Developing Your Minecraft PLN

by Jessica Pilsner

@jess_pilsner

If you were anything like me you saw glimpses of how Minecraft could make an impact in your classroom, but had never played the game. You decided to try it one night and returned to your students with this response:

"I started playing Minecraft last night, first I drowned and then I got killed by a creeper. Help me!"

And of course your students quickly responded with "You needed to build shelter, but you need to build a workbench first and then a pick axe and then… and then…"

Okay first problem solved… sort of. Of course, now, I had managed to spawn a world that had no trees and I managed to stump my third graders on how to solve that conundrum. Nevertheless, spawning a new world with trees (which are necessary to create a work bench and make anything else), I was able to better keep up with the challenges my third graders "assigned" me.  I began  to really understand how Minecraft could be used in education. I knew my students would be my best collaborators and they certainly had the knowledge to help design lessons through Minecraft. It laid the foundation for me to access educators around the world using Minecraft in the classroom.

The first step to diving into Minecraft Education Edition with your class is to develop your learning network. This network may be composed of both your students and educators globally. From my experience, I've learned that you do not have to be an expert at the beginning, or even wait until you know more to start using it as a teaching tool.  There were no teachers who played Minecraft at my school when we first introduced it in the 2016-2017 school year in grades 1st-10th. Moving forward your students and fellow educators will continue to be an important resource.

 Here is an outline on how to craft your Minecraft Education Edition network:

 Your Student Network:

Your students will always be your top collaborators.  It's easy to go to them for general how-to-play help. But, they can also be valuable contributors to developing new ways to learn and demonstrate their knowledge of class content. My student’s deep knowledge of the game lead them to be more creative  about the game's learning potential.

1.      Begin with a discussion on how your students could see using Minecraft to learn. (You can even share with them the curriculum standards they are learning). Talk about both content and soft skills students would be working on while playing Minecraft.

2.      Leave the option open for students to choose to present an alternative assignment in Minecraft. Sometimes students show their learning at a higher level when they are given responsibility for the way they learn and show growth.

3.      Create mentorship opportunities for students to mentor younger students using Minecraft as a learning tool.

4.      Allow students to be a primary creator of worlds that will be used in class or for students in another grade. Students gain a greater depth of the content, even if the material they are developing is for younger students.

5.      Ask for feedback after a Minecraft activity. Work to develop an environment where students feel comfortable providing both positive and constructive feedback to improve the lesson for the future.

6.      Allow students to document their learning using videos or written reflections. They gain a deeper understanding of their learning and it helps parents and the community see that is more than just a game. Here is an example of what a video reflection might look like from our first year using Minecraft at Renton Prep: MineCraft and Mentorship

Personal Learning Network (Working with educators globally)

Exciting news! There are many teachers not only using Minecraft in their classrooms, but sharing out what they do through social media, blogs and the Minecraft Education website. Just as collaborating with the teacher down the hall brings depth and new ideas to the classroom, technology allow us to collaborate digitally as well. You can start out by researching and incorporating the experience and lessons of others. As you get more comfortable, you can contribute your knowledge to the digital world of innovative educators and even meet via skype and other video chat systems to collaborate.

 So how do you get connected? A professional social media account can be a great way to make contact with new ideas and other educators. Personally, I was slow to join the professional social media world. However, in my first year teaching, it became a valuable resource for not only inspiration, but also for concrete ideas to enhance student learning in the classroom.  I still consider myself a social media beginner, but the more I collaborate and  connect, the more I see how it enhances my class.

Here are some great ways to get started:

1.      Join the Minecraft Educator community https://education.minecraft.net/community/connect-with-others/

2.      Check out the lessons the community has posted https://education.minecraft.net/class-resources/lessons/

3.      Create professional learning social media accounts. I am a fan of twitter for educators because it is simple and used by many educators.

4.      Don't be afraid to message or leave comments because many of the individuals who share their ideas online are happy to help and collaborate.

5.      Suggest a skype sessions with other teachers who use Minecraft.

6.      Use #minecraftmentor to follow educators who share out about Minecraft.

7.      Share your own lessons out as you get comfortable. You might get some great feedback and also help your fellow educator!

Jessica Pilsner is in her second year of teaching. Her innovation and her experience has inspired her to use gaming as a vehicle to teach communication and storytelling in a multi-disciplinary, multi-project unit, through the game Journey. Ms. Pilsner is a Minecraft Global Mentor and is also a second year Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Due to her passion for education technology, she was invited to film an introduction series for Minecraft Education Edition. She has presented at FETC, TCEA, and NCCE.

See more student work

Alchemist "The Game"

Art of the Brick

Student Video Authors:

  • Mia Britt 
  • Jennifer Fernandez
  • Terry Tran
  • McCoy Palma
  • Cole Grothen