Have you heard of Minecraft? Of course you have, most likely because your students are infatuated with it! Perhaps not all of them play it, but the ones who do are probably obsessed. Because they love it so much, it is like a magic word in the classroom. At the click of a finger, they’re engaged!
I highly encourage you to download it on your own device. Your students will argue over who gets to teach you, as mine did with me! Play around with it and get a basic feel for what it is, what it’s like, and how it works. You might not like it, but who cares? If it’s something that they value so highly, then we should too. Excitingly, Minecraft: Education Edition has just been released this week, and I will definitely play around with it over the summer!
Even without using the program in school, Minecraft can be included as part of other tasks, just to engage the students. Here are two ways that I integrated Minecraft into our symmetry topic.
Google Sheets Minecraft faces
While learning about symmetry, the students also learnt important spreadsheet skills, such as how to resize cells, create custom colours, etc. They were not shown these skills. Instead, they had to find out for themselves. Dickie, our IT coordinator, is an advocate of this. It is sometimes known as student empowerment. Finding out is surprisingly easy using help features or a simple internet search. Students empower themselves rather than waste teacher time with constant questions. The students simply found Minecraft faces online and recreated them on the spreadsheet (see image above). They just had to make minor changes to make them symmetrical.
Minecraft for homework
You might not be familiar with Minecraft, and you might not have access to it in school… so why not set it as homework? I have mentioned in previous posts about how I seek ways to make homework more engaging. This was one successful way. The students were simply asked to create something symmetrical in Minecraft, and upload a screenshot to a shared Google Slides deck. Students could see each other’s creations on the Google Slides, and this led to meaningful conversations about whether or not the structures were in fact symmetrical. For example, the building above might look symmetrical at first glance, but students pointed out the patterns on the blocks, and what the reflection would have looked like. Some students didn’t have access to Minecraft at home and that was fine, because other options were available.
I fully intend to become more familiar with Minecraft and how I can use it in class, not just because it engages my students, but because of other educational benefits that I have read about. In the meantime, I will continue to find alternative ways to include it.