Sandbox Assignment using Minecraft

Evidence: Sandbox Assignment using Minecraft (video) and comparison of Minecraft to MinecraftEDU (blog post) (April 12, 2015)

Learning Outcome(s):

  • Plan learning opportunities most suitable to the strengths and challenges of a variety of mobile learning and gaming environments
  • Develop practical and technical skills in all phases of concept, development, design, implementation etc. within mobile learning and gaming environments

Reflection to Support Evidence:

For my final assignment in OLTD 508 I chose to create a lesson for my literacy math (Grades 1-9) learners in Minecraft. The assignment required that I build a lesson based on chosen learning outcomes and show my lesson through a 5-10 minute video walkthrough of what my students might see. I was also to discuss whether Minecraft was a good fit for my class or students, how it may allow for various ways to ‘show what they know’ and how it might be personalized for each student’s learning needs.

Although I have watched my children play hours of Minecraft, I had never attempted to play the game myself. Creating a lesson in Minecraft gave me an opportunity to see how it might be used as an educational tool. I initially found the game to be overwhelming, as I played in creative mode and was faced with a wide blank area that needed to be filled. I was also skeptical about how Minecraft might work with adult learners, as I had associated the game with younger players.

I began by choosing what learning outcomes I hoped to meet and then explored various tools within the game that would help me communicate with my students while they were playing. Minecraft does not have the same supervision features as MinecraftEDU, so I needed to be sure that my instructions were clear. After creating a first draft of my lesson plan in my Minecraft world, I moved through as if I was a student which helped me correct any confusing pieces in my design.

What I discovered was that Minecraft is so flexible that you can create just about anything you want. The interface allows players to build to the best of their own abilities – those with more practice can build more elaborate constructions but new players can still meet learning outcomes by building basic structures. This game empowers learners, which James Gee (2013), in his Thirteen Principles of Game-Based Learning, describes as allowing players to co-design, customize, manipulate and take on an identity. I was also reminded of Universal Design for Learning (CAST, 2015); Minecraft provides multiple means of representation, expression and engagement, all positive features of good educational games.

If you choose to use any mobile learning or gaming environment in an educational setting, it is critical to ensure the learning draws on the strengths of the tool. Poorly planned activities can cause frustration in the learner or see them move off-task. It is simply not enough to just choose a game; educators need to plan a clear lesson that has been carefully thought through and meets the chosen learning objectives. Being familiar with how the game works and potential challenges students may face is important when designing the lesson. I am currently exploring math games to use with my class, and with these OLTD learning outcomes in mind I am much more critical in my assessment of whether the game meets my needs and the needs of my learners.

References

CAST. (2015). About Universal Design for Learning. Retrieved April 28, 2015 from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html

Gee, J.P. (2013, Nov 13). Jim Gee Principles on Gaming. [Video file]. Retrieved March 23, 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aQAgAjTozk

 

Evidence link(s):

Video tour of Minecraft lesson (VIUTube)

Comparison of Minecraft and MinecraftEDU (blog post)

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