Insights from a Minecraft Mentor
Jason Lane, a Minecraft Education Edition Global Mentor and pedagogy leader, shares some insights into the benefits of using Minecraft Education Edition in schools and how to overcome possible barriers.
How Minecraft became Education Edition
Minecraft (Mojang or Java version) started life as a game, not an education tool. While some schools tried to adapt it for the classroom, it was missing educator controls to help students learn as they interacted with this virtual world. So, Microsoft and Minecraft partnered to create Minecraft Education Edition.
Schools across Australia and New Zealand are using Minecraft Education Edition for a range of studies and to support theoretical and practical learning. It has been adopted by the Victorian Department of Education and all public schools have access to it.
From curious parent and teacher to mentor
As a parent, Jason believes we need a greater understanding of the activities our children participate in and the gaming platforms they use.
“I was just interested as a parent with young children who love games and gaming. I wanted to understand their world.”
As an art teacher, he saw a lack of digital learning experiences in art and design.
“I wanted students to experience art and design language and concepts in a different way.”
The Global Mentor role includes working to build the platform alongside the greater education community, supporting teachers and developing curriculum learning opportunities using technologies such as augmented reality.
“Minecraft encouraged me to create more worlds and experiences that are based on religious education curriculum, art and design, experiences based on novels … and it just kind of grew from there.”
JB Hi-Fi Education Solutions is a proud supporter of gaming and Esports in education. We can help your school embrace 21st century learning with a comprehensive range of devices and accessories, lesson plans, as well as the technical support of an experienced team of education technology specialists.
Jason Lane is a Junior, Middle and Senior Schools eLearning Pedagogy Leader at Villanova College in Queensland – a longstanding JB Hi-Fi Education Solutions customer. He is also a Minecraft Mentor, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Adobe Education Leader and has co-hosted JB Hi-Fi Education Solutions Esports webinars demonstrating the platform for educators.
Experiential learning – engaging students and educators
Minecraft Education Edition allows teachers to create worlds and narratives – guided or open – that engage and motivate students. Students, ideally up to year 8, can easily engage in these interactive worlds and express what they learn, often more effectively than in traditional textbook learning.
“This is a very experiential way of learning … that can engage students who don’t get engaged through traditional means.”
From wandering ancient lands to conducting virtual science experiments, Minecraft Education Edition can be used to engage students deeply in narratives and in learning. Students can record their progress using the Camera, Portfolio and Book & Quill features of the platform. Educators can create experiences and activities for evaluation.
“You’re creating a textbook that students can walk through, or a textbook that students can choose their own path through in some cases … as long as it’s given context and learning objectives.”
The interaction and networking are totally secure, and educators and parents alike can assist students with the support of detailed in-game help functions.
Tips for success
Jason acknowledges that there can still be some resistance to Minecraft in schools – some parents may see it is as ‘playing games’ and some educators may lack confidence in using the program – so here are some tips for success:
- Communicate: let parents know how Minecraft will be used and the benefits for learning – start a blog or newsletter to educate and involve parents
- Confidentiality: assure parents that Minecraft is securely operated over school wi-fi and does not collect their child’s data
- Tools: ensure educators have the devices they need to easily facilitate the program
- Trial: start with a small-scale project to build confidence and capacity
“If you can share the learning with parents… you can break down some of those barriers.”
The Villanova College experience
At Villanova College, Minecraft Education Edition is used in a range of learning activities, such as:
- creating artworks within Minecraft that educators can assess
- creating augmented reality education spaces, such as outdoor recreation gyms and reading courtyards
- prototyping ‘green robots’ that clean the environment to imagine a more sustainable future
- using the built-in Library lessons to teach numeracy, literacy and history
- exploring historical simulations of Egypt and Israel as writing prompts
- play-based Esports and building challenges
Where to start?
Jason recommends taking advantage of the information and support available – for parents and educators – on the Minecraft website
“Go straight to the Education Edition website. There are major menu items in there for teachers, parents, for students, and there’s even an Esports category.”
The website has dedicated sections that support the needs of educators, parents and students. There is also advice for schools and teachers about how to introduce Minecraft into your school or how to use it as a first-time teacher.