I have been playing Minecraft for many years. I instantly fell in love with the game. It has the retro feel that I love since I grew up in the 70s and 80s immersed in computers and technology. As a teacher for over twenty years, I have been working with many technologies in the classroom and Minecraft is one of the best ever.
Teachers do not get a lot of time to play. I don’t mean video games or games — I mean just play, free space to roam, experiment, test, experience, try things for the sake of trying them and seeing what happens. Play. True play.
Many teachers have families, other jobs, complex situations of all kinds, and the free time that play requires just isn’t there. Doesn’t happen in graduate school, teacher preparation programs, during the work week, or really even on the weekends. Maybe some teachers have some free time to play, but I will safely assume that most do not.
There is the crux of my argument and purpose in this post: teachers need free time to play. Teachers need to play.
For the past year or so, I have befriended a wonderful educator and fellow Minecraft enthusiast, Stephen Reid of Immersive Minds. He lives in Scotland and I live in Los Angeles. We were working on a Minecraft project together with Becky Keene — I have never woken up so early for a conference call that was pure fun!
The experience provided me with a spark of inspiration and a new perspective into work and play and gaming and collaboration and global digital citizenry. It was a small window for me into what I think many people have already discovered is possible in this new Internet era. My only fault was that I had not yet done it! I was work work work working in the classroom and trying (and failing) not to work on the weekends and in the evenings. Teachers really do not get a break, even after so many years. You cannot sit back and put the class on auto-pilot because it has to change and evolve with time and with the students you serve.
So when do teachers get to truly develop as teachers outside of working? What new ideas could they encounter if left alone to play together? How could that experience and those ideas enter the classroom? What impact could it have on students and their experiences as learners?
Stephen Reid and I recently were tweeting at each other because I wanted to hang out with him. Again, he lives in Scotland, so we have a Minecraft survival world accessible via Internet where we can work and chat and explore and create together. In just a few hours, not only did I find diamonds and put together a set of iron armor inside of what will soon be a tremendous cobblestone fortress, but have already begun to allow myself the freedom of play and wonder.
When we were in the game, Stephen and I were text-chatting about what to do with this Minecraft server and how it might be a place for educators to come and play and build and explore and create together. I’m not certain that such a place exists already, but if it does, we could use a few hundred more!
And if Minecraft isn’t your thing, and you’re sure because you have tried it, maybe there are other digital collaboration platforms that you can work on in real time with people on the other side of the planet. The idea is just to play and experiment and try things out and see what comes of it — simply because we can. Not to get famous. Not to get rich. Not to achieve some predetermined outcome.
Play. Because why not.