When Microsoft bought Minecraft back in 2014 for over two billion US dollars, it wasn’t just buying a game – it was buying way more than that. The bigger plan was to use Minecraft for a whole new way of educating us and it’s not hard to see how a logic-based game like Minecraft could lend itself to this.
In the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – a game with construction skills like Minecraft – could be adapted and used as an educational aid.
Now, people like English professor Darren Wershler and sociologist Bart Simon from Concordia’s Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture, and Technology have said that if it’s used in the correct manner, Minecraft will be worth using as a teaching resource in most classrooms.
Professor Wershler and Simon have assembled a teaching method which applies the principle of relating to what’s already known about the real world to Minecraft’s in-game universe. The pair based their method on a class taught by Wershler on the rise of the modern world. Part of that course relied heavily on using Minecraft as a resource.
In this course, large mining and processing machines were added to the game, along with the ability to produce steel and addition which worked like a power grid. With these additions, the game was able to show how industrialisation has impacted the environment.
When talking about the course, Wershler has said: “The course is not a video game studies course, and it’s not a gamified version of a course on modernity.”
“It’s this other thing that sits in an uncomfortable middle and brushes up against both. The learning comes out of trying to think about those two things simultaneously.”
Minecraft has evolved over the past decade
Over the past decade, Minecraft has evolved from a standard survival game into something far more complex where just about anything can be constructed. It started out with some very blocky graphics and these have become part of the Minecraft brand so they’ve been kept on that basis.
But because Minecraft also has a lot of flexibility and complexity, this makes it capable of teaching a variety of skills in an intersting way. Utilising this, Microsoft has developed an educational version of the program, targeting teachers and students.
There are a lot of benefits to learning this way – teachers need tools they can use when they’re not in face-to-face contact with their students – something which has occurred a lot during lockdowns.
The concept of using games as an educational resource is not new. Computer games have been in lessons for as long as computers have been in classrooms. But it is a contentious area and there’s still a fair amount of hot debate about the gamification of teaching resources.
There are those who are concerned using games as teaching tools is overhyped and not really beneficial in the long run – and then there are those who feel games should be used far more because they teach as you go in a subtle way.
One thing we know for sure is the fact that online educational resources – either in the form of games or more traditional text and video – all have a much more valued respect in the future of education.
For more from Women Love Tech on games, visit here.