Tuesday, August 07, 2012

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Minecraft Used as an Education Tool by 300 Schools

Minecraft Education

Minecraft.edu, as the domain name suggests, is an educational non-profit that sells a version of the sandbox game as a teaching tool (at a 50% discount, through a deal with Minecraft developer Mojang). According to a very interesting Slate article, 300 schools are using this version for various education applications:

According to [Minecraft.edu's Joel] Levin, about 300 schools have bought the discounted Minecraft so far, and 50 schools are testing MinecraftEdu. One teacher, he says, is using it to teach English as a second language through Minecraft’s online chat system. Another has her students write nightly journal entries about their Minecraft adventures.

Why so much interest in Minecraft, generally seen as a hardcore "gamer's game", from educators? As the Slate author explains:

Minecraft has many markers of what makes for a good learning environment: child-initiated projects, deep engagement, challenging tasks that push kids to persist and reach higher goals, excitement over what has been learned or discovered, tools for writing, and multiple modes of play that enable kids (and adults) to mold the game to their liking. Want to play by yourself and have loads of gold bricks available for your yellow-brick road? Use “creative” mode. Want to invite friends to build a town? Turn on the multiplayer server. Want to add more monsters and turn the game into a swashbuckling adventure? Add a “mod” created by fans and game developers to trigger more zombies or creepers to appear.

A lot of NWN readers are educators working with OpenSim and Second Life as a teaching tool, which works fairly well if the curriculum specifically requires high-res 3D graphics, but seems to me Minecraft has many of the same features, with additional advantages: a much more stable client with much lower hardware requirements, without any extreme sexual/adult content, and an ability to run on many platforms, including tablets, the web, even Xbox. Read more about it here.

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Jo Yardley

Second Life should SO work on getting education back in world.
Sure they get a discount but it also opens a huge new market of potential users.

I use SL for education and as we try to get people in in stead of bringing our own students to SL, it is important for us to reach as many people as possible.
That is why we stick with SL.

I don't really get minecraft, it seems like fun but I just can't get passed the simplistic graphics.
Maybe because I am almost as old as 'the computer game' and have already spend too much time on bad computers playing bad looking games in the 1980s.

shockwave yareach

*shrugs* LL decided not to bother following Apple's model of getting the education market by offering a discount, that way users who join on their own later will choose to join the camp they already know. Apple now has hundreds of billions of dollars in cash and a near cult-like fanbase which thinks Apple can do no wrong. Whereas LL... well, I'll be civil and just say that LL does not.

But hey, since when are sales figures, company size, dedicated customers and astronomical stock returns any sign of success? Just keep saying "Winning!" to yourself over and over again.

Metacam Oh

Like it or not Minecraft is part of the Metaverse and it has the most users of all of them.

Adeon Writer

Heh, I found it odd when Jeb added writable books into the game, now I think I know what they were for. :)

Iggy

@Jo, I disagree.

A discount in tier might get some educators back and attract a few hundred returning or new institutional renters, but LL won't snare Millennial students with this product.

My cohort of gamers thinks SL has lame graphics, a balky client, and poor performance.

Their peers in the mainstream already live augmented, avatarian lives of beauty, conspicuous consumption, and ease. They are like the "Feed" enhanced kids of M.T. Anderson's amazing YA novel. But instead of a brain jack, it's a phone glued to the hand at all times.

To most of them in my classes, SL is "creepy" because of the nym business and the need to be tethered in a chair for long periods. These are kids who send 100 texts per day while on the go. SL is not made to be experienced that way.

These kids live something like SL with their bodies yet crave authenticity: a signature paradox of affluent American youth today.

The Revolution passed us by. We were wrong about the future of online engagement.

Even Neal Stephenson has moved on.

shockwave yareach

iggy - Then what exactly would make these folks interested in VR world? Besides being able to connect to it in some fashion with a cellphone? I'm curious what the next generation of computer users out there thinks.

Nym? What stops them from using whatever name they want to as their display name? They can be themselves, anonymous, or a company figurehead like Col. Sanders if they wish. What's the issue, may I ask?

Jo yardley

Well what I experience in SL can not be found anywhere.
I have brought many of my rl friends into SL to witness it, making SL addicts out of most of them.
I use SL for education, by giving people the chance to 'travel back in time' and become part of history, experience the past.
No games I know even come close.

Daniel Spielmann (@spani3l)

So now that we've seen how they like to teach essential skills to their students in America, here's how we do it in Norway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp4Nny_rIiw

Iggy

@shockwave, nothing will get the sort of students on my campus interested in virtual worlds. Or serious games that cut into social time or could hurt GPAs and professional opportunities such as internships. Casual games? Different matter.

If my students are typically "next gen" computer users, they won't buy desktops, ever. I don't know if tablets will replace laptops for them. Phones will be the primary communications tool. If something can be done while doing other things, that will be the preferred tool to use.

While students can use a real name in SL, there's another issue: your name and mine. Their Internet is not our Internet. As my wife, who teaches K-5, notes, "a lot of the fear comes from 12 years of Internet safety classes." The assumption seems to be that a nym equals "a creep."

Arcadia Codesmith

I would not term Minecraft a "hardcore gamers' game". It's an awesome game, unquestionably, but hardcore? It's child's play.

If teachers are using it to introduce a new generation to the power of virtual reality, more power to them. They can grow up to pity Iggy's collge students as they hunch over squinting at their itty-bitty screens.

Iggy

@Arcadia, I already pity them. Sense of wonder? Subjugated to the need to succeed (and party) in a Social-Darwinist American economy. As with imagination: the first wave of Millennials, as a few demographic studies have suggested strongly, never ever got to play imaginatively. Everything was structured play: sports, self-improvement, etc. Very little "sandbox time."

Here's to hoping that younger Millennials are different. And experiences such as Minecraft are just the ticket to having fun that is not directly related to careers and career networks.

Nima Benoir

I've been using SL in a crossover type of way and find it a really cool tool. This Spring I had a English student who when he gets older, would like to work as a guide for the MOMA in NY. In designing this project I needed an art museum for him to give a tour from or of. A first I tried to find a local (real) art museum but there was nothing in my area. I than tried to find the virtual equivalent of the MOMA in NY. They do have something virtual, but I needed a more in depth experience as I wanted him to practice words, get a taste of his future experience as a guide in a "hands on" way and field questions from visitors. Unable to find anything that met my requirements, we instead decided to just built the MOMA in SL. He got to use, learn and practice all kinds of English, ha, learn new technology and we both had a fantastic time putting it together! After his project was complete, he gave his tour live, to parents and friends. I think the educational potential is unlimited when it comes to virtual worlds if used in a supplemental way versus as a total classroom replacement. This blend worked quite well for us. I later documented it, (simple documentation lol, obviously not a movie maker!) I don't know if I can include a link but I'll try, right now it is on the first page. http://sillyfish.posterous.com/

sharad thakur

Minecraft is a good ideas for student, children and other field. Because it is a technology for education. Minecraft has many markers of what makes for a good learning environment.
Thanks.
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http://www.animationnotes.com>animation notes

case study

Enjoyed reading every line of the article, thanks for the writer!

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