Minecraft in the Classroom - FAQ (PDSB)

Q: What is Minecraft anyway?

A: Some people have called it, "first-person LEGO."  Minecraft can be thought of as a "sandbox game" which means it is an open, free-play environment in which various materials exist as well as tools to manipulate them. In so doing, the child learns quite a bit about the environment, the materials, and the tools.

Minecraft is a blocky, LEGO-like, digital world (some call it 'first person LEGO') with land, sea and air as well as trees, animals and more. There are two main modes of play in the game: survival and creative. In survival, you begin with nothing and have to accumulate materials and resources to build, eat and survive. In creative, you get all the materials and tools possible and the goal is to design and build things in your world.

Here is one of the better introductions to Minecraft on YouTube although the narration occurs at a crazy pace. An alternate textual introduction is here.

Q: What can students learn by playing Minecraft?

A: Consider this quote from a classroom teacher about gaming and Minecraft:

"Before Minecraft, I tried to use video games in class, but I always had to change my lesson to fit the game," Joel Levin, co-founder of TeacherGaming, a company that helps schools set up games, told the Washington Post. "Minecraft was the first game that came along where I could change the game to fit my lesson." (Source: http://2machines.com/183040/)

Due to the open play concept of Minecraft, it is especially suited to education as it can be used in many different ways, by a variety of teachers, in many grades, within many different curricular areas. Minecraft is not going away and it has attracted the attention of educators worldwide. Magazines such as The Atlantic, Wired and Edutopia regularly publish articles about it.

If you are looking for examples of successful classroom applications using Minecraft, take a look at Examples by Subject on the MinecraftEdu Wiki. The general Teaching page is also informative.

Here is an example of a class using Minecraft to explore states of matter and concepts such as temperature and how it might affect state (solid, liquid, & gas).

Q: How do I get Minecraft going in my PDSB classroom and how much is it?

A: If you have iPads in your classroom or school, you can download the iOS app called Minecraft PE (PE = pocket edition). It is a somewhat scaled down version of the main Minecraft game but it is certainly packed with all of the most important gameplay features. Very soon, the full version of Minecraft can be installed on the school computers, once some technical issues are fixed.

  • If you download the iOS app, you pay once for each installation of the game on each device. The app is $7 each. In this version, Minecraft PE is assuming that the owner of the iPad is the only user. Of course, you can share the iPad around and any or all students can play on it. (Please note: usually, when you order more than 20+ copies of an educational iOS app using the PDSB Volume Purchase Program, you receive the apps for half price; unfortunately, it does not apply to Minecraft PE as it is considered a game.)
  • If you download the PC version, the game itself if free to download and install but you need a user login to play it. In this version, Minecraft is assuming that many different users will be playing the game on a PC so you will need to buy user licences. If a school is buying them, then usually they are purchased and the usernames are generic, such as SchoolName001, SchoolName002, and so on. In this way, the user accounts can be recycled and used by various classes, year to year. User accounts are USD$27 each and pruchased once; these never expire and do not need to be renewed year to year. Educational institutions can order accounts at a reduced cost (UDS$14 each if 25 or more are ordered) at MinecraftEdu.

Q: Are there special Minecraft servers that are made just for PDSB students and teachers to play on?

A: Yes! PDSB has made arrangements with GamingEdus.org (who, in turn, enjoy servers provided by the EDGE Lab at Ryerson University) to use their student Minecraft server and the teacher server.

In order to use these, please ensure you have the PC version of Minecraft installed, you have student users licenses purchased, and have set your Minecraft profile to connect to a server running version 1.7.9. Then, you need to visit the this page to register the usernames of players you wish to have access to these servers. Only users approved in this way can access the servers. These are not public servers. They are only used by registered school students and teachers.

Q: Where can I obtain professional development in PDSB about Minecraft in the classroom?

A: Please keep watching your MLP email notifications. There has already been one Minecraft session that took place on January 21, 2015. Another session is planned in the spring with a special focus on Minecraft PE. There is also an online course developed by Peel ITRTs in the D2L area. Just search courses with the key word "peel21st" and then join the course called "Peel 21st - Play to Learn: The Gaming of Learning."

Sites such as GamingEdus should be your first stop in your journey to learn more about educational uses of Minecraft. Also, there are many great resources online such as the Minecraft Wiki and the MinecraftEdu Wiki. As Minecraft becomes more widespread in PDSB, there will be more resources and opportinties to connect and learn from each other. Until then, join Twitter and connect with teachers in Peel and around the world. It may just be the best professional learning you will ever experience!

I'm in! How do I survive my first night?

Q: How do I make it through the first night in Minecraft (survival mode)?

A: There are probably thousands of walkthrough videos online but here is great one by a fairly famous Minecraft player called Stampy Cat. This player uses the Xbox version of Minecraft but the actions are the same no matter what hardware you are using. He has over 5 million subscribers on YouTube and ranks 33rd in total views gloabally (almost 3 billion). That puts him higher than Bruno Mars and Jennifer Lopez! Minecraft is very popular...

In this, the first of a series of videos aimed at brand new players, Stampy takes you through your first 'day' in Minecraft (survival mode) and shows you how to get materials, make tools, find and eat food, and make a bed to sleep in.