Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios


Here’s an idea– Minecraft is
the ultimate educational tool. You guys remember Minecraft. We made this other
video about it that one time where we talked
about how it’s basically going to save us all. But in case you
need a refresher, Minecraft is a computer
game that can best be described as first person
Legos with a dash of husbandry, a heaping helping
of architecture, and a pinch of slay the dragon. In Survival Mode you have to
gather resources and materials and fight the bad guys, some
of whom are very sneaky. [HISS] In Creative Mode, you get
to– ready for Nicholas Cage– go nuts. The pixelated sky is the limit. You can build whatever
you want and then start a multiplayer game and
invite all your friends. You can import and export 3D
models to make structures, you can share your creations
with your coworkers and pals or your students toward the
end of teaching them the finer bits of computer science, art
history, engineering, civics, math, world history,
and maybe most things. Say what? Now, before we get to talking
about Minecraft specifically, let’s talk about computer
and video games in general as educational tools. There is a long
history of using pixels to teach kids about stuff. For as long as there have
been affordable computers there have been educational
games to put on them. Logo taught you how to program
that turtle and Lemonade Stand taught you how to build
your lemonade empire. Oregon Trail taught you
always ford the river. Never ford the river. Mavis Beacon, Reader Rabbit,
Big Brain Academy– the list goes on. They’re all great games
but they all share a common problematic
shortcoming– what if you don’t want to
teach typing or reading? Sure, you could use virtual
you to teach management or Zapitalism to teach economics
or Roller Coaster Tycoon to teach roller
coastering, but these games can’t be specialized
or made immersing. They lack even the
basic technology for fluidity or improvisation–
two things which are paramount in teaching. Like what if you want the game
to be different every year or every class, or
collaborative, or portable? Or what if you’re a
grade school teacher and you have to teach 10
subjects, each with many units and ideas to cover? If only there were
some way to build a fully customizable
networked environment that was both fun
and inexpensive. Aside from being an
exceptionally effective way to avoid doing your
homework, as it turns out, Minecraft is also an
exceptionally effective teaching tool. Sorry if I just totally
ruined Minecraft for you. Probability, build a
random animal dropper. Physics, measure the time it
takes a block to fall and then talk about gravity. You can build Minecraft versions
of famous bits of architecture or sets for Shakespearean plays. You can place works of art
inside of a Minecraft gallery or use Minecraft
mathematically ideal blocks to talk about volume and area. Teach a foreign language
with in games signs or tell kids they
can only communicate with each other on
a collaborative task in– I don’t know– Latvian. The possibilities of what you
can get into and out of a game which you thought was just for
punching trees are endless. And kids respond because it’s
a creative, collaborative, entertaining
environment where they are in control of their own
challenges, which can be many. There’s something like
1,000 Minecraft mods for all kinds of things. Like Computer Craft is
a mod which lets people right Lua programs
inside Minecraft. There is even– are you ready–
an official Mojang-licensed version of Minecraft for
education called Minecraft.edu. Spearheaded by Joe Levin,
aka Minecraft Teacher, Minecraft.edu is
to Minecraft what the teacher addition
is to your history textbook– except cooler. With 20 installs at over 1,000
schools across six continents, the number of students currently
learning with Minecraft.edu alone is at least 20,000. Now, am I saying
that we’re going to see Minecraft, or even
video games in general, in every classroom? Probably unlikely. Setting up this kind of thing
requires a certain investment in technology, time on
the part of the teachers, and a certain
technical proficiency, which– I mean we all know the
chance a piece of technology will fail is directly
proportional to the number of people watching
it in operation. But should we hope
to eventually? I say absolutely. Studies have confidently
stated things like, data analysis shows that
classes using the game had significantly higher
means than classes not using the game. Source in the description. And the number of
teachers documenting their overwhelmingly positive
experience using Minecraft in the classroom is huge. Another source in
the description. So the question might
not be whether or not we use games in schools, but
rather, how far do we go go? Game designer and
advocate Jane McGonigal thinks that we should
go all the way. In her book,
“Reality is Broken,” she describes a school
which does not use games but is a game. She writes, every course, every
activity, every assignment, every moment of
instruction and assessment would be designed by borrowing
key mechanics and participation strategies from the most
engaging multiplayer games. Admittedly, we’re probably
pretty far from that point, but as video games continue
their search for legitimacy as forms of entertainment,
artwork, containers for narrative, and
now educational tools, Minecraft’s use in the classroom
is a pretty important step. A hugely popular game
made for entertainment used by a small but
growing number of teachers to show that game-based
learning is, in fact, worth its weight in obsidian. And who knows–
maybe someday there will be a Minecraft University. What do you guys think? Are video games the
future of learning? Let us know in the comments. And you should mine this block
to subscribe– mine it up. Get your mine on. I got my eyes on you. Let’s see what you
guys had to say about surveillance and meteors. To cagammon, actually
a funny story– I know the kid who
was in that movie and I bought Josh Harris
a loaf of bread once. It was a little weird. I hope no one prematurely
transported their house to the medium out of fear. Sleepyjean47 and
Subultralinkphun point out that Foucault is
a really important addition to the discussion
of the panopticon. So we’ll hang out here for a
few seconds so you can check out their comments and if this is
something you’re interested in, check out some Foucault. To coreydm676, uh,
we actually– we filmed this a couple of weeks
ago because of some travel and I think if we made it this
week Google Glass would feature prominently in the discussion of
the growing number of cameras, might even the episode entirely. SoldierBobMcBob points
out that, uh, it was a meteor and not a meteorite
and that I got the size wrong. So thank you for
that correction. Quixotic1018
questions what privacy even is in an age where
people are constantly sharing their locations
and ideas and opinions. Um, and yeah, I mean it’s true. There is sort of this
fluid idea of privacy, but it’s also something
that you are actively doing, as opposed to something that is
happening around you or to you. But yeah, it’s a–
it’s an interesting– it’s an interesting
thing that’s happening. R. Lance Hunter talks about
sousveillance and Steve Mann, whose work is great. Uh, you should Google
that if this is stuff that you’re interested in. Also, we are very
excited for the return of “Arrested Development.” To civendel, I think Shadowrun
is right about more things than they should have been. Uh, yeah. That’s kind of the
idea, actually.

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