Sometimes, we get some pretty weird email inquiries. Recently, I read a note that, to paraphrase quickly, asked if you can do Minecraft without paying for it or getting the game. My first reaction to this question was a big, fat NO! In fact, people shouldn’t “do” Minecraft just because. It reminded me of a quote from Bronwyn Stuckey, @BronSt (slide 102 of 156 on the Storify archive found here – http://connectedlearning.tv/educators-innovating-minecraft ) that says:

Don’t say we do Minecraft – say ‘I do digital citizenship with Minecraft.

Never say never. As I thought about it, and examined some of the answers I’ve given recently in some articles and interviews, a lot of the learning that happens in Minecraft happens outside the game. One of the key philosophies of the GamingEdus team is that educators should play like students and alongside students. I still maintain that stance. However, I realized that there are several ways that you can “use Minecraft” without “using Minecraft”.

  1. Read Minecraft
  2. Talk Minecraft
  3. Watch Minecraft
  4. Connect with Minecraft

Read Minecraft

There are some fantastic fiction and non-fiction books about Minecraft. The school library never seems to have enough copies of the reference books by Mojang, and my students have been waiting eagerly for Nether Nightmare, the second book in Liam O’Donnell’s super series. Let students read Minecraft-related magazines. Have them do reading responses. Share interesting articles about Minecraft. Teachers should read some of these texts too. Minecraft literature is great to study procedures and for explaining unfamiliar concepts. For more detailed posts on this topic, see

How those Minecraft books got my students reading . . .

Five books to get gamers reading

 

Talk Minecraft

Some students will talk your ear off about Minecraft. Let them. And listen. Allow it as a topic in “community circle”. Ask questions. It may sound like a foreign language at first. Probe. Delve. Inquire.

Watch Minecraft

YouTube is an amazing place to find video tutorials or creative narratives. Be careful about which clips you show in school – not all are appropriate. I met a Minecraft YouTube star in real life and he was down-to-earth, dedicated, creative, and hard-working. In the past, a common question was “What is your favourite TV show?” – now, it’s “What is your favourite YouTube channel?” Here are a couple of articles that mention some possible channels to follow.

http://www.brightpips.com/9-kid-friendly-minecraft-channels-keep-your-child-safe-on-youtube/

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/the-10-best-kid-friendly-minecraft-channels-on-youtube

Connect with Minecraft

If teachers understand Minecraft, by playing it or seeing it in action in one of its many multimedia aspects, they can help students make connections between Minecraft and areas of study. One of my favourite stories Denise tells is of a social studies class where her students were struggling to understand why Cartier’s settlement failed but Champlain’s succeeded. Once she made a connection to playing Minecraft, her students were able to grasp the main idea. This past month, I co-taught social studies incorporating Minecraft with a Grade 4-5 class. The Grade 4s looked at Canada’s landforms. The Grade 5s examined Canadian government as well as rights and responsibilities. With a few guided questions to prompt some thinking, they were able to make some deep and thoughtful connections to the Syrian refugee situation, terrorism, and other issues that I first thought were too complex for them to handle.

All of these activities do not and should not replace actually playing Minecraft. After all, if you just presume that all of your students have home access to the game, you are guilty of making socio-economic elitist assumptions which are unfair and untrue. (Some students who talk lots about Minecraft don’t own it or have only played it a few times.) Buy the game – at least one copy – so everyone has the opportunity. Then, be open to giving it a presence in your classroom. That’s how you can “use it without using it”.