Meeting Students Where They Are – Within Minecraft

Guest Blog By: Crista Anderson
Crista Anderson is a K-12 Title 1 Instructional Coach in Missoula, Montana

minecraftThere is something about a face-to-face connection that makes it all real. I am a gamer. I am a connector. I am an innovator. When I am these things by myself, I go nowhere. When I am these things with my students, we go somewhere.

Consider Minecraft. Did you know …

  • That 14,533,141 people have bought the game (including the 8,727 just in the 24 hours prior to writing this post!).
  • From October 11, 2011 (Dated … but notable)
    • 241,920,000 logins per month
    • 1,000 logins per hour
    • 4000 logins per second after 1.0 launch
    • 2,000,000,000 files download by the launcher
    • 11,000 skin downloads (in game) per second

These statistics blew my mind and are evidence that Minecraft is not going away any time soon.

Currently in the midst of a professional development experiment, (an ASCD’s Pre-Conference Lead21 event comprised of workshops, action labs, forums and even an @bar for 1:1 consultations), I have been given the opportunity to extend my learning with Dr. Marie Alcock about the importance of gamification in the classroom.

Whenever I find a fellow geeky-gamer-edu-mom-pd facilitating-connected educator/learner, I feel a lot less lonely in the world. We truly speak the same language.

Marie led with the guiding prompt: “Gaming is hard: What is it about games that inspire people to learn how to do such a difficult thing?”

She started by amplifying the importance of taking the characteristics of  ‘good games’ – games that pull us in by offering timely feedback, engaging hooks, incremental goals and achievements. Then, with the action lab model, she offered us encouragement and support to apply those principles as we worked to develop our own affinity space (a place – virtual or physical – where informal learning takes place) to meet students virtually as they meet learning goals.

Minecraft provides a visually stimulating, fully-modifiable environment which can be whittled away to create virtual experiences in any content area and in any grade. Take some time to explore. Beware the creepers though … You may even want to recruit the nearest 8 year olds to be your guide.

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