Minefaire and Minecraft: Education Edition = Perfect Match!

Minefaire Philly took place on October 14-15 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. Before the general public arrived, the first day of the event kicked off with a special three hour event exclusively for educators. This free event was co-sponsored by the Minecraft: Education Edition team, included breakfast for attendees, and provided three hours of learning about how Minecraft is (and can be) used in Education. The idea behind the event was to bring educators together to connect and learn together while growing the community of educators interested in using Minecraft in schools. Over 30 attendees and six global Minecraft mentors participated. The participants were able to meet mentors from around the world including Marco Vigelini (all the way from Italy!), Ben Spieldenner from Ohio, Sean Arnold from New York, and Mark Grundel, Steve Isaacs, and Cathy Cheo-Isaacs all hailing from New Jersey. Educators were able to hear from each of the mentors who led the three hour event. Steve introduced Minecraft: Education Edition, Mark taught the educators how to play, Ben took the educators through a sample lesson that he created and Cathy introduced the new code builder for Minecraft. The other mentors as well as a number of students and other educators supported the event to help the educators and answer questions about the value of Minecraft in Education.

"The Minefaire PD was empowering for teachers and for Mentors. It was exciting to have conversations about creating immersive educational experiences." - Minecraft Mentor Ben Spieldenner

Even cooler, Ben's daughter Bella (one of the kids who was happy to help the teachers learn) commented, "I actually got to interact WITH teachers...that never happens!" There's nothing we love more than having kids help out in the learning lab. Anyone who has ever played Minecraft knows that they are the experts and best teachers! Justin Aglio, Director of Innovation (K-12) for the Montour School District in Pittsburgh shared, "As a school administrator, I left Pittsburgh at 3:00 AM on Saturday morning to attend the Educator event and volunteer at Minefaire, Philly. I arrived in Philadelphia at 8:00 am and entered Minefaire. By 5:00 PM I realized that I did not eat or drink anything since I left Pittsburgh because I was so engaged with the learning culture of MinecraftEdu, Overall, I was not only impressed with the learning potential of MinecraftEdu, but I was more impressed with the people including the Minecraft Mentors' enthusiasm of unlocking brilliance for all children." We are happy to report that Justin did not suffer from dehydration nor starve to death. We did make sure to keep him fed and hydrated on day two of Minefaire.

Michelle King also made the road trip from Pittsburgh. Michelle participated in the educator event and stuck around to help out in the learning lab for the entire weekend. Michelle is an incredible educator and an even more incredible human being. It was wonderful to have her join us for the weekend! She shared, "Minefaire has captured the essence of what's beautiful about humanity -- a reminder that we love to be in community and sharing what we love." I love this quote as it speaks directly to the vision of creating a space for educators to come and spend time together while learning with and from one another. Not to mention the amazing bond found among game based learning and in this case more specifically Minecraft educators. Marco Vigelini from Italy was able to present at the event and also took to the Diamond Stage to share a new Minecraft map of Florence, Italy. It's a beautiful map that you can check out here. Marco reflected on his thoughts on the Minefaire Experience and added, "It was a way to learn easily and deeper from each other."

The learning opportunities did not end with the 3 hour workshop. The entire weekend featured:

  • hands on workshops in the learning lab
  • 20 minute presentations on the Inspiration Stage
  • Build Battles
  • YouTube Q&A panels throughout the day
  • A costume contest on the Diamond Stage
  • YouTube Meet and Greets
  • A cardboard challenge where attendees built a huge physical Minecraft world with cardboard
  • learning how to code in Python and other languages in Minecraft
  • and so much more!

Educators who attended this free event were invited to stay to take in all that Minefaire has to offer as our guests for the day. It became pretty clear to the attendees what a true phenomenon Minecraft is as they witnessed the droves of people entering the Expo Center as those with VIP passes entered followed by those with General Admission. If you missed the educator event at Minefaire this time, you can keep an eye out on social media and start making plans to attend the next one! ____ Steve Isaacs (@mr_isaacs) teaches Video Game Design and Development at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ. He also developed and teaches an online version of the Video Game Design and Development course for the VHS Collaborative. A strong proponent of student choice and student voice, in his 'free' time, this Global Minecraft Mentor loves to bike, hike, swim, snorkel, ski, and play video games. You can follow his blog to find out more and explore his showcase of student work on Pinterest.

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