Engaging Learners with Minecraft: Education Edition

Transforming History Topics

Minecraft: Education Edition is the perfect stimulus for developing historical enquiry. My first ever project, Black Gold: Hearts, Souls and Mines, focused on the rich heritage of coal mining in the Rhondda, the area where the school is located. I was fortunate to be chosen to lead this project by my local education authority Rhondda Cynon Taf.  To develop children’s understanding I worked with children from 15 different schools to build a working coal mine, based on the Rhondda Heritage Park, a local mining museum. At the beginning of the topic, each school discovered cryptic posters of Steve at mysterious locations. The posters led the pupils to the Rhondda Heritage Park – where they discovered their task was to learn about the lives of children and their families when coal mining was the main industry in Wales.  Over 500 children worked collaboratively to build the Rhondda Heritage Park –  one of the largest Minecraft school projects  ever attempted.

 

The collaborative platform that Minecraft: Education Edition provides the perfect vehicle for creating innovative history projects. Last year the students compared how rich and poor people lived in  Tudor Britain. After much investigation the children built their  own Tudor villages to reflect society during that time. In their recent World War One theme: It’ll Be Over By Christmas, pupils learned about the life of a soldier fighting in the trenches.  After learning about the different experiences soldiers, pupils wrote their own diary entries imagining they were directly involved in the war. Following this they designed and created their own trenches using Minecraft: Education Edition. This really helped build empathy for soldiers risking their lives at such a dangerous time.

 

The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl

I have also used Minecraft: Education Edition with pupils to develop reading and writing skills. Last year was the  100th anniversary of the birth of the much loved author Roald Dahl. To celebrate this I developed The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl – a three week literacy unit combining Roald Dahl’s most famous books and Minecraft. During this global project, pupils from 95 schools developed their reading skills by focusing on Roald Dahl’s most iconic settings and characters and building their own Roald Dahl themed maps. Following this, students wrote their own stories in the style of Roald Dahl and built their own story settings. These included a little girl with a magic paintbrush which causes everything to grow and a little boy with a secret football pitch in his back garden. Using Minecraft really helped pupils to visual their own settings which subsequently improved the quality of writing. To take part in the competition, pupils were required to share their maps by creating their own multimedia presentations which were judged by an expert panel. It was amazing to see the children’s creations and to witness the impact that Minecraft had on engaging learners from across the world.

The judges were really impressed each school’s entry and found the completion extremely difficult to judge. The eventual winners,  Coppermill Primary School, were announced at the UK launch of Minecraft: Education Edition last November. Thank you to every school who took part – I look forward to sharing your Minecraft stories in the future.

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Developing Pupil Leadership

Using Minecraft in the classroom has had a dramatic impact in terms of developing pupil voice and leadership at my school. During our first collaborative project it soon became clear that I knew 30 Minecraft experts who could support me in leading the project – my pupils.  As a result they designed workshops to support teachers using Minecraft in their own classrooms. They titled this the Minecraft Roadshow. Over the last two years they have worked with over a 100 schools, delivering a range of  workshops including numerical reasoning, history and geography themed builds and developing literacy skills. We were delighted last June when the pupils were awarded the Pupil Award at the National Digital Learning Event for their Minecraft Roadshow. When I recently asked one of my students their thoughts on using Minecraft in the classroom his reply was, “it beings learning to life.” To me this reflects how powerful  Minecraft: Education Edition can be to develop effective teaching and learning.

Since becoming part of the Minecraft Educator Community I have had the privilege of working with inspirational educators from around the world including Stephen Reid, Katja Borregaard,  Joseph Hammond and Danny Edwards. If you’re new to Minecraft: Education Edition I would recommend visiting the Minecraft Education Community, where you can connect with a global network of educators, access lessons you can deliver in your own classroom and download Minecraft: Education Edition. You can also connect with Global Minecraft Mentors who can offer advice and support with your own Minecraft journeys.

I’d love to share how you’ve used Minecraft: Education Edition in your classroom. Please feel free to connect through Twitter or through Minecraft Education Community.

 

I’m James Protheroe, Assistant Headteacher at Darran Park Primary School, South Wales, UK. Over the last two years I’ve had the privilege of working with educators from around the world, developing innovative and engaging projects using Minecraft. I’d like to share how our school has transformed teaching and learning using Minecraft: Education Edition.

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