#diffimooc Week 2 Blog: How can we use Minecraft to differentiate instruction?

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Minecraft is a tool that can be used in various ways in the classroom. Before doing research this week and learning about Minecraft, I have to admit that I have very negative feeling toward it. The students in my class are constantly talking about it, writing about it, and creating “creepers” with blocks and tiles. I was really tired of being surrounded by it from my students. After reading about it and learning some of the educational benefits associated with the game, it is beginning to grow on me. It took some time and thought to find ways to use it to differentiate instruction.

This week I focused on researching how Minecraft can be used in the classroom. There are several websites that I found and resources that were shared that focused on using Minecraft in the classroom. Minecraft can be justified in the classroom because it meets CCSS in areas of reading, writing, math, listening and speaking, and the list goes on (Teaching with Minecraft). There educational benefits to using Mincraft in the classroom, which I was not fully aware of. Minecraft is already a game that kids enjoy so why not find a way to use it in the classroom (Introducing Minecraft Hosting Beta).

Minecraft can be used to differentiate because it is another way to reach students with different learning styles. It is both creative and collaborative in nature (Is Minecraft the Ultimate Teaching Tool, 2013). Students have the opportunity to work on common goals and communicate in a different way about them. Nothing happens in the game without their decisions so differentiation can happen because students create at their own pace and their own level (Murray). Students are forced to think and make decisions on their own and can work at their own level and pace. Games in education can motivate students and trigger different parts of the brain (Drakkart, 2014). The differentiation is happening within the game because of the nature of the game, some with do the minimum for whatever you assign within the game and others will go above and beyond.

Students are all at different levels when it comes to Mincraft so the experts can help the other students, this will deepen their understanding. Students can be used as a resource when you are teaching gaming in the classroom (McCarthy, 2015). Many students already play Minecraft so we can use them to help teach us as well as teach other students. One of the ideas behind differentiation is the belief that students learn in different ways and that we base our instruction on their abilities and interests (Smith & Throne, 2009). Minecraft is engaging for most students and in my class; there is a high interest in it. I don’t know if I will use it in my classroom this year but it is an interesting tool that students enjoy.

References:

Fascination Minecraft Drakkarts Gamifi-ED Panel Trailer. 2014. Film.

“Introducing MinecraftEdu Hosting Beta.” MinecraftEdu. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

<http://minecraftedu.com/&gt;.

Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios. PBS

Idea Channel, 2013. Film.

McCarthy, John. “Students Matter: 3 Steps for Effective Differentiated Instruction.”

Edutopia. 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.edutopia.org/blog/3-

steps-effective-differentiated-instruction-john-mccarthy>.

Murray, Jacqui. “Minecraft in the Classroom Teaches Reading and More.” TeachHUB.

Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.teachhub.com/minecraft-classroom-teaches-r

reading-writing-problem-solving>.

Smith, Grace E., and Stephanie Throne. Differentiating Instruction with

Technology in Middle School Classrooms. Eugene, Or.: International

Society for Technology in Education, 2009. Print.

“Teaching with MinecraftEdu.” – MinecraftEdu Wiki. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

<http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Teaching_with_MinecraftEdu&gt;.

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4 responses »

  1. I enjoyed your comic. I felt exactly the same way. For the last 3 years its been Minecraft this and Minecraft that. You had some great points that I forgot to mention in my paper like how you mentioned the creative side of Minecraft. You also mentioned something I thought was key “Nothing happens in the game without their decisions so differentiation can happen because students create at their own pace and their own level (Murray”

  2. You make a lot of great points, and your third paragraph makes me picture a class of kids given a goal in the game and let loose with no guidance. It seems to me that (assuming students know the basics of playing the game) we should be able to give them an objective, then sit back and let the differentiation happen naturally. Students will naturally find their way into cooperative and collaborative roles if they are needed, or they might find a way to work independently on a specialty and trade for other items they need (hey, it can be used to teach economics!). If they’re aware of their different options for final products, I think that they would be able to effectively figure out the rest on their own.

  3. You wrote: “The students in my class are constantly talking about it, writing about it, and creating “creepers” with blocks and tiles.”

    This is a great reason to use MinecraftEdu in the classroom, your students already have buy in to the activity. One of the things teachers are tasked with is engaging students in learning. You also mention students being at different levels of knowing how to play in Minecraft and the expert players could help the novice. If I were to use Minecraft in my classroom, I would have to rely heavily on the experts. They would not only be helping other students, but they would have help me in the learning process, since I am a very novice player.

  4. I also like the fact about differentiation that it allows the teachers and the students to both become learners. I think at least for me and probably a few other educators out there, we have absolutely zero idea of what is going on in Minecraft, personally it just stresses me out, but the kids know all about it. This could be an area where we bring it into the classroom and it could allow students who normally struggle to teach us about the game and other students who don’t know how to play (yeah, few and far between I know) and allow these students to feel like they were the smart ones for awhile instead of always feeling like they were in the bottom.

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