Using Students’ Interests and Voices to Design Minecraft Projects
We’ve all roamed the Internet looking for those precious lessons and projects that will be both engaging and educational for our students. We think about our learning standards, our subjects, our areas of expertise, our daily schedule, our rubrics, etc. However, we run through all these potentially great projects ideas in our own heads without including student voice.
If we want students to take learning into their own hands, we must provide opportunities for them to surprise us!
So, what should your next Minecraft project be? I don’t know – ask your students! Getting students involved in the development of a project tells them you value their voice. Whether it’s through an open classroom discussion or an icebreaker game – find out your students’ interests! In fact, I would suggest an online form, so feel free to take this Microsoft form and adapt it to your needs to learn more about your students’ interests!
It is not unfathomable to combine students’ interests outside the classroom with their projects. This is what made Minecraft: Education Edition revolutionary – it took something that students were already doing outside the classroom and encouraged them to create within the classroom. When you get to know your students and their interests, you open up opportunities for collaboration.
Collaborate with students to develop projects that appeal to them and invite them to create the criteria/expectations with you!
I was struggling this year with combining to seemingly disparate subjects – literacy and gaming. I had my own ideas for the project, but thanks to getting feedback from students, I discovered that many of them expressed interest in the novel and upcoming film, Ready Player One. This interest expressed by my 7th Grade students prompted a discussion on the evolution of video games, which then led to us playing old school games, like Joust, Adventure, Donkey Kong and Pong. We then collaborated on a project rubric together, which embedded a freedom to create in Minecraft while connecting their learning back to literacy and even history!
Below is a picture of Michael and Alden playing the 1982 game, Joust on an online Atari 2600 emulator. The game is featured in Ready Player One as one of the trials to obtain the Copper Key.
Below are two pictures of Kai, Max, Krish, Mikylla, and Bianca working collaboratively in Minecraft: Education Edition to show the evolution of Pong on different gaming platforms! They even presented their project in front of their classmates! You can view their Sway to see their final build and their cross-connections with Ready Player One!
Below is a picture of the final builds created by Jair, Jonathan, Samuel, Kush, and Gradin. They researched information on how to replicate popular videogame icons of the 1980s and create virtual city to showcase their work! You can see the tour and Ready Player One connections in their Sway!
Below is a picture of Alistair and Nathanael starting the initial build to their self-sustaining, future city!
My 8th and 9th Grade Cohort students went even further and developed projects and rubrics on their own! Alistair and Nathanael (featured above) developed their own Minecraft project to create a self-sustaining city, which involved creating their own project criteria, connecting it to Common Core Standards, and aggregating their entire process into a Sway! You can view a tour of their build below:
Not every school has the funding to go on a field trip, but when you have the opportunity – take advantage of it! Give students opportunities to connect real-world experiences with in-school learning!
Find ways to connect your Minecraft projects with your field trips.
Living close to Seattle, our students at Renton Prep had the opportunity to visit Living Computers: Museum + Labs, which serendipitously connected with our Minecraft project about videogames! You can see a quick, video recap of our trip here! The students surprised me with their cross-connections and I beamed with pride seeing students absorb this experience at a computer museum and connecting it back with their projects – a hope that every teacher has!
Below is a photo of students, Alistair and Duy investigating the Atari 2600 – the game console that launched Adventure – the game that started video game Easter eggs and inspired the hunt in Ready Player One!
You may not understand your students’ interests. You may not immediately see the connection between their learning and their interests, but that is not the aspect of key importance. What’s more important is that you encourage your students. Your encouragement and willingness to listen to their thoughts are what make those Minecraft projects great. Share their Minecraft projects with other classes and their parents! The great thing about Minecraft: Education Edition is that you can share your Minecraft projects globally, which enhances their world perspective of learning. Ultimately, they want to know that you’re proud of them and that you believe they’re important to you. Again, your encouragement is important. As Mister Rogers said, “If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Global Minecraft Mentor Erikk Hood (@erikkhood) is an educator at Renton Prep who is passionate about experimenting and integrating technology in education to make projects engaging and fun for students.