Damien Green

Online Virtual Learning Environments: Minecraft in Education

Damien Green

With the proliferation of more affordable and powerful computing devices worldwide more children than ever before are immersing themselves in virtual worlds through the use of 3D gaming environments. Online 3D gaming environments such as Minecraft and Second Life are providing a unique ‘sandbox’ learning environment affording creativity and interactivity by allowing the user to collaboratively manipulate a 3D environment in which gameplay takes place (Dass, Dabbagh & Clark, 2011; Niemeyer & Gerber, 2015). As an educator there is a need to understand how this new digital ‘tool’ can best be used in a classroom context and whether virtual worlds can be used to enhance student learning (Campbell and Cameron, 2016; Sáez-López, Miller, Vázquez-Cano & Domínguez-Garrido, 2015).

The potential for the use of 3D virtual learning environments should not be understated as the use of this new learning technology may provide a significant shift in the way that teachers provide learning experiences that 'may offer the education system real scope for improving the quality and depth of learning' (Freitas & Oliver, 2006). My professional resource will focus on recent research of the most popular and widely used 3D online virtual world of Minecraft in an educational context.

Recent research suggests that there is potential for Minecraft to be a useful tool in teaching and learning even though there is little evidence to show that it’s use improves student learning outcomes (Nebel, Schneider & Rey, 2016; Sáez-López, Miller, Vázquez-Cano & Domínguez-Garrido, 2014). Minecraft has the potential to provide a rich collaborative learning environment across a range or curriculum areas where the role of the teacher and student can be redefined (Callaghan, 2016; Crafti, 2016; Nebel, Schneider & Rey, 2016; Niemeyer & Gerber, 2015; Short, 2012). What this would look like is yet to be clearly established but it could take the form of a teacher as a facilitator/guide or students could take on more of a teaching role.

As more schools and educators begin to explore the potential of Minecraft more teaching and learning resources and innovative ways to use Minecraft in the classroom should become available. But if schools wish to participate in this new virtual learning environment there is a cost involved of both time and money. Is there enough evidence to justify the use of a virtual learning environment in teaching and learning? Due to the lack of empirical studies further research is required to better understand whether the use of Minecraft in a teaching and learning context is beneficial to student learning outcomes.

References

Callaghan, N. (2016). Investigating the role of Minecraft in educational learning environments. Educational Media International, 53(4), 244–260.

Campbell, C., & Cameron, L. (2016). Scaffolding Learning Through the Use of Virtual Worlds. In S. Gregory, M. J. W. Lee, B. Dalgarno & B. Tynan (Eds.), Learning in Virtual Worlds: Research and Applications (pp. 241-259). Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.

Crafti, J. (2016). Unearthing Learning Potential: Using Minecraft in the classroom. Screen Education(82), 80-85.

Dass, S., Dabbagh, N., & Clark, K. (2011). Using virtual worlds: what the research says. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 12(2), 95-111.

Freitas, S. d., & Oliver, M. (2006). How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers & Education, 46(3), 249–264.

Nebel, S., Schneider, S., & Rey, G. n. D. (2016). Mining Learning and Crafting Scientific Experiments: A Literature Review on the Use of Minecraft in Education and Research. Educational Technology & Society, 19(2), 355–366.

Niemeyer, D. J., & Gerber, H. R. (2015). Maker culture and Minecraft: implications for the future of learning. Educational Media International, 52(3), 216–226.

Sáez-López, J.-M., Miller, J., Vázquez-Cano, E., & Domínguez-Garrido, M. a.-C. n. (2015). Exploring Application, Attitudes and Integration of Video Games: MinecraftEdu in Middle School. Educational Technology & Society, 18(3), 114–128.

Short, D. (2012). Teaching scientific concepts using a virtual world - Minecraft. Teaching Science, 58(3), 55-58.

Minecraft Education Edition and Code Builder

For my professional resource I decided to prepare a proposal for my school administration for the use of Minecraft Education Edition. Upon completion of the first assessment there was the addition of the Code Builder companion application - where students can create their own mods and write programs to use in Minecraft Education Edition. This new software provides the opportunity for schools to implement the Digital Technologies curriculum in ACARA.

With my resource I downloaded the beta version of Code Builder and began exploring what it was like. I was able to download worlds that had been premade and use them to test out the programming tools provided. One thing that I though was really exciting was that the Code Builder app made use of two programming platforms that we already use at our school - Scratch and Tynker. There was also the addition of a new MakeCode platform provided by Microsoft. It was this new platform that I tested.

To prepare for my proposal I decided that I would need to prepare a Keynote presentation, a short demonstration video and a two page briefing paper. I tested my presentation with two of my colleagues who provided valuable feedback. With this feedback I was able to fine tune my presentation and also anticipate and answer possible questions that may arise during my final proposal.