My Journey into a New World—Minecraft: Education Edition

06 Jun 2022 Monica Alicea Banner


Monica Alicea is a Technology Training and Integration Specialist with the Cobb County School District in Marietta, Georgia. She earned her Ph.D. in Childhood Education from Georgia State University in 2013. She was Cheatham Hill Elementary Teacher of the Year (TOTY) 2015-2016, Voya Unsung Hero 3rd Place Award recipient $7,000 grant winner in 2017. Monica supports teachers in preparing digital-age learners for success in a global, ever-changing society. Her goal is to assist educators in leveraging technology to transform traditional classrooms into digital age classrooms. Monica is a Minecraft Mentor, Certified Minecraft Trainer, Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert, Microsoft Global Learning Mentor, and Flipgrid Student Voice Ambassador.

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My Journey into a New World—Minecraft: Education Edition

When teachers ask me why they should use Minecraft: Education Edition, I can honestly share that I asked myself that exact same question four years ago. I have always been an educator who valued providing students with meaningful learning experiences that were relevant to them. When I started a new position as a Technology Training and Integration Specialist with my school district, I had to remember what I valued when our department was first introduced to Minecraft: Education Edition. I thought, “Why do students need to play Minecraft at school when they play it all the time at home?” But then I realized that students can learn while doing something they love. I made it my professional goal to learn more about Minecraft: Education Edition for the 2018–2019 school year.

I began this adventure by taking the My Minecraft Journey course in the Microsoft Educator Center, which consisted of ten lessons. Taking this course helped me learn about building, but also about how to integrate Minecraft into my curriculum. This was important so I could support teachers in doing the same. I found support from students, other educators, and the Minecraft: Education Edition website. YouTube became my best friend and source of entertainment throughout my journey.

The Competition is On

Building a reindeer design in Minecraft

My department began initiating Minecraft challenges to encourage us to use Education Edition. This really helped me build my knowledge, understanding, and skill level. I had also gained enough confidence to offer training during our district professional learning day in November 2018. Teachers were very excited about learning Minecraft and how they could use it with their students.

One challenge in particular was to build a house for Santa. I used YouTube to help me. After I created this house, the next day challenge was to build a pen for Santa’s “reindeer.” I learned how to spawn horses as reindeer and how to make a sign for each of them. After I completed the challenge, I found out how to get a winter template. I found directions on YouTube on how to move an object from one world to another. Even though I followed the directions, I could not get them to work, so I rebuilt it in the winter template. The good thing was that it allowed me to practice my building, which made me more comfortable. I also began planning how I could connect this activity to several educational standards, such as perimeter, area, and language arts.

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Santa's Village with a floating label in the sky

Using Code Builder

One of my favorite challenges was to create a sign in the sky. This was difficult for me because I didn’t know where to begin. I started investigating the Code Builder site and found that by mimicking the “Compass Rose” tutorial, I could create my own sign by typing in my words.

The Journey Continues

Throughout that first year, I continued to learn, take courses, and share Minecraft with more teachers. At the end of the year, I applied to be a Global Minecraft Mentor and was awarded this status. When Minecraft asked MIE Experts if we would like to be part of the first Minecraft Certified Training cohorts, I could not wait to join and learn even more from the experts. One of the best things I have done this year was mentor an educator from Croatia as part of this program. I love building global relationships and Minecraft is a wonderful way to do just that. Several of the teachers I work with have now completed the Certified Minecraft Trainer courses, which really makes me smile. I’m constantly learning and growing as a mentor and technology coach, which helps me support my teachers. So, when teachers ask me why they should use Minecraft in the classroom, I know just what to tell them!

Want to see more about my journey, check out my Sway.