Learning through Gaming

28 Nov 2022 Minecraft Education key art

We all know how great a tool Minecraft Education Edition is in the classroom. But getting it into the classroom over the past three years has proved challenging (at least for me). Some of the challenges I have faced bringing Minecraft to my school district are getting it introduced and teachers trained across the district. Before COVID, I was able to arrange several training courses for staff that went extremely well—in many cases the teachers trained are still using the skills they learned in their curriculum—and it has become a fixture in their classrooms. Timing is always a factor though.

Before the onslaught of COVID, there was the happy-dance-inducing marriage of MEE and Chromebooks (and there was much rejoicing). Many of our Chromebooks were not a late enough model, but I knew upgrades were in progress across the district. Still optimistic, I continued developing what I hoped would be a plan for getting more teachers trained across the district. Enter March 2020 and quarantine. Our department, Digital Learning, worked overtime to ensure our teachers understood the district learning management system to the scope they needed to convert to fully remote learning, as well as get accustomed to Zoom. Once the initial dust had settled, we had to look at the professional learning opportunities that we offered to help our staff earn the credits they needed to renew their licenses.

Our state requires every teacher to earn 2.0 (20 hours) of credit in Digital Learning Competencies. Our department creates courses in these competencies that are focused on the integration and use of technology and applications in the classroom. Each participant must complete the learning successfully and submit a demonstration of mastery, showing how they will implement what they have learned in the classroom. This is where my online hybrid Minecraft training was born.

Beginning with the existing extensive training path from the Microsoft Learn Center, I built a course around those modules that would effectively introduce the pedagogy and best practice of using Minecraft in the classroom. I included the Quantic Foundry Gamer Motivation Profile quiz—this gives teachers who are not familiar with gaming a look into what drives their learning, because gaming is about learning. Gaming is about learning mechanics, learning strategies, learning stats and weights, reading lore, and combining all into a play and learning style. Teachers would then respond in a discussion group about what their Gamer Motivation is and answer the question of what they see in their students. I’m including an example of my profile from Quantic Foundry. I have found this is a fantastic way to 1) break the ice and 2) help them understand that gaming isn’t just staring at a phone or computer screen, but requires much thought, creativity, and planning.

The next step was to integrate some face-to-face time into the learning experience. For the duration of the course, I scheduled two synchronous sessions which participants were required to attend to meet course expectations. In these sessions, I included game mechanics questions and any other questions they might have. I would go into more detail on questions that might have come up, give them time to share their lesson plan ideas with me, and offer tips and/or suggestions as they moved toward their demonstration of mastery. I left my Calendly link available to them within the Canvas course in case anyone needed a one-on-one session.

Their demonstration of mastery for the course was to adapt or create a lesson aligning with their curriculum and implement the course with their students. Lessons were created for testing Booleans in Discrete Math, Water Safety for an EC (Exceptional Children) class, using the tools—including Redstone—within Minecraft to build a cannon and successfully fire it, and learning to use the Media Center by finding information about basilisks. Teachers enjoyed the course, and many are still using their lessons.

As time has progressed, so has the way I continue to offer the course. I have now adapted it to the new lesson progressions and created a pathway here in the district for teachers to learn as much or as little as they feel they will need. I am excited about the possibilities this creates, as the prior course required a lot of time to successfully complete. I feel that by offering choice, they will more easily integrate Minecraft Education Edition into their classroom. This progression shows how easily accessible the threshold for using the game in the classroom is for teachers. Developing demonstrations of mastery that include turning in an artifact is a fun challenge that increases in difficulty as they progress in the learning pathway, from the 101 course which requires turning in a screenshot, to the more advanced courses which require setting up Flip topics and creating an NPC (Non-Player Character) for use in a lesson.

The opening page of the course outlines what the course is about and how the course aligns with the district strategic guidelines and digital learning competencies.

Overview of the opening page from the Teaching with Minecraft Education Edition course

The following pages give tutorials on getting the game from Microsoft Store—as downloading from the MEE site is not accessible for teachers—how to get to the Microsoft Learn Center, and getting logged into Minecraft for the first time with CMS credentials.

Overview of the 101 Building Individually course

Trish Cloud is a Digital Learning Coordinator for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and was integral in introducing Minecraft to the district. She has been a Global Minecraft Mentor for five years and has several lessons included in the Minecraft Library.

Twitter: @trishcloud