teachers can take photos of achievements during the session
- A collection of specialized blocks to enhance teaching and learning, including new signs to share information and give direction, and border blocks to manage students within a world
- Enhanced multi-player mode where up to 30 students can collaborate and work together on a set of learning activities
- A tutorial experience for first-time Minecraft educators
In addition to the above points, Minecraft Edu also contains classroom management features including Peaceful world settings to ensure students stay on task.
A series of activities were set up on the day to introduce the children to Minecraft and to encourage co-operation. The students were asked to find various objects and were told that they couldn't move onto the next challenge until all children had completed the task in hand. This resulted in lots of instant chat, both on the game and in real life, and people making lots of new friends.
Different game features were gradually introduced to familiarise the children with the game and then, with 30 minutes to go, Peaceful world settings were turned off and the children were told they needed to build a shelter to survive the night. They were shown how to craft and how to build their shelters. When the dark came and some of the children's bases were invaded by 'visitors' the tension got really high and screams could be heard from some of the more excitable children!
All the way through the game, they were asked how they felt about certain events and wrote notes about this in a notebook for use in their literacy lessons. The atmosphere was really creative and it was very interesting to see some students get into writing; especially for some of the more reluctant writers.
It will be really interesting to see how Minecraft: Education Edition progresses now Microsoft have acquired it. Lets hope that the application will be carefully thought through, it will be accompanied by lesson plans and that all teachers, not just the technically adept, can put it to use in the classroom to enhance the students' creativity, collaboration, and problem solving skills.