Rey Junco recently published a piece in The Atlantic advocating for Minecraft to be taken seriously as a learning tool for kids. Junco also urges educators to explore aspect of the game to be used as a teaching vehicle.
Minecraft offers youth the opportunity to explore an environment that is not rule-based like the rest of their lives. “On Minecraft, you can do whatever you want,” a 9-year old Minecraft player told me.
Not only does the open-world nature of Minecraft give children the opportunity to be more creative, it allows them to feel like they have a sense of control over themselves and their environment.
It’s an implicit way for them to develop self-regulation skills that then transfer to offline spaces—through having this freedom to create on Minecraft, they learn how to identify and work towards offline goals like finishing class assignments or graduating from college later in life.
Playing Minecraft teaches kids useful skills. The most clearly visible are visuospatial reasoning skills—learning how to manipulate objects in space in a way that helps them create dynamic structures. Visuospatial reasoning is the basis for more abstract forms of knowledge like the ability to evaluate whether a conclusion logically follows from its premises.
…Educators should take note and realize how they can leverage Minecraft. Some ideas include: letting kids share what they are building in the game and having them describe how they are interacting with their peers; setting up Minecraft hackathons where students who know how to mod can teach others how to do so; and devoting some class or after-school time to allowing kids to work on Minecraft-based assignments. It has been noted that Minecraft offers a way to bridge gaps between different kinds of learners, including autistic students.
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