April 26, 2018 | Kieran, Mentors, Minecraft
What I love about Minecraft is that way that it brings kids together. From my experience, the social benefits of integrating Minecraft into a child’s school life are incredible. Below are five social benefits that I’ve helped to develop in students at my school through the use of structured curriculum-based activities and free-play or team-based activities both through our Minecraft club and in the classroom.
Many of the students entering the doors to Minecraft club have played the game before in some capacity. But often, the skills required to share ideas effectively, work together, and follow a team leader still need some work. It doesn’t take long for these to develop, and it’s amazing to see the older students taking on more responsibility and helping to guide younger students during Minecraft club. Integrating the use of the Code Connection app and MakeCode in Minecraft: Education Edition has also developed skills of abstraction and problem-solving. Something far more than students were expecting to develop from ‘playing Minecraft’ in class!
Helping Students Face Social Isolation
A parent contacted me about her child, who was experiencing social isolation after transferring from another school. He struggled to build relationships with other children in the playground. Once he started coming to Minecraft club each week, where we would complete team builds and have the opportunity to socialise around a shared interest, this isolation disappeared. This child now has a strong friendship group away from Minecraft, too.
I’ve found that part of a teacher or facilitator’s role when using Minecraft is to support students who may be struggling to ‘fit in’. Minecraft is a game best played when working as a team! Ensuring all students feel safe, valued and included is one of the key roles a teacher or facilitator can play when using Minecraft at school.
Learning to work together and dealing with conflict resolution
Collaboration is constantly emphasized as an important 21st century skill. Minecraft fosters the skills required to work together beautifully. However, when students are learning to develop these skills, it is inevitable that there will be disagreements. I’ve found that as we provide coping strategies to students when working together on a team build, the teams work far more harmoniously. Assigning a manager, taking time to pre-plan the build before jumping into Minecraft helps. But beware – too many rules and ‘building regulations’ can stifle design and creativity! Some disagreement and debate is always healthy. And if a student becomes overly worked up about an idea or a disagreement, time-out from Minecraft is needed.
Teaching Responsible Online Communication
One of the challenges faced in our Minecraft club in particular, is moving away from a teacher-centred approach, to a more student-centred focus. This means giving students the ability to lead the group and demonstrate responsibility through the decisions they’re making. Pairing a strong student with a weaker student, or a student who has not played Minecraft before also helps to build these leadership skills in a more personal and one-on-one basis.
And, finally, include parents on the journey. Let them know about the positive changes you’re seeing in their child. Share and celebrate your success with the school community either through your yearbook or social media platforms. Not only does it allow for greater awareness of the positives of game-based learning, your students will have an intrinsic sense of pride and accomplishment.
As a teacher, it’s wonderful to see the academic success that comes from game-based learning, but it’s even more satisfying to see the social and emotional growth that Minecraft brings into our school.
Below are two screenshots from a student build team, where they had to work together to re-imagine a space on campus – thinking about use of place and space, resources and ensuring inclusivity. This team created a retreat for our boarding students, who face unique challenges living away from home. Complete with a relaxation room and a swimming pool.Below are two screenshots from a student build team, where they had to work together to re-imagine a space on campus – thinking about use of place and space, resources and ensuring inclusivity. This team created a retreat for our boarding students, who face unique challenges living away from home. Complete with a relaxation room and a swimming pool.
I’d love to hear what other social benefits you’ve seen in your students as a result of engaging with Minecraft: Education Edition!
Kieran Bailey is a Digital Technologies, and Humanities and Social Sciences teacher based in Western Australia.
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