Friday, 8 May 2015

Using Minecraft in Education : Cross Curricular Ideas

Minecraft is an open sandbox game that allows players to construct their own world. They can build structures, farm animals, mine for resources and much more. There are different modes to the game; Survival Mode is a challenging mode where the player needs to fight for survival against other creatures in the world, and Creative Mode provides unlimited resources to build and create without limitations.
I’ve been investigating Creative Mode as it’s easier to build large structures quickly.
Minecraft can be played individually, or as a multiplayer environment allowing children to cooperate to build and explore together. In Multiplayer mode they connect to a Minecraft Server on the internet or locally (running on a game hosted by one of the computers).
Minecraft is available in many flavours, including a Raspberry Pi version, a pocket edition for the iPad and a Educational version.
Here are a few ways that Minecraft can be used to support different curriculum subjects.
Minecraft and Numeracy
Minecraft can be used to pose numerical problems within a meaningful context. Children can calculate areas, perimeters and volumes of buildings they have created.
Minecraft can be used to investigate many 2D and 3D shape such as prisms, cubes and pyramids.
Minecraft and Science
The Minecraft world uses real ecological zones, such as forests, deserts and mountains. Children can relate their understanding of habitats and the environment to these regions, and explore them virtually. Also, animals can be farmed and will need to be looked after, teaching children about the needs of living things.
Minecraft also allows for models to be built, such as a giant plant cell or an animal cell, a nice idea from Alex Gething. Models could be made of solids, liquids and gases using blocks.
The building blocks within Minecraft have very different properties from one another. This gives an opportunity to talk about materials and how we use them. Metals such as iron and gold are produced by smelting ores and sand can be heated to make glass. This can help to give children an understanding raw and manufactured materials.
Here are some more ideas for using Minecraft in Science.
Minecraft and Literacy
Children can use their experiences within Minecraft as a stimulus for writing work. They can use it as a basis for writing stories and poems. They could recreate buildings from books they are reading.
Minecraft can be an opportunity for writing instructional texts. Children could build a house, then write  instructions for other children to replicate it. Or a guide to surviving in Minecraft.
Minecraft and Geography
Minecraft can be used to explore many geographical features. The game includes cliffs, mountains, ravines, beaches and lakes. There is lava, which will turn to stone when it meets water. Lakes will freeze if they get too cold. Many different rocks are included in the game; such as sandstone, obsidian etc. Children can then find out about where these materials come from, and how we use them.
Minecraft and History
Minecraft could be used to construct famous buildings from History, such as Egyptian or Mayan pyramids, or Roman or Greek temples. Children could investigate castles by building their own one.
Minecraft and Computing
Minecraft includes a set of resources known as Redstone, which can be used much like electrical circuits are used in the real world. Redstone can be connected to switches to turn on lights and open doors, for example. Children can set up a simple system with a light sensor to make a light come on when it gets dark in the game, or a pressure pad that opens a door.
With the right set up, you can even build AND and NOT gates. Here’s some more info on how to do that.
It’s even possible to add modifications or “mods” to Minecraft that allow for more sophisticated coding opportunities. A mod such as Scriptcraft lets children program in JavaScript within Minecraft. The children can also build their own mods using software such as LearnToMod.
There’s plenty of ways that a game such as Minecraft can be used in the classroom, and not just within computing lessons.

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