Using Minecraft and Creatubbles, children share art with others of their age from all over the world

Minecraft lets you create virtual worlds; Creatubbles is a social place where children share their artwork. When combined, they create a wonderful arrangement of sharing and learning.

You may already know about the amazing educational possibilities of Minecraft. But we’ve found a way to use it to unleash the creativity of children all over the world! On April 15th, class IVA of the comprehensive school of Allumiere in Tolfa, Italy, will launch an “international gallery of art and creativity.” It’s an ambitious project linking children in Italy with ‘friends’’ in Japan and other parts of the world. How? With a combination of the popular game Minecraft and the social creativity-sharing platform Creatubbles. Let me explain…

How it all started

December 1st, 2015, Microsoft EDU Day: I was in Rome to describe the teaching experience introduced by ‘maestre 3.0’, using best-selling PC games in schools. Making the most of simulated worlds, we had successfully used Minecraft to ‘lead’ a class around a 360 degree immersive lesson in the city of Babylon, to visit its stunning hanging gardens, and interact with King Hammurabi.

It was at this same meeting I met with the founders of the child-friendly social network Creatubbles, whose aim is to showcase the creativity of young people all over the world. For several years I had been looking for a way to mix traditional learning activities with new technology, and I quickly realized that this was the missing link.

The startup Creatubbles

Creatubbles allows children to share creative projects with other kids around the world. In order to do this it has a few rules for the security of children online. Only original creations are allowed, and all images or videos which show any type of images that could reveal the child’s identity are blocked before being published. A child’s account is connected to and overseen by at least one adult. Before being published, all written content first undergoes an automatic check to block any inappropriate language and later awaits direct approval by the adult who oversees the child’s account. All images that are uploaded undergo careful checking, and must be approved by the Creatubbles team before being made publicly visible.

From the physical world to the virtual world

Creatubbles noticed that young people were increasingly taking screenshots of what they had made in Minecraft and uploading them to the platform. The thinking being: “I’ve created a digital construction in my Minecraft world, I like it, I’ve spent a lot of time on it, and I want to share it with other children.”

So why not create a Minecraft mod to interface directly with Creatubbles, and save Minecraft builds without having to leave the famous game of pixelated cubes? No sooner said than done. Why not make it work both ways? In other words, allow children to showcase the physical creations they have uploaded to the platform within the game itself? From the virtual to the physical, and from the physical to the virtual, full circle. What better way to bring together old practical skills with the possibilities of Minecraft? Our children’s creations in Minecraft were already amazing. Now, they also have the ability to customize them further with objects that they’ve created in the physical world.

Connecting the world!

We’d started playing Minecraft for a whole year, often using it with the Creatubbles mod, until we had an idea: we not try putting our local server in the cloud so others could access it too. We asked Creatubbles if they knew of any schools in Japan that might be interested in joining us in the virtual environment of Minecraft. Our idea was to build a shared gallery, one where the Italian children could find artwork made by their Japanese peers, and vice versa. The people in charge at Creatubbles liked the idea a lot, and passed this enthusiasm on directly to TeacherGaming, a company that was acquired by Microsoft in January 2016. TeacherGaming was responsible for the creation and commercialization of MinecraftEDU (until last April 5th). They  gave us the support and the ability to get in contact with teachers and educators who had already used MinecraftEDU in their own schools or in extracurricular activities. In practice, we have a Minecraft server that is accessible on the internet (actually we have two of them, one on the cloud Microsoft Azure and the other on TeacherGaming). Therefore, many different schools, scattered over the whole globe can, at the same  or  different times, go into the virtual world to meet each other and share creations in the Minecraft Art Galleries. So far we have attracted schools from Canada, China, USA (Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Hawaii), Brazil, Switzerland, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, Poland, Croatia, Nigeria and South Africa. What a perfect example of collaboration and educational exchange between children and young people, who until recently, may not even have known where places such as Latifabad, Maui, Sagamu and Allumiere are.

It starts April 15th

As of April 15th, we will have a month in which we will help schools and young people all over the world to interact through their favourite game. We will have the ability to meet up in the same virtual place, to exchange messages via chat, to communicate through VoIP services, but most importantly to exchange ideas and emotions through ‘artistic’ creations made by the children themselves. As promoters of the project, Class IVA of Allumiere will be launching this international gallery of arts and creativity on Friday, April 15th. It will begin from exactly 9:00 a.m. Central European Time. The aim is to show our children that other young people in the world, who may even come from a  different culture or social class, are nevertheless all related by virtue of the creativity. They will have a way of sharing with each other the beauty of the places in which they live, by showing, through art, what  their own countries or cities look like. Even living in a tiny village, such as Allumiere, kids can now share their creations and interests with other young people who have their same desire to learn about the world.