The Investigators: A new world leads students through a sea of murky information to help them learn information literacy

25 Oct 2023 Minecraft characters in front of a building

In a world with so much information, how do you know what to trust? And when you don’t know whether information is trustworthy, how can you take meaningful action?

In an effort to help young people build the skills they need to navigate challenging information environments, Minecraft Education, Microsoft’s Technology for Fundamental Rights team, and leading media and information literacy experts from the Digital Inquiry Group have partnered to create a new Minecraft Education world. The Investigators takes K–12 students on a journalistic quest that requires them to evaluate the information they receive critically. 

“Minecraft Education can serve as a scaffold for self-regulated learning aimed at countering misinformation,” shares Oluwasola Samuel Oni, a PhD Candidate at Washington State University’s College of Education, who is researching and evaluating 'The Investigators' effectiveness as an educational tool. His preliminary findings reveal that "by immersing learners in scenarios where discernment and analytical thinking are paramount, the game equips them to differentiate between genuine information and misinformation in their everyday lives.”

In a recent OECD study, researchers found that only 10 percent of K–12 students can reliably distinguish fact from opinion. More alarmingly, a 2021 study in the U.S. showed that 96 percent of almost 3,500 student participants failed to identify a website’s connection to a biased provider, and two-thirds were unable to distinguish news stories from advertising on a popular website’s homepage.

“At Microsoft, we firmly believe media literacy is an essential life skill,” says Teresa Hutson, CVP of Microsoft’s Technology for Fundamental Rights group. “Kids can learn while they play. Through engaging and fun gameplay, The Investigators teaches young people some of the most critical digital skills of our time — the ability to find, consume, and share authoritative information.”

An adventure through the information landscape

In The Investigators, learners take on the role of their school’s online news reporter. They’re on a quest for the facts, and it’s their job to help peers and staff along the way.

Learners jump, dive, and fly through challenges as they meet different members of their school and travel through the world to find and evaluate information and sources.

Throughout their quest, they’ll encounter many ways to discover information. They’ll navigate inaccuracy, bias, and exaggeration, wading through it all to help their fellow students improve the school — and even solve a mystery!

This world challenges learners to cover three school news stories, each with its own information literacy lesson.

  • Sustainability Score Plummets
    Learners uncover the truth behind the school’s sustainability program, investigating the reasons for a drop in its environmental rating and how they can improve it. By reporting on this story, they’ll learn about the value of sources, why it’s important to get information from multiple sources, and the ins and outs of fact checking.
  • New Sport Divides Campus
    Learners conduct research to help determine which new sport the school should add to its curriculum. Throughout this story, they’ll discover why it’s important to get a full picture of the situation before making a decision, understand bias and manipulation, and explore the reasons behind fact-checking before sharing information.
  • Electoral Candidate Hacked!
    Learners cover the breaking story of a school presidential candidate whose account has been hacked. By solving the mystery of who did it and why, students will learn the importance of conducting their own research, understand content manipulation, and wrestle with the difference between fact, opinion, and deliberate falsehoods.

Each assignment builds on crucial components of information literacy to help students become informed, engaged, and resilient digital citizens.

Minecraft characters at a street festival

Building information literacy, block by block

The Investigators explores how and why people produce and spread information and how to identify red flags like cherry-picked data and personal attacks. It also provides strategies for responding to online content, for example refusing to share murky information, validating sources, and seeking alternative viewpoints.

To empower teaching with The Investigators, educators can also access a series of support materials built on media and information literacy best practices developed with input from educational researchers Dr. Sam Wineburg and Dr. Joel Breakstone, respectively the former founder and director of the Stanford History Education Group, which they’re spinning out of Stanford University to become the Digital Inquiry Group, a new nonprofit organization. As key authors of the 2021 information literacy study, they’re passionate about information literacy education.

Wineburg and Breakstone have ensured that The Investigators supports students as a standalone learning experience. But educators can also use the world alongside other Microsoft information literacy aids that empower students to think critically and search with confidence, including the free tools built into Teams for Education

Minecraft signboard that reads: The Gator Gazette. Gators Lose Their Bite. Our boys faced a shocking defeat by the Puma's. Last Friday the Puma's came to play on our turf, but we couldn't get past their defences. Home defeat is never fun, and quarterback Harry has given us an interview where he . . .

Support informed, aware, responsible citizenship through information literacy!

Find The Investigators in the Minecraft Education in-game library or head to the online lesson page where you can access supporting content for educators.