Multi-award-winning Minecraft is a game of survival. You don’t ‘level up’; you build, explore, and survive whatever comes at you by placing blocks and going on adventures, either alone or with classmates. As you do, you explore, gather resources, craft, and fight for your survival.
At the core of every action is problem-solving: Minecraft encourages kids to tinker.
“You’re not complaining to get the corporate overlord to fix it — you just have to fix it yourself.”
It can be played on Linux, Mac, Windows, XBox, PlayStation, Wii, iOS, Android, Raspberry Pi, Kindle Fire, and probably a few more digital devices. It can run in a variety of modes. The default one — called ‘traditional’ mode– — includes six options:
- Survival mode–players gather includes resources (such as wood and stone) found in the environment to craft survival items. Depending on the difficulty, monsters spawn in areas outside a certain radius of the character, requiring the player to build a shelter at night.
- Hardcore mode–a variant of survival mode that differs primarily in that it is locked into the hardest gameplay setting. When a player dies on a server set to hardcore mode, the player is banned from that server.
- Creative mode–players have access to all of the resources and items in the game through the inventory menu, and can place or remove them instantly. In this mode, players focus on building and creating large projects.
- Adventure mode–designed specifically so that players can experience user-crafted custom maps and adventures.
- Spectator mode–players can teleport to other players in the world.
- Multiplayer–uses player-hosted and business-hosted servers and enables multiple players to interact and communicate with each other on a single world
“Never dig straight down.”
It can also be run in Story Mode (a narrative-driven adventure developed by Telltale Games where the decisions made by players influence adventures) or Realms (a simple way to enjoy an online Minecraft world with an approved set of friends–the owner of a Realm needs to pay a fee). Also available is Code.org’s Hour of Code Minecraft adventure.
“One does not simply play Minecraft for half an hour.”
There are over 100 million registered Minecraft players and it’s the third-best-selling video game in history, after Tetris and Wii Sports. The great news, just out this summer: Now it’s freemium (free at first with stipulations), courtesy of Microsoft. Minecraft Education Edition is designed specifically for classroom use and gives teachers the tools they need to use Minecraft in their lessons.
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.
The hottest topic in my elementary school tech classroom is Minecraft–and has been for several years. So I was thrilled when efriend, Josh Ward, offered to write an article for Ask a Tech Teacher connecting Minecraft and the most important topic in my classroom–Digital Citizenship.
Josh is the Director of Sales and Marketing for green hosting provider, A Small Orange. He is originally from Southeast Texas, but has called Austin home for almost 20 years. He enjoys writing about his passion for all things Internet related as well as sharing his expertise in the web hosting industry and education.
I think you’ll enjoy this article:
Teaching Digital Citizenship with Minecraft
A “digital citizen” is generally defined as “those who use the Internet regularly and effectively.” With children and teenagers moving more and more toward the Internet and away from television for their recreational and informational needs (95% of all teens from ages 12 to 17 are online, and 80% of those use social media regularly), the next generation of digital citizens isn’t just arriving, they’re already here.
Advertisers and corporations have known this for some time, and have begun targeting the youth demographic that will drive the country’s economic future, making responsible and informed “digital citizenship” that much more important.
The Internet has come to play a huge part in not only our daily lives, but our educational future, and these formative years are a perfect time to stress the importance of a free and open Internet, as well as developing a strong sense of civic identity, cooperation, and participation.