If you’ve been to conferences over the past few years, there’s a chance you have seen someone presenting on Minecraft and its application within the classroom. You may have loved the idea, and want to get started, but you have no idea what to do! You had a lot of new terms thrown your way, and wait, the game doesn’t come with a lot of directions?
Before you can even dive in to getting the game into your classroom and locating funding, you need to step back and take a deep breath. This is not something that can be implemented at the drop of a hat. It’s also something you can’t rely solely on students to teach you about, though they will be super helpful if you get stuck!
Tip 1: Learn to Play!
One of the first things you need to do is learn to play the game yourself. There are many ways to accomplish this. If you have children at home and they have the game, have them help you to learn. If not, then you’ll need to purchase the game. It’s available on many platforms, but the cheapest will be the tablet version, for around $7. Download the game and jump in. If you don’t like playing on a tablet and would prefer the PC edition, you’ll pay a heftier fee upfront. This is fine unless you later decide that the game isn’t for you.
That’s right. Minecraft will only give you a simple hint as to the basics- how to move, how to jump, and even how to access your inventory. Beyond that, it’s up to you to learn. As a player, you are expected to teach yourself to play. This is why so many young players turn to their friends, to books, to wikis, and to YouTube for guidance. Put yourself in the shoes of a player and explore these resources. There are a lot out there. Playing the way your students play will give you ideas of how they search, how they can improve searches, and suggestions you can provide to them.
It is during play that you’ll learn about some of those terms that got thrown your way at a conference- mobs, creative mode, survival mode, mining, and more. Through play I learned which mode would work better for my classroom needs, and how I could use the sandbox nature of the game to accomplish goals. Once I had a basic grasp of the game, I began doing some educational research.
Tip 2: Research and Explore Lesson Plan Ideas
The educational research will give you another step in the right direction. There are lesson plan ideas out there, and most are free to use. These lesson plans can spark ideas for new plans. Try some of the activities or goals out in your own Minecraft world. Microsoft has the Education Edition version of the game, and there are a lot of lesson plans on their website.
Here is one thing to keep in mind when searching for lesson ideas: some of the lesson plans have game files that only work for certain versions of the game. If you don’t have that edition, then you may have to recreate the world file, which may not be feasible. Keep this in mind while you complete your research, as it will help you to decide which version of the game to use in your classroom.
Tip 3: Learn about the different versions available.
After you’ve played and done some research, you’ll want to begin considering the different options available. Here are some you will come across:
PC Edition – This is the regular game with no extra bells and whistles. Some districts prefer to pay the upfront $27 per account and then share the accounts between students. They often create their own servers in the district or rent server space.
Education Edition – This is Microsoft’s version for schools. It is $5 per year per student. It has extra features, such as a coding component, built in server, classroom controls, camera, and more.
MinecraftEDU – This version no longer exists for purchase, but you will find lessons and world downloads still available online. This version featured classroom controls and the ability to rent cloud server space.
Look into options available, and talk to other teachers who already use Minecraft within their districts. This will help you to make an informed decision about what will work best in your classroom and district, especially when it comes time to look into funding resources.
Take your time and work through these tips. You’ll feel more prepared to use the program with students. Contact fellow educators who use the game if you have questions. You may even find that it’s not the right fit for you or your classroom, and that’s okay. At the end of the day, you’ve still learned something new!