“I’d wish he’d get off that computer?”
Ever heard yourself saying that? If you have Minecraft and kids, trust me, you are not alone.
It makes sense, of course. Well, up to a point because kids see it very different, which is what we’ve coming on to.
Once upon a time, we all (us parents that is) spent every waking minute outdoors, playing in the street, running about. Truth be told, we probably didn’t. The thing is while playing computers non-stop is not healthy, in this digital age, it’s part of the life. And, with communities tending to be more fractured the logistics of getting kids together isn’t as simple as it sounds.
In a recent profile of MineCraft, The Independent, identified several ways MineCraft is more than just another computer game.
- Simon Baddeley, an English teacher at Holy Trinity school in Barnsley, uses the game to improve creative writing skills.
- Dan Bloom aids student understanding of DNA at his school in New York.
- Californian parent Matthew Ta went as far as setting up a petition at change.org urging local schools to make use of the game.
So, what is Minecraft and why should junior play it?
Think of it as digital lego.
But it’s more than building blocks. What’s wonderful about Minecraft – and how it differs from ‘shoot em up’ games – is that is encourages you to learn to code, manager servers, and interact with other kids.
In other words, to get the most from Minecraft you have to up your game and be active in learning how to code, operate, test, and manage pretty complex techie stuff. And it’s contagious. We’ve seen kids come to us and ask – and this is true – how electrical currents work.
They wanted to create switches that would open and close secret doors using a series or levers. We found some videos on YouTube and settled down to watch it. Now, in what other circumstances would kids have WANTED to sit down and watch videos about electricity?
But it’s still a game, right?
6 Ways Kids Learn from MineCraft
Gearcraft points our that Learning in Minecraft is much simpler for children, because they don’t realize they are learning.
Some of the benefits include:
- Social Interaction: I used to have social problems. In school I had many issues because I couldn’t do class speeches . Now since playing Multi-player and interactive games I have developed a lot of confidence and have become 100X more social and confident in my social abilities.
- Reading: A lot of reading is required in order to keep getting better at the game. Many minecraft gamers love reading any website that has to do with Minecraft, especially if it has to do with modding, which takes some patience. because its a lot of reading.
- Writing: On PC there is a book and quill feature and Xbox uses signs for communication with others, and older children who work on pages in the web such as the wikipedia page, learn to work in an collaborative, multimedia environment.
- Math: Crafting is the most basic of math, (ex: I need 3 sugar cane for 1 piece of paper ) which then leads to multiplication ( 3 Paper and 1 leather for a book, and 3 Books for a bookshelf, so I need 9 Paper and 3 Leather altogether.
- Geometry: Of course the world is all cubes but many players make cubes,triangles, domes, spheres and more, also counting the number of blocks that were dug out when making a 2x2x2 cave can help multiplication skills and understanding volume and area, at even a basic level.
- Foreign Languages: On the option menu the language can be changed, so when the item is recognized by site the word is easier to pick up meaning they learn some words in a new language.
A recent article on BBC Magazine highlighted other possible benefits of using Minecraft.
“My sons are both managing their own servers with parental overview from me, and it’s been a good experience in learning the issues that come from managing any server type system,” says Andrew Weekes, whose two boys are big fans.
His younger son learned a hard lesson early on, says Mr Weekes, when his failure to keep back-ups meant he could not restore his favourite Minecraft world. Playing Minecraft has also led his younger son to getting to grips with some basic computer concepts.
We had discussions about Boolean logic (AND/OR/ NOT etc), which is a pretty advanced concept to be talking to a nine year old about.”
And teacher Joel Levin has seen the positive effect Minecraft can have on relationships among schoolchildren – especially on those who would otherwise be dismissed for being too geeky.
“Suddenly those computer skills become transferable into social capital,” he says.
So, not only does it make kids more tech savvy, but it also increases their circle of friends. And for parents who worry that their techie kids don’t have enough friends, Minecraft seems to open a few doors. They meet online but then link up off line to jam at one of their houses. Still not playing outside but a step towards increasing their circle of friends.
Developing MineCraft Education Tools
Education Week highlights how companies are now using MineCraft as an vehicle to develop education software.
“It’s no longer a farfetched idea that Minecraft could be useful for teaching and learning,” said Joel Levin, the co-founder of TeacherGaming LLC, a 4-year-old company based in Tampere, Finland, that has sold MinecraftEdu, its customized classroom version of the game, to more than 6,500 schools, libraries, and museums. “The conversation has shifted to taking a closer look at the types of experiences that are possible.”
“We’re at the beginning of creating new kinds of virtual-reality learning spaces,” said Jordan Shapiro, an instructor at Temple University and an author and speaker on game-based education. “I think Minecraft is the beginning of that.”
Do your kids use Minecraft? Would you recommend it to other parents?