Posts Tagged ‘minecraft’
I read Edudemic’s curated comments on the pros and cons of using Minecraft in Education. It was a good example of curation being superior to creation.
When some people argue about the merits of curation over content creation, at least one party will point out that curators can only curate what others create.
But as I find some of the claims that some writers at Edudemic make questionable, I was glad that one of them crowdsourced for opinions on the issue of Minecraft for education.
The opinions were well-worded and powerful. In particular I enjoyed:
I think Minecraft has about as much inherent educational value as an overhead projector, in that it depends entirely on the skill and vision of the instructor using it. Its a great blank canvas system, and the tools for leveraging that canvas are only getting better with time.
I tend to agree with the pedagogy-before-technology group. More important than the resources a teacher has is that teacher’s creativity to use what s/he has to teach effectively.
But the argument that technology is “just a tool” will gradually get stale. We shape our tools and our tools shape us. We found more efficient ways to plant and harvest crops and that gave us better nutrition and more time to pursue other interests. We search with Google, and in effect train it, and now it influences how we look for information and learn.
The rest of the comments focused on the unbridled enthusiasm of pro-Minecraft folks. They pointed out that Minecraft was not a panacea for educational ills and that it was not a one-stop, one-size-fits-all solution.
I agree. But I also think that argument is getting old.
Why not question the one-size-fits-all solution of textbooks and school periods? Why not find ways to stop making excuses for not trying newer and more relevant ways to reach and teach so that students yearn to learn?
I am not sure if Minecraft is the ultimate educational tool, but playing it with my son and learning from him how to explore, build, and survive, I am convinced that it is educational.
It has the merits mentioned in the video of how it might be applied in content areas. But I am also interested in things like expressing creativity, planning strategically, delaying gratification, collaborating in real-time, learning from mistakes, learning how to negotiate and compromise, etc.
The opportunities to teach these things using the game are tremendous whether you treat Minecraft as a game or use it as a simulation. Whether it is an ultimate tool depends on the ability of the parent or teacher to see and shape the possibilities!
The phrase extra curricular activity (ECA) evolved to co-curricular activity (CCA) in Singapore many years ago. But I wonder if the thinking behind the change has devolved.
The extra in ECA implied that it was optional. Perhaps extra gave a sense that it was not as essential as the academic development of the child.
I think those fears were unwarranted as ECAs used to be joined and conducted in a way that is qualitatively different from today.
Back then you joined an ECA because you were curious or interested in it. Now some CCAs size you up for success before allowing you to sign up.
Back then you could join or leave an ECA within a reasonable period of time. Now you have to stick with it even if you realize it is not a good fit.
Back then the activities seemed to be driven by passion. Now they are driven by results.
The only thing co-curricular about CCAs is that they are run like conventional curricula, i.e., races. One size fits all, keep to the path, follow the schedule, and/or if you lose, it sucks to be you.
Should kids learn that life is not easy? Yes. ECAs or CCAs are great opportunities to learn from failure. But they should learn (and fail) from what they are passionate about, not what they have little choice to sign up for.
It is no wonder then that parents with the means provide alternatives.
Many parents here push the kids. Some of the kids need pushing. But I would wager that many kids know their passions even if they are only in primary or elementary school.
My son did not get selected for his two preferred CCAs. He had to settle for his third choice.
Are we complaining? No. We are starting our own parent and child Minecraft Club. We know of other kids that love to create in this space and I know of at least one teacher in another school who is exploring it on her own.
We do this not for CCA recognition or points. We do it because we want to. We do it because we see the value in allowing kids to create, explore, and tinker. We take advantage of the life lessons that emerge from our interaction in-world and out.
We have set up our own Minecraft server and we might invite those who do not want to run the curricular race. Others with the means and know-how can do the same.
I watched a documentary on Minecraft, Story of Mojang (trailer above).
I enjoyed the bits on the creative efforts of individuals, the Minecraft Teacher‘s classroom, and the comment of a parent.
That parent did what most parents do: Limit the computer gaming time of their kids. But that parent also noticed the creative work that his child was engaged in. He wondered why he should limit that. He reflected that parenting had to change.
That struck a still resonating chord with me.
The issue is not about self-regulation, discipline, and balance. Those are important to develop in a child. The issue is questioning the setting of unreasonable limits on creativity, authentic exploration, and self-directed learning.
Over the weekend, my son and I created two videos of his exploits in Minecraft.
They are not professional quality as we used an old white Macbook, QuickTime’s built-in screencasting feature, and Minecraft running in a window.
There are lots of other more famous and entertaining Minecraft users who have created YouTube videos. CaptainSparklez, paulsoaresjr, and bluexephos come to mind. These are also the ones I would recommend for mostly kid-friendly viewing.
So why bother adding to an already large pool?
First, I wanted to show my son that creating such a resource takes time and practice. It is easy to go to YouTube, do a search, and simply consume content like the way you might watch TV. There is a lot more to learn from producing a video.
Second, it is important to give back. His videos are not likely to gather as many views or get as much appreciation as Sparklez and co. But you never know who you might reach or inspire. If an eight-year-old can do this, how about you?
Third, he will eventually realize that to teach is to learn more deeply. Even a simple description or free storytelling requires a certain sequence or logic. Saying one thing one way is clear to all. Saying it another way leaves them in the dark with a mob of Creepers.
Fourth, I would like him to eventually learn how to upload videos to his own account. There he will learn how share it responsibly, e.g., by tagging, deciding whether or not to enable various sharing options, and so on.
Fifth, he will be adding to his digital showcase and life portfolio. I started blogging on his behalf just before he was born eight years ago. He now has a digital presence in Posterous where we co-produce content. He needs to learn that this as a process and a form of literacy.
His school is unlikely to teach him this. I cannot offer him what MinecraftEdu does. But I can help him not just learn from Minecraft videos but also with them!
I had promised to buy the full version of Minecraft for my son for his birthday. He had to wait a while as his mid-year tests just ended yesterday.
He now has a copy of the game as well as a copy of some rules we have written together.
We wrote these simple rules while we were out for dinner last night. As we were on the move, we used Evernote on my iPhone to jot down our thoughts.
My son wants it printed out so that he can decorate the document with his drawings of Minecraft artefacts.
I will have to see if this overall strategy of self and external regulation works.
I am not thinking about Minecraft EDU when I refer to Minecraft education. I am referring to getting an education by playing Minecraft, watching strategy and spoof videos about the game, writing tips for or stories about it, creating mods, talking about strategies, revising design, etc.
I am thinking about problem-seeking and problem-solving. I am thinking about planning, trying, failing, and trying again. I am thinking about collaborating with others to get things done.