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Picture shows a Minecraft screencap with text explaining the archery game.

Encouraging the Educational Aspects of Minecraft on Cobblestone Academy

I teach live online classes where I get to know the students a bit. We do specific activities and tasks depending on what topic the class is on. I have a great deal of fun in the classes, and I’ve had many happy students. To some though, the idea of online classes in Minecraft just sound wrong.

There is a train of thought out there that one should not take something that children enjoy – like Minecraft – and try to make it an adult-guided educational thing. There’s a train of thought that attempts to make Minecraft educational will steal all the fun out of it. I can sympathize with that train of thought, even while I still believe that there’s a balance, a magic place where we can keep the spirit of Minecraft while at the same time assisting children in stretching themselves further.

There is also a train of thought that Minecraft itself is educational, and nothing more needs to be added. I can understand this idea as well, though I think that there is a space where most people benefit from slight nudges to move beyond their comfort range.

Different kids have different styles of using Minecraft. Here’s how I try to encourage all of them:

Building:

  1. The server has the worldedit plugin and building commands enabled to allow children to practice using commands to build.

Role-playing or adventure:

On Cobblestone Academy I want to create a magic world where children can play and learn. I want to have quests that are both fun and entertaining. Whether I am succeeding or not, I’ll humbly admit I am not sure, but here are a few of the types of things I am doing.

  1. Fred the NPC. (NPCs are Non-Player-Characters.) Fred has been a staple on my server since it was first created, and I’ve moved him repeatedly to whichever map is my latest. Fred gives students a chance to practice coordinates. I also at times have a treasure hunt plugin enacted to allow students to practice the coordinate system.
  2. The Trinary Elves. These NPCs give students a chance to learn about a base three number system. Students are invited to talk to as many of the elves as possible. A few NPCs give puzzles or quests. One asks students to participate in an archery contest practicing math facts.
  3. Earning Pets. Students can earn pets by completing quests and doing tasks such as submitting to me a Minecraft book on an assigned topic.

Programming:

I invite students to participate in the work behind scenes on the server. I look for opportunities to get students creating Non-Player-Characters, writing the yml files for mythicmobs or custom terrain. I invite people to write denizen’s scripts.

Social Interaction:

Of course the heart of Cobblestone Academy is human interaction. Some of this is with the other students online, and some with me. Players can have practice dealing with social challenges. They also get plenty of typing practice.

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