How Wales Hwb created a national professional development program with Minecraft

11 Oct 2022 Minecraft Educaiton Wales blog

In 2019, seeking to ensure students across Wales had access to the same tools and opportunities, the Welsh Government offered Microsoft 365 with Minecraft: Education Edition to all educators and 467,000 learners via Wales Hwb, the country’s digital platform for learning and teaching. Hwb was interested in supporting 21st century skill development and innovating their use of technology, and so they designed and implemented a model for at-scale educator professional development.

This transformative training program has led to hundreds of Wales teachers using Minecraft in classrooms across the country and Minecraft: Education Edition becoming an integral tool for teaching the new Curriculum for Wales.

In this new Microsoft customer story video and whitepaper, hear from several educators who have been part of the Minecraft Learning Centres program, some since day one, as well as Peter Kennedy, Head of STEM curriculum for the Welsh Government.

Download the whitepaper in English and Welsh to learn more about how the Minecraft Learning Centres program was designed and implemented in Wales.

Evolving a pilot into a countrywide training program

Minecraft: Education Edition was introduced to Welsh educators as part of a pilot in 2017 called Cracking the Code. The government hand-picked 10 schools to support development in coding and digital skills using Minecraft. Microsoft funded the pilot, which was designed and delivered via Prodigy Learning, a Microsoft Global Training Partner. Hwb worked with the Minecraft team and Prodigy to develop, iterate, and deliver the training model which included game-based learning pedagogy and creation of Minecraft Learning Centers (MLCs) based in schools across the country.

Developing coursework and delivering a national curriculum

MLCs constructed a set of Minecraft build challenges as well as academic courses, or Schemes of Work, to support delivery of the Curriculum for Wales. These courses are based on play-based learning, collaboration, and project-based learning, with a blended learning model that supported remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. MLCs also encourage learners to develop their own set of rules and norms for working in an online, collaborative environment.

Creating student leaders and leveling the playing field

Students lead their own learning and the educators have seen impacts especially in reaching disengaged and special needs learners. “Our quieter pupils have naturally grown into leaders because of Minecraft: Education Edition,” said Coran Jones, Teacher of ICT and Computer Science at Risca Comprehensive School. Sarah Snowdon, Hwb Minecraft Learning Center Program Manager said, “Minecraft levels the playing field because all learners can actually get involved. Traditionally disengaged learners suddenly become really engaged.”

Custom content to enliven the curriculum

Careers Wales built a world called CareersCraft to support young people exploring career options. Schools across Wales have developed scholastic esports programs with Minecraft. The MLCs and Hwb have supported a proliferation of curricular activities ranging from worlds on Celtic architecture and World War II history lessons to fairy tales and sustainability. And through a partnership between Hwb and the Wales Rugby Union, the “Club of the Future” Challenge was born, challenging students build a Club of the Future based on the needs of their own locality (and considering accessibility and sustainability).

Preparing students to thrive

“One of the [Curriculum of Wales] priorities is to ensure learners have the skills when they come out of education, to apply to later life and to apply into the workforce and to careers. Minecraft is a fantastic example of taking digital skills and applying them into other areas of your school day and to build on those skills to apply them then into a real world or into a later life scenario,” said Peter Kennedy.

From comprehensive computer science lessons, learner-to-learner coding buddies, and virtual Minecraft instructors that team teach with educators, Hwb is continuing to work with Prodigy and educators across Wales to expand the use of Minecraft in the curriculum. “We don’t know what the employment landscape will look like in the future; jobs and work are evolving every day, every week, every year. We need to ensure that learners have fundamental transferable skills that they can apply to their careers and into their work in later life.” said Peter Kennedy.

Visit the Microsoft Customer Story and watch the case study video.

Download the whitepaper in English and Welsh.

Learn more about professional development and take free online course Minecraft 101 on Microsoft Learn to get started.