Last month, Scientific American declared “…“not only is Minecraft immersive and creative, but it is an excellent platform for making almost any subject area more engaging.” A nod from a top science magazine to the game many parents wish their kids had never heard of. This, following Common Sense Media’s seal of approval. On the surface, it’s not so surprising. Something like 80% of five-to-eight year-olds play games and 97% of teens. Early simulations like Reader Rabbit are still used in classrooms to drill reading and math skills.
But Minecraft, a blocky retro role-playing simulation that’s more Lego than svelte hi-tech wizardry, isn’t just the game du jour. Kids would skip dinner to play it if parents allowed. Minecraft is role playing and so much more.
Let me back up a moment. Most simulation games–where players role-play life in a pretend world–aren’t so much Make Your Own Adventure as See If You Survive Ours. Players are a passenger in a hero’s journey, solving riddles, advancing through levels and unlocking prizes. That’s not Minecraft. Here, they create the world. Nothing happens without their decision–not surroundings or characters or buildings rising or holes being dug. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. There’s merely what You decide and where those decisions land You. Players have one goal: To survive. Prevail. They solve problems or cease to exist. If the teacher wants to use games to learn history, Minecraft won’t throw students into a fully fleshed simulation of the American Revolution. It’ll start with a plot of land and students will write the story, cast the characters, create the entire 1776 world. Again, think Legos.
Today, I have a guest post from Matt Quibly, webmaster for a fascinating website called Qui.bly. It has a forum sort of set-up that enables parents to ask child-related tech questions and get answers from like-minded parents and/or professionals. If they don’t want to post inquiries, parents can peruse a list of topics on areas such as gaming, ebooks, the digital future, and more. We were echatting the other day and Matt shared a list of skills he believes kids develop from exposure to technology. See what you think:
Research Skills: Knowing how to use search engines can significantly improve a child’s research skills, while browsing can also improve their resourcefulness. If children know how to access useful information and feel engaged in the activity they are more likely to retain information than if they were bored.
Logic and problem solving skills: Online games, apps and video games may actually help to exercise the side of the brain responsible for logic skills. There are many constructive apps and games that challenge a child’s mathematical abilities, hidden object games that can help with improving focus and puzzle games where they may be able to improve spatial reasoning skills, just to name a few.
Responsibility: Real life simulation games like The Sims or Oregon Trail can teach children about responsibility. In The Sims, for example, the player is expected to take care of their character by ensuring it eats, showers, goes to work on time, pays the bills. It also shows that it takes repetitiveness and determination to improve the character’s skills like cooking, gardening, athletics and more.
I talked to a lot of people to prepare this article. Sure, I have my 5 Fabulous List, but is it representative of what YOU might want? To determine that, I asked the faculty at my school, the members of my Personal Learning Network, and a bunch of efriends I’ve met while blogging. Here’s the list we came up with:
They’re on sale for $59! What do you get? A screen that shows you the book you want to read, no matter the glaring sunlight, the internet outage, the fact that you’re on a flight and finished your book and now what do you do (hint: if you have the Kindle, you open the next one). The new Kindle Fire is morphing into a tablet. That’s OK if that’s what you want. But if you want to read a book without the battery expiring, in a dead wifi zone, get Old Kindle.
I love my iPad, but truth, any pad computer is a great way to stay on top of the most important things you need every day:
Drop by every Friday to discover what wonderful website my classes and parents loved this week. I think you’ll find they’ll be a favorite of yours as they are of mine.
If you are writing about patriotism, nothing says it better than country music. In honor of our veterans, here’s a sampling: