My name is David Jones and I am a primary school teacher in Victoria, Australia and I run a student-led coding club. I want to share with you how Minecraft has helped me change student outcomes in the club, and beyond for the better in the hope that it will motivate you, my fellow educators, to think about ways we can use this platform and other gaming technologies in our classrooms.
The biggest advantage of Minecraft for me as an educator starting a coding club from scratch was also initially my biggest anxiety. And this was the fact that many of the students already knew what Minecraft was. Most students have played, seen or been introduced in some form of way into how Minecraft works. And if these students hadn’t heard of Minecraft them they most certainly had some exposure to the world of computer gaming.
As an educator, I knew when introducing something like this to students for the first time in a learning environment, students would need some non-structured time to just explore and have fun. However, this is where I began to have some concerns about scaffolding such a well-known game platform into the embryonic skeleton of the club. I wondered if the students only see the game-based play of Minecraft. Would they only come to coding club because of this? Would it become an extension of what they already enjoyed doing at home in their downtime, and have no educational merit beyond the binary?
As it turned out, I need not have worried.
After a few weeks of coding club and using Minecraft I observed students increasingly engaging with coding – they wanted to code and couldn’t get enough of it. They wanted to code more than game-based play! Instinctively, and still without much of a template to structure the classes on, I decided to instigate a monthly coding challenge for the group. Two weeks of creating and coding, followed by two weeks of sharing, reflecting and giving feedback. Once the challenge kicked off I realised I had reached a turning point. The club had become student-led and I had become a facilitator rather than an educator.
Today, if you walk into our coding club you will see what you expect: students on devices, using code to create. But delve a little deeper and the benefits are profound. Students are constantly collaborating, communicating, and challenging themselves, negotiating with each other, solving problems within a set amount of time.
Reflecting on this, I asked myself are these skills only confined to using Minecraft… and I realised they’re not. These skills can be seen and developed in many types of situations. But the point I want to make here is that gamed-based technologies are already a language of our students are fluent in. Why would we not want to use it to speak to them, when we already know it’s a part of their world today, a place they know, a place that can motivate them?
Thank you for taking the time to read my post and hopefully it motivates you to meet students in their world and using their interests as a learning tool. As a Global Minecraft Mentor I am happy to help any educator to take the first steps into Minecraft and support you on your journey.
Find me twitter: @DJoneseducator
– David Jones