As part of the Welsh Government’s investment in digital learning, all learners, and practitioners working in education in Wales have free access to Minecraft: Education. Minecraft: Education Edition is available for Windows, Mac and iPad users. For information about downloading Minecraft: Education Edition, please visit the Minecraft Educator Community. Once it has been downloaded, users log in with their Hwb username and password.
For those not based in Wales, Minecraft: Education Edition is available for free until June 2020 for all educators and learners who have a valid Office 365 Education account. You can request access here.
Setting the context for learning is a really important consideration when planning any lesson or activity with Minecraft. There are many ways practitioners can create really engaging activities, ideal for remote access learning. Here are two projects that I have found to be really effective.
Developing literacy skills
Minecraft can be a fun and interesting way of developing reading and writing skills. Focus on environment descriptions in a text and challenge your learners to create their own settings within Minecraft. Novels and short stories with rich setting descriptions are perfect for this activity. One project that particularly highlighted this was The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl. Learners engaged with a range of texts and created their very own settings from Roald Dahl books with Minecraft. Following this, learners created their own stories with imagined settings within Minecraft. An important aspect of this project was the planning, reading, and writing which was done before learners started building in Minecraft. This ensured that the time spent building within Minecraft was purposeful and encouraged learners to be reflective throughout the process.
Minecraft: Education Edition has produced a range of Roald Dahl themed resources to support educators with developing literacy skills through Minecraft.
Local history projects
Minecraft can be a really effective tool to support the development of historical enquiry and interpretation. In the project That’s Entertainment, learners investigated the role the local area played in people’s leisure time in the past. To start the activity, learners used a range of sources to investigate this, including: online journals, interviews with the local residents, and photographs. Some students created an online questionnaire to collect information using Office Forms through Hwb. Following this, learners focused on an area/building within the community and used their research to create a website to share their learning with others.
After the planning stage, learners worked collaboratively to build a virtual museum of the locality in Minecraft. Each child focused on a specific building and used their research to inform their build. They also created a plan which included the scale of their building and the blocks they would use. To share their learning with a wider audience, learners added Non-player Characters (NPCs) to link their websites to their Minecraft communities.
You can access the That’s Entertainment resource through Hwb.
Remote collaboration and sharing
There are lots of ways learners can share their Minecraft work if they are working remotely. A great way for learners to document their progress within Minecraft is by using the camera tool. Photographs are stored in a portfolio where learners can add captions to describe each of their photographs. Portfolios can be exported and shared as a PDF.
Learners can also use the book and quill tool to combine text and photos to share their learning within Minecraft. The book and quill encourage learners to write more detailed descriptions. They are able to add multiple pages and images within the book. This can then be exported and shared.
There are lots of Hwb tools for students to share their learning within Minecraft remotely. Why not challenge your students to create a digital story using Sway through Office 365? Learners can combine images, text, and video and share their learning using a link. You can find more information about getting started with Sway here.
Gamifying distance learning to improve outcomes
The Minecraft: Education Edition team has compiled a special Minecraft remote learning toolkit, which includes more than 50 lessons, STEM curriculum and project-based learning activities so educators can use Minecraft: Education Edition with their students whether they are in school, at home, or in another remote learning environment.
Find out more
About the author
James Protheroe is assistant headteacher at Darran Park Primary School, South Wales. As a Microsoft Showcase School, the school has placed digital learning at the very heart of teaching and learning. This has included developing effective pupil digital leaders who have supported teachers and learners across Wales to develop effective approaches to teaching and learning with Microsoft tools.
As a lead practitioner for Central South Consortium, James has supported schools from across the region to develop effective leadership in digital learning. James is an MIE Expert and Minecraft Global Mentor.