Our Minecraft Journey — with Joshua Lang

Recently, my FSL 5 and FSL 6 students were exploring the inquiry question “How are housing / communities (respectively) shaped by culture?” We began by completing a Regardes-Pense-Pourquoi (See-Think-Wonder) of Paris, Brussels, Montréal, QC and Falher, AB. We followed this up with the students choosing which one of these areas they would like to build a home or community in. (You can see the exact assignments here). The final task was for students to build a home or community that would be representative of a home or community in their chosen area; for example, if students chose to build a home in downtown Paris, it would likely be a small apartment. The students were given the freedom to choose whichever medium they wanted in order to create their home or community. Some FSL 5 students approached me about using Minecraft and of course, I said, “Oui!”. I then presented this idea to my other students in both FSL 5 and FSL 6 and many of them have run with it. After attending the IDEAS Conference in Calgary at the beginning of May (where I attended a session on Minecraft), I asked the students to also make signs for each of their rooms or buildings in French. Here are just a few examples:

Brooke M. LC5D

Seth M. LC5D

Jordyn C. LC5D

There have been many bumps along the road as the students and I tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t with much of the teaching coming from the students as they taught me about the intricacies of Minecraft. One of the biggest issues we encountered was students wanting to build their homes or communities in the same world. The issue resulted from the students multiplayer capabilities being enabled and outsiders entering and sometimes destroying the work that the students had worked so hard to complete. This was both frustrating for the students and heartbreaking for me as I did not want them to give up or become discouraged. We resolved to begin taking screenshots each time we finished a part of our home or community. This served two purposes:

  1. It was photographic evidence of the work that students had already completed so they wouldn’t have to start from scratch if something did happen to their world.
  2. The pictures were added to student blogs in which they then wrote sentences describing their home or community to a broader audience.

Another bump in the road was the fact that I could not enter into a students world from my PC if the students created it on an Apple device and vice versa.

I understand that there is a Minecraft for Education edition however, our school does not, at this time, have access to PCs with Minecraft EDU. One of my students was so adamant that he wanted to use Minecraft for his project, he and his dad spent a weekend working around the Chromebook system and loading Linux onto his Chromebook so that he could use Minecraft. He was so excited to share his discovery with me and I in turn, shared it with a couple of my colleagues who I knew would be just as excited as I was to learn about this hack.

I have never seen this level of engagement for a French project. A colleague, Joshua Lang,  came to me and shared that his students were so engaged by the use of Minecraft in French that they wanted to recreate Ancient Athens despite the fact that their official study of Ancient Athens had ended a couple of months ago. Here is his story…

My students recently finished an inquiry project in French involving Minecraft. Throughout this whole project, the students were completely engaged. The students loved the idea that they could use a game they play all the time to help them grow as learners in French. From an outsider’s perspective, it was great to see them so excited about learning. It left me wondering how I could use Minecraft in Social Studies to immerse my students in historical democracy.

We have been looking at Ancient Athens’ form of democracy in Social Studies. Throughout our unit we have been looking at many of the famous landmarks of Ancient Athens. As the students learned about Pnyx hill, the Agora, the Bouleuterion, and many other landmarks, they had only vague ideas of what these places looked like. The frustrating thing about Ancient Athens is that there is not much left of this ancient city to really look at. The students had to rely on a combination of their imaginations and artwork found online to visualize the city. This lead to my students’ great idea about using Minecraft to build Ancient Athens.

I have been curious about Minecraft and its use in the classroom for quite some time, but I was unfamiliar with the game and how it exactly worked. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to learn from my students as they teach me about Minecraft while we learn more about Athens.

We decided as a class that if we were going to commit to this project, we were going to try and make our Minecraft version of Ancient Athens as authentic as possible. This meant that we were going to make sure we did our research before we started building. We are going to research everything from the purpose and function of each famous structure to the building materials used to build the well known ruins of today. We really wanted to make sure that this representation of Ancient Athens could be used as a future learning tool. For this reason, beside every famous structure, we are including signposts that give information about the buildings. That way, future students can learn about Athens as they explore what we have built.

This project was one big classroom community effort rather than twenty-three individual projects. We decided to create a server (our own world where we could all build this city-state together). This allowed some students to start building the Agora while they look across in the pixelated distance at their classmates beginning construction on the world-renowned Acropolis. The decision to build this city together was intentional as it allowed our class to rely on each other to accomplish this task.

There are many reasons this project is so valuable to our learners, however two reasons really stand out to me:

  1. The students feel empowered as they are being seen as the expert in the “Minecraft Field.” Our roles in the classroom have reversed. I am now the student coming to them to learn from their knowledge and experience. I have learned so much from my twenty-three teachers. I love seeing my students take on the role of the teacher, and will use any opportunity I can to allow them to be experts.
  2. The students are being proactive producers of knowledge rather than consumers of knowledge. There are many great resources on the internet for us to learn from, however, this was one particular topic that we saw a need to create in order to fully imagine Ancient Athens. It didn’t seem like there was anything made out there for us, so instead of waiting for someone else to create something, my students decided that they were going to create it instead. It is so inspiring to see my students producing knowledge and resources for others to learn from. I love that they identified a problem and created a solution. I see elements of design thinking all over this project.

We are not finished building Ancient Athens yet, but we are slowly getting there one brick at a time. However, the most valuable part of this journey is not the finished product, but the process we are in the midst of right now.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. luvbono
    Jun 03, 2016 @ 23:15:42

    WOW! This is something to revel in-10 000 felicitations a toi!


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