Minecraft at school? «Children would go to school on Sundays»
The following text is the result of an interview I gave to Ischool StartupItalia in the distant 2016. Minecraft at school therefore? Here is one of my experiences.
I've been an IT professional for many years and I've always found funny the paradoxical jokes often repeated as personalization of your signature on the forums of the big network: "There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand the binary code and those who do not understand it ". When I was invited last month to Microsoft Edu Day to tell about the didactic experience introduced at the IV A elementary class of Allumiere using the "tool" Minecraft I could not help but begin by telling what 'in recent years I have been able to verify in the field: "There are only two types of people in the world: those who know Minecraft and those who do not have children (ages 6 and up)". Whenever I happen to talk about digital literacy initiatives that I lead like volunteer in the school and for the CoderDojo network I often start telling how "old" and "new" technologies are they can go very well together and how in general digital devices are valid tools in the hands of our teachers: I come to describe in detail the eyes of children who are curious and enlighten when in an alternative way they experiment with their own hands science, technology, engineering , art and mathematics through the "tinkering" methodology (here) or when placed in front of a laptop to give short lines of code or to "hang" blocks of instructions with the result of animating and giving life to digital characters. Trying to pass the message that, regardless of the tool you are using, the important thing is to unleash children's curiosity and involve the whole class as much as possible, I conclude by describing the results in learning the principles of mathematics and history and the benefits of acquiring transversal skills such as creativity, the ability to solve problems and know how to work in a team since joining Minecraft with the usual teaching. At this point, and it is from here that the observation that was the preamble to my speech on the occasion of the Umde Day promoted by Microsoft and Miur, the questions that can be addressed to me are only two and both accompanied by wide eyes and fixed: "Minecraft? What is it?!?? "Or" Minecraft? Really!?!? ", The latter generally followed by:" You know my son too ... "
Minecraft as a game-based learning tool
On YouTube, where every minute is charged a charge of 300 hours of multimedia content, I would have expected without much surprise that the most wanted word was "music", but not that the second most wanted word, in a video context, was "Minecraft". Last year, after being able to introduce laboratories, however innovative and interesting, at some point together with the teachers we realized that the name of this famous game always came out in class the pronunciation of which the boys began to expose and describe in detail all their creations: from the "digital construction" of simple objects to the creation of complex structures, also passing behind the consultation, right on YouTube, of how to solve problems that they met during the game itself. Being careful that at school all the boys and girls know Minecraft with the teachers we reasoned in this world: "Children who play are children involved and when they are involved children learn. Why do not we try to introduce Minecraft in teaching? "
Minecraft as a genre inclusive game
If, as reported by recent studies (here), between now and five years Europe will need approximately 900 thousand It is necessary to move in time to train the new generations, also trying to increase the percentage of women's participation in the fields of science, engineering and technology: it is not possible that only a little more than 10% of engineers are women. We also liked to introduce Minecraft in the school because universally recognized as an inclusive game of gender, being able to excite and involve boys and (especially) girls.
Minecraft is a highly creative game: it stimulates those parts of the brain that wonder how they are made and who like to build things and stimulate those intellectual features that are put into play when you have a box of colored bricks in hand and opens it.
Only that instead of "limiting" themselves to building the spaceship of Star Wars, kids can build entire planets. With Minecraft there is no limit to what the kids can build: the only limit is the imagination itself.
Video tutorials for teachers
For teachers who have been interested in introducing Minecraft into their classes we are doing a series of tutorials ranging from client and server setup, to mastering the basic commands, from exploring the Tutorial world up to the more complex ones where commands are given to the robotic turtles or they learn to configure certain Minecraft mods to allow boys (in high school age in this case) to make Steve interact with the surrounding pixelated world by commanding it through python commands. Here the YouTube channel with the first videos of the Tutorial world that accompanies the version MinecraftEDU.
How to use Minecraft at school
It is possible to use the Minecraft blocks of the "number" type to carry out mathematics lessons allowing the students to solve additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions or ask to solve appropriate problems on the false line of the following: "Building a house with four walls. If there are two windows on each wall, how many windows will the house be equipped with? " As for geometry the use and placement of the blocks allows the children to view the concept of perimeter, of area and even to anticipate the concept of volumeThis activity, for example, can be realized by trying to make children interact with the physical and virtual world by simply measuring the size of their class (rounded to the nearest whole number since each block in Minecraft equals one cubic meter) . Once these measurements have been made and marked, the boys must be invited to recreate your class in Minecraft, collaborating in pairs and after giving them exactly half the blocks necessary for both: as soon as the class is completed, all the children are able to detail the concept of volume in the most simple and precise way possible. Guaranteed. With Minecraft you can also program small robotic turtles that slavishly execute the instructions entrusted to them. Do you want to build small stone towers 10 blocks high? Why not create a simple set of instructions to be given to the turtle: dear turtle places the stone, rises in a block and you do it ten times. Here then explained in this short sample video (here) how easy and immediate it is to apply the programming logic also through the Minecraft tool: with a couple of repetition instructions the turtle is allowed to quickly place 10 blocks on top of each other and using the concept of function the turtle then manages to remove 8.
The whole class can virtually make a journey back in time and find yourself projected inside the faithfully reconstructed Colosseum to see gladiators train;
walking through the streets of the Roman Empire can interact with patricians, plebeians or exchange chatter with slaves who claim to be much more cultured than their masters because they came from various cities of ancient Greece. Among the patrician villas you can meet the emperor Gaius Julius Caesar and also a guy who goes around with a dagger in his hand claiming to have to protect the Roman Republic. We realized, as hoped, that using Minecraft as an educational toolthe level of attention of the class rises a lot and for a long time. When we conclude the lessons in which we have adopted the Minecraft tool, the children do nothing but talk about the lesson itself: they discuss and tell what they have discovered, check and listen carefully to their classmates and eventually they make detailed minutely what has escaped him. This happens with Minecraft at school.