Posted by Ryan Schaaf
No, this is not about the game developers of Minecraft (although they deserve accolades). The ‘makers’ refers to a movement picking up speed in the realm of education and society as a whole. It is not a new trend, as I helped my third graders construct race cars using household items over a decade ago. It is a trend that is being explored with its potential to bolster STEM education initiatives in classrooms and beyond.
The Maker movement is about creation. Whether the product is new or improved, makers are experiencing deep, engaging learning while using 21st century skills. According to Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, creating demonstrates the highest level of thinking and learning, because we must utilize all other forms of thinking to create something new or improved. So, what does the Maker movement have to do with a video game such as Minecraft?
Makers are our Future
With STEM education being such a hot topic in schools, business, and the government, a resurgence of hands-on, brains-on manufacturing and engineering is reemerging. What demographic is feeling the excitement of this resurgence? Children!
It has never been more important and exciting for students to learn the process of creating, tinkering, engineering, making and producing. The students of today will design the space ships of tomorrow, solve pollution and hunger, cure cancer and develop technologies we have yet to fathom.
Before a promising future is developed, teachers, parents and the business community must prepare the digital generation to excel at making. Video games like Minecraft can help
Minecraft: The Maker’s Digital Playground
My son, Connor, is an active six year old with the mind and drive to make and create. Through my classroom experiences using digital game-based learning, I encouraged him to play Minecraft because of its educational potential. Connor was now in charge of a digital realm with unlimited space and pixelated materials to build with. He started off slow with minimal instruction or training. I monitored the amount of time he could play and adhered to the ‘hour of screen-time a day’ rule.
What I’ve seen is extraordinary. Connor has developed his own little world filled with underground bunkers, monolithic skyscrapers, oceans, buildings and vast landscapes built brick by brick. Everyday, Connor is excited to report his progress and share his plans with me. Jane McGonigal would be proud of his “blissful productivity”.
Digital vs. Non-Digital Making
Is reality-based creation better than digital creation? A few years ago, we might have given reality-based as our collective answer. However, technological innovation and disruption has a way of changing our minds at times. Nowadays, the digital tools are a great way to help conceptualize what to make before building it. Honestly, physical materials cost money and are often consumed after one use. Digital materials in Minecraft are never scarce. The game doesn’t penalize for constructing and deconstructing virtual products. Makers can simply build, destroy and rebuild without significant consequence. As a real world application, makers can duplicate their build using real materials.
Support and Collaboration
The potential applications for Minecraft in the classroom seem endless. Numerous Minecraft educational forums, communities and services have sprouted up to support teachers with the ambition and courage to introduce digital game-based learning into their classrooms.
MinecraftEdu is the collaboration of a small team of educators and programmers from the United States and Finland. They are working with the creators of Minecraft, to make the game affordable and accessible to schools everywhere. They have also created a suite of tools that make it easy to unlock the power of Minecraft in YOUR classroom.