How To Teach Every Subject With Minecraft
Most people hear “video game” and are trained to think “waste of time” or “only when your homework’s done.” They certainly don’t tend to think of the educational potential many games provide, and even games specifically designed to encourage learning in a specific subject area are often looked at with suspicious eyes by parents and educators.
And it’s a cryin’ shame.
The fact is, there are tons of video and computer games out there that can help kids (and grownups, too) learn a whole lot about a whole lot, and better yet, these games often teach players how to learn. Video games can teach how to go on their own quest for knowledge, how to solve the problems they encounter without being given a set of instructions, and how to work within the realities of the game to achieve self-selected objectives without being given a map and compass.
There’s little question that the best of these games is Minecraft. It’s a “sandbox” style game that allows, players to build their own worlds, set their own goals, and go about finding and solving problems with no more guidance than the physical laws that govern the games internal world—laws that players have to figure out for themselves, for the most part.
You Can Teach ANYTHING with Minecraft
Reading, writing, math, science, history, computer programming. I bet if you try hard enough (and bring a little more knowledge to the table than I can) you can probably teach advanced astrophysics using Minecraft.
Both the world of the game and the outside learning required to become a true master of the game can be used to help students progress in practically every area of human endeavor.
I can clearly remember the day when my son was chatting about Minecraft as I was cooking dinner. He was talking about collecting “butter” aka gold. He rambled on about his adventures and then started talking about how he finds the most gold. He said, “you find gold near bedrock. So I dig all the way down until I hit bedrock and then I start digging along the bedrock.”
I followed that statement up by talking to him about how we find gold in real life too. We then talked about why gold is found at bedrock.
The basic, as-it-comes Minecraft game lets you build almost anything you want, which opens up the teaching possibilities immensely. Users have built functioning (though virtual) computers capable of carrying out basic calculations and storing information through binary coding.
Teachers have used Minecraft to teach poetry by having students build the imagery they see in poems written by others and by themselves. You can build visual representations of sentence structures to show how meaning can fall apart when grammar becomes corrupted.
Then there are the mods.
A “mod” is just a modification. It refers to an extra bit of background coding that can create new rules for the world of Minecraft and help teach other subjects. There are countless mods around that can help teach students about the American Revolution, quantum physics, forms of government, and more.
Better yet, get your young learners to build their own mods, and they’ll acquire some basic coding skills along with critical thinking and problem solving on a level unparalleled by any textbook. There are summer camps popping up all over the nation for teaching kids to create their own Minecraft mods.
Learning Means Exploring
The best learning happens when students are able to find their own answers with teachers there as a guide. Minecraft contradicts the idea of rote instruction, demanding that everyone engaged with the game has the freedom to explore the world and learn in a “trial and error” mind set where actions have consequences and the natural laws simply cannot be broken.
I believe it does a great job at teaching kids that failing (aka dying in the game) is ok you just try a different way next time – the true essence of learning and succeeding. It can’t help but develop more inquisitive, objective, and critically-engaged minds—and isn’t that what education’s all about?
Minecraft Resources for Parents & Teachers
Minecraft has a unique ability to hold a captive audience for long periods of time. As parents and teachers, we should capitalize on that to teach our children more. Here’s a list of resources I’ve bookmarked to use to supplement my son’s education in a world he LOVES.
All Subjects –
Minecraft Math Resources:
Minecraft Reading Resources:
I’m adding links as I find them in my internet adventures. I’ll be sure to update here as well.
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