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May 9, 2012


Middle School – Minecraft in the Classroom

by Randy Ziegenfuss

Mr. Beyer, 6th grade teacher at Salisbury Middle School, has been accepting student projects modeled in the game Minecraft. The game has a “creative mode” which allows students the opportunity to build three-dimensional models of virtual worlds. Students use models to demonstrate comprehension, similar to what students would do if creating a three-dimensional model. One important difference is that it is easy to build interactive pieces on the computer using programs like Minecraft — opening and closing doors, moving parts and objects that react according to real-world physics. Additionally, students can use QuickTime Player to record a “fly-through” of their created model with voiceover, providing an easy way to share their work and understanding.

The benefits of using modeling software such as Minecraft for student learning are twofold. First, the simple, straightforward modeling tools make it easy for students to build a 3D representation of their thinking without much difficulty. Second, using gaming strategies to demonstrate understanding of content is incredibly engaging to many students. The motivation that in-game modeling provides often results in higher quality work from students. Those students most motivated to model their projects in Minecraft are those who struggle to complete traditional homework assignment. Minecraft provides these and other students with a broader array of choices in demonstrating new learning.

Sixth grade students have found creative ways to use Minecraft for a variety of purposes. For example, after studying the role of a ship design in Chinese history, called the junk, several students modeled the ship design in Minecraft, demonstrating an understanding of the importance of sail shape, hull and rudder design. Other examples of student work in Minecraft include videos of the water cycle and carbon dioxide-oxygen cycles, world maps with latitude and longitude lines, model biomes, and conservation of momentum. Here is an example of a Minecraft screencast created by Chris H.

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