Could Minecraft Be a School?

I started musing about this in writing a few years ago as I became more deeply involved in using Minecraft as part of the work I do with students. Teachers typically welcome another tool in the repertoire for kids to express themselves in school. Minecraft was a no-brainer in that regard. Make a shoebox diorama, build in Minecraft — not a big stretch.

Since I had been playing Minecraft on my own since its inception with my son and my friends, I also knew that there was something much bigger going on by the time I brought it into the classroom — but I needed some time to work on that puzzle. Microsoft purchased Minecraft and then released an official education version. That helped legitimize it apart from “video games” and placed it more directly in the “teaching and learning” realm.

My work with students and Minecraft grew, and I am pleased to announce that I have a published chapter about it in an academic book series about game-based learning. I will make the chapter available here on my website and elsewhere, but for now, I hope you will join me in the celebration of this publication:

Short and Sweet — returning to 4th grade

It’s strange. I remember thinking that using a computer in school was so that I could make whatever I wanted. I was in 4th grade. My dad was an early tech adopter so we already had one at home in the late 70s.

It seems like I have spent most of my life until now doing the exact opposite of my 4th grade experience. Most teachers buy software for kids to run through someone else’s exercises. Rarely is there a chance for kids to be themselves with computers.

And as a teacher, when I began in the late 1990s, the only replicate of my 4th grade experience was when we went off grid after school or during lunch. Class time and adult meetings were so often about outcomes and expectations. Really, all told, it was exhausting — and tech use became consumed with someone else’s commercial product and making sure kids and adults became proficient with it.

Now in my third decade of teaching, I have a role that allows me to be the teacher of that guy I was way back when — making things I wanted to make with a computer. I am busy helping inspire and guide elementary school students to make things they want to make with a computer.

I feel good.