Exploring Minecraft for education

When I started to build my space in Minecraft I just followed my immediate ideas. I did not plan first and realize then, I just built what came to my mind. As a very lovely landscape was already given, I got into that landscape and started with bricks. Brick-and-mortar.  Three steles from glow stone mark the area.

At the same time I had to learn how to handle the building material and the process of building things itself. From time to time I flew over the terrain to see who else was romping around and building their own castles in the air in this virtual and fictitious, but nevertheless somehow realistic landscape. There were a few. Some of them built real forts, statement buildings with messages like “REAL” and “VR” or “SHADOW”, another building was demonstrating its location or at least the home country of its owner by hanging an oversized South African flag on a wall. Others built their spaces into the sky, without respecting any idea of gravity, just having them lead by their ideas and the limitless possibilities of virtual space.

The creation of my space in Minecraft was led by the one I would like to have in real life: some sort of a co-working space where individual work and co-working were possible.  Instead of seminar or lecture halls with tables and chairs in them, beamer and screen, I’d prefer transparent and multifunctional – cozy – spaces, a stage for performances of any kind and an open area like a platform to use for any kind of project. Playback theatre is a method I’d like to explore, so I built a small amphitheater with a stage and a few seat rows for the audience. To leave the space open to any kind of use I did not furnish the space with anything more than a few seats inside and outside. The trees I planted should protect the building and the people using it from too much heat and sun.

The space can be used for multiple settings like silent work, reading and writing in the library. Group discussions can take place practically everywhere, especially in the patio for instance where seats are provided for several people. The outside platform is designed as a space for any kind of activity, like lectures, tutoring of groups, coaching of groups and individuals, in short: any kind of teaching. Imagine some tables and seats which can be placed as wished for any kind of teaching and learning. The stage is a place for performance of any kind or celebration.

I intentionally left the individual rooms, whether inside or outside, empty. In our seminar and group rooms, it always bothers me that the furniture and hardware is permanently installed. Often you can’t even move the tables to convert the room for different purposes. Even lecture halls are all built according to the same pattern and date back to a pre-media era: today, you could simply record the lectures of provide them in some other way and put them on the net for students to watch at home. In this way, the time spent at the meeting could be used for other things: Discussion, Q&A, group work, exercises, presentations, just to name a few ideas.

To explore the space go to the IDEL Minecraft realm (upon invitation) or see the following gallery of images:

How to use Minecraft realm in education

During my exploration of Minecraft and its possibilities I asked myself how I could use the Minecraft environment for diverse educative projects. Minecraft is a virtual environment with two modes: creative mode and survival mode. The creative mode could be interesting for collaboration and communication amongst team members. Minecraft is a space where individuals can meet up, discuss via chat, build and rebuild objects of any kind. It is less a space where a lecture would take place, as you communicate via chat. But it is primarily a place where environments and/or objects emerge, where the involved individuals can build their own space or objects, or collaborate and deal with the visualization of a collective idea.

Minecraft could be a space where to rebuild objects or concepts in order to understand them. I see a potential for group work here, somehow like we did in our IDEL course. While we built our spaces individually it could be useful to build teams to construct their idea collaboratively. It would be more challenging. Maybe a further communication channel could do for negotiating ways of collaboration and communication. So I could imagine to use Skype or Teams or Zoom or some other platform for synchronous online-meeting to use for negotiating ideas and forms of collaboration in Minecraft.

Minecraft could be a fertile breeding ground for innovation because there are virtually no limits. You can pursue your creative imagination and create landscapes or places that will then become the starting point for innovative teaching and learning spaces. One can play around, transform ideas virtually yet vividly, so that others can move around in this space and thus understand or – so to speak – experience how they could be used for education.

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