PBS Digital asks...

Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool?

In this video we hear about a wide spread of ways it can be adapted to educational needs.
What examples can you provide to show this diversity and prove this true or not?


Create Your Own Game IN MineCraft

Steve Isaacs @mr_isaacs
William Annin Middle School
Basking Ridge, NJ USA

I teach Video Game Design and Development and wanted to bring MineCraft into my class. It only made sense to have students create their own game inside the minecraft world. My initial thought was that students could create an Adventure Map as I have seen this done before. This is a great option for the project, but conversations with people like Marianne Malmstrom, Lucas Gillispie, Peggy Sheehy, Bron Stucky continued to revolve around the idea of student driven learning. My teaching style definitely favors guiding students rather than over-instructing, but this idea of a truly student driven learning opportunity was a new. So, I threw caution to the wind and decided that my assignment should essentially read, "Create a game in MineCraft". I didn't want to impose ideas on my students as to what this had to mean or look like. After all, my students knew far more about what is possible in MineCraft than I. Furthermore, I decided to not limit the size of the team. I limit team size in other projects for very good reasons, but contrary to the other products I use, MineCraft lends beautifully to larger groups with each participant thinking and going BIG! The intrinsic motivation of MineCraft immediately made me feel comfortable with this idea as I wasn't worried about the occasional slacker as everyone was deeply engaged. So, that's the back story to my student driven learning experiment. I am hoping that some of my students join this wiki and share their story of creating their game with you!

Following is the general 'lesson plan', if you will. I use 3dgamelab so my lessons are delivered as quests. In order to give credit where credit is due, the following evolved from a quest created by Lucas Gillispie. I have adapted it significantly to follow my idea for the project, but his work is apparent and should be noted and appreciated.

Plan Your Game: Telling Your Story

Games are powerful tools for telling stories. Some of today's top-selling games tell incredible stories. They allow players to take a critical role in the outcome of the story. Will you be the reluctant hero leading armies into battle against an evil wizard? Perhaps you're the undercover agent working to foil the plans of a terrorist organization. Or, maybe you're the captain of a space vessel trying to prevent a war between two alien civilizations.
The possibilities are endless.


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So what story do you want to tell? What role with the player(s) in your game take? There are several ways to tell a story in Minecraft. Of course, telling the story simply through the world you create and the buildings you build is one way. However, as you've seen in the adventure maps that you've played, like the Mayan Temple, it's often necessary to find other ways to communicate the game's objectives or goals to the player. This is often done through signs and books placed in the world.
To get started in planning, you'll need to outline the basics of your game. Planning and outlining the basics will help you as you begin building your game.

Writing Your Story

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You may work in a group as small or large as you like. Think through the following steps. Respond to each of them in a google doc and share it with the instructor and your teammates if you are working with partners.

Step 1 - Come up with a name for your Minecraft game.

Step 2 - Write a one-paragraph description that will make other players want to download and play it. (This will be a description of your game including a short synopsis of the story)

Step 3 - Write a two paragraph storyline (background story) to set the context for your game. This should not tell players how to play, but should provide an interesting backstory.

Step 4 - List and describe any playable characters in the game - this will vary based on the type of game.
  • If your game is an adventure game played by one player, provide a description of the player (physical description, personality, skills, etc.)
  • If your game is co-op provide descriptions of different playable characters
  • If your game is a competitive game, describe the different teams / factions and what their role is if applicable.

Step 5 - List and describe any non-playable characters. Remember to describe each with sufficient detail to appropriately develop the character (include physical attributes, skills, abilitiies, etc.)
  • enemies
  • boss(es)
  • NPCs

Step 6 - Explain any challenges your player will have to overcome during the game - puzzles, traps, and other map features, but be sure not to give away too many details!

Step 7 - Provide the ruleset for the game. What does the player need to know in order to play the game? Make this section clear and concrete. After reading the rules I should feel like I know what I will be doing when I choose to play your game. Think of this like the rules to a game like Monopoly. If I were to toss a monopoly board your way without rules, would you be able to play? Your rules should be very specific and cover everything...

Step 8 - Create a sketch of your game

Creating Your Game:

The next steps will involve an iterative design experience.

Step 1: Create the basic framework for your game
  • buildings
  • signs to provide rules
  • designated spawn / starting point(s)
  • basic game mechanics

Step 2: Alpha testing - This is a very preliminary phase of testing intended for players to give general feedback based on an early build of the game. Peers will test your game and provide detailed feedback / suggestions regarding:

  • Rules - Are the rules clear? Does the player(s) understood what to do in the game (without guidance from the developer)
  • Playability / replayability
  • Aesthetics
  • Suggestions for moving forward with the design / devlepment

Step 3: Further develop / edit game based on feedback

Step 4: Beta testing - second phase of testing (see Alpha testing)

Step 5: Further develop / edit game based on feedback

** Steps 4 and 5 repeated as necessary

Step 6: Showcase / demo game as class - celebrate our accomplishments

Minecraft In Education: Pros And Cons

by Jeff Dunn @edudemic

Jeff's blog post asks " 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?" He has amassed a few very interesting replies. Here is one of the highlights...

"Louiza Bruce
March 28, 2013 at 2:35 pm
I used Minecraft all last term to build on team work and literacy skills. The whole term was based on a role play of an island that the students needed to create a shelter, animal farm & food farm. These items were then traded. Best trade off and amount of profit made won.
There were pros and cons like all new concepts but I have to say the pros won! Check out the link on website and watch the students engagement and collaborative work.Oh also the students were buzzing which meant engagement which also meant when OFSTED came knocking the lessons got Outstanding."

What would you answer to his questions?

Minecraft Use in Pender County Schools, North Carolina

by Lucas Gillispie, North Carolina (@lucasgillispie)

The PCS Minecraft program has been ongoing since March of 2011 (http://minecraftinschool.pbworks.com). We've used Minecraft for both formal and informal learning at all grade levels K through 12. Here are a few summarized examples of how our teachers have used it:

The City Construction Challenge - elementary students studying the distinctions between rural, suburban, and urban settings recreate those spaces in a Minecraft world. (link - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dY0wsEt8YljglL6CcUmZvRTc4U51Tc-F53GA7ZTcL-Y/edit)

Exploring Landmarks and Attractions - elementary students form teams, researching North Carolina landmarks and points of attraction, then, reconstruct those in Minecraft. This concludes with students giving a museum-style tour of the build, sharing real-world facts about their chosen creation, to parents, teachers, and classmates.

Middle School Science - Sara Toothman, teacher at West Pender Middle School, has partnered with the school's science teacher to create Minecraft-based science lessons exploring the physics of roller coasters and chemistry. Her lessons and resources are here:

Environmental Impacts of Urbanization - Jessica Croson, AP Environmental Science Teacher at Heidi Trask High, developed a lesson in which students used the same techniques used by environmental scientists to estimate species population counts in a region. They counted the flora and fauna of the region, and then set about to urbanize it, clearing the forest, flattening the land, and building city infrastructure. They later went back and conducted the same count to compare the numbers and the way the game modeled the impact of development on the ecosystem.

The Minecraft Survival Challenge - this is a simple, gamified method of providing specific goals for students playing in a Survival World. It could be extended for a variety of other activities -

Aside from these more formal uses, a wealth of informal learning experiences are happening all the time on our 24/7 server. A short writeup can be found here.