My 5 year-old insists that I look at her 3-D virtual world on Minecraft every day. I don’t mind. In fact, I was shocked the first time I saw what she created on her own. I assumed the game was too old for her, but after watching her sisters play, she insisted that she needed to try it on the iPad, immediately.
My girls were completely absorbed and it seemed way too fun and entertaining to be “educational” . We have plenty of apps that fall into that category. They mostly sit on the iPad gathering virtual dust.
I noticed some really cool things happening, things that could easily be labeled learning.
I did not tell them.
Last week, I read that a Swesdish school recently made Minecrafting mandatory. “They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future,” said a teacher from the Viktor Rydberg School. Around 180 students take part in the program. They learn to build virtual worlds, complete with water supply networks and electricity grids.
The game is designed for all ages. Each of my girls are deeply involved in the game, but enjoy different aspects of it. The Adventurer plays, interacts and builds with friends in the multi-player version. The Butterfly loves the action of survival mode. My little Princess loves to build tree houses and castles.
Here are 11 things my kids are learning from Minecraft:
- Reading. Beginning readers (like the Princess) can practice reading the names on the inventory list that is essential to building. Each item used in the game has a “tool tip” to help players learn how to use it for building.
- Sharpens basic computation skills (addition and multiplication) through the creation of different structures.
- Exposure to and exploration of geometry concepts (ex: making a square based pyramid)
- Expand measuring skills.
- Practice problem solving and critical thinking skills.
- Survival skills (if you choose to play in survival mode).
- Spacial reasoning.
- Explore creativity in a variety of ways.
- Social and communication skills (in multi-player / survival mode). Players learn how to be a good citizen in a virtual world and can communicate with other players through writing.
- Teamwork through collaborative building.
- Art and Design. Players can play with design by building houses and structures with a variety of colors and materials or they can create their own sculptures and art within their world.
Still not convinced?
Sit down and watch them play. Get excited about what they are building. Help them find guides to building more advanced structures. Ask them to show you how it works and why they chose certain building materials. Find out what they want to build next.
If they’re interested, download the Colosseum or another real life building and explore it, inside and out. Compare it to photos in a book or images from Google Earth. Follow your child’s interest and see where it leads you! Roman history maybe? Architecture? How to survive in the wild? Geology? Topography and mapping?
The learning opportunities in Minecraft seem as wide as the worlds that can be created. Some educators think it could even help students improve SAT scores. For ideas on expanding your child’s learning (and fun) using Minecraft, check out this article about Using Minecraft in the classroom.
What are your kids building and learning on Minecraft? Do you have another suggestion for game based learning? Tell me in the comments!