3 Flavors of Minecraft for #EdTech
Venturing into the world of using Minecraft in your classroom can be a little murky if you are new to the game. Using Minecraft can help you leverage game based learning to increase cooperation, problem solving, critical thinking, and much, much more. There are 3 basic versions or “flavors” of the game that most people use in teaching; Minecraft, Minecraft PE, and Minecraft Edu. Knowing some basics about these will help you make the right choice for you and your students. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert to get started. Chances are, you have experts in your classroom already.
Minecraft is a video game developed by the Swedish company Mojang. The creative and building aspects of Minecraft enable players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world. To this author, it is like virtual Legos on steroids. Other activities in the game include exploration, resource gathering, crafting, and combat. Multiple gameplay modes are available, including survival mode, creative mode, and adventure mode. It can be played on multiple platforms including PC, Mac, and Linux. Students can play Minecraft in OffLine or MultiPlayer modes. MultiPlayer requires that each computer running the Minecraft Client connect to another computer running the server software. A Minecraft server can be as simple as another personal computer or as sophisticated as a high-end server. Cloud-based servers are freely available across the web.
There are many benefits of using the original game. Students often already have a Minecraft account. It is easier for you to assign projects in and out of school. You can use one of the readily available Minecraft realms if you do not want to create your own server. Students are excited by the number of available mods available to them. Other factors to consider are that exposure to the outside world may invite undesirable elements into the game. You cannot control the objectives or environmental conditions as easily. Running your own server can be tricky. It can difficult to bring students back to a central location between activities. Teachers may prefer to use one of the other flavors of Minecraft below.
Get Minecraft here.
Minecraft: Pocket Edition is available on virtually any tablet device including Android, iOS, and smartphones. It is generally used in Single Player mode for individual play, but up to 5 players can connect to a tablet in MultiPlayer mode. It plays much like the original Minecraft with a tablet or touch interface. Crafting in PE is different (uses the MATTIS system). It lacks bosses and world sizes are limited by smartphone technology. Two modes of play include creative and survival.
In the classroom, Minecraft PE has some significant benefits. It is portable. You do not have to take students to a computer lab if your school has a cart of tablet devices. With the prevalence of 1:1 programs increasing in education, the likelihood of having access to the devices is increasing. The cost for the app is cheaper than for the regular Minecraft. (Minecraft PE is $6.99 USD. Minecraft by Mojang is $26.96 USD.) It is relatively easy to use: technologies such as mirroring via Apple TV or instructional strategies including a gallery walk allow students to showcase their creations. The tablet lends itself to a more informal style of project based learning.
Get MinecraftPE for iOS here.
MinecraftEdu is developed by Teacher Gaming and provides products and services that make it really easy for teachers and schools to leverage the power of Minecraft in a safe environment that is customized for student learning. It runs on Mac or PC with very few, if any, issues. Built upon an earlier release of Minecraft, MinecraftEdu stays a
|The World Library contains pre-built lessons by teachers.|
few builds behind the latest, allowing developers to work out any bugs that may present themselves. It comes with an installer that sets up the client and/or server versions with relative ease. It is very, very stable. What separates MinecraftEdu from other variations is the various features and controls for educators. It is specifically designed for schools, offers easy implementation in various curriculum, and includes “push button student control.” You can easily moderate students with features like setting goals, pausing, warping to them, warping them to your location, and controlling available resources and items. You also have access to an amazing World Library of pre-built lessons.
Get MinecraftEdu here.
I have used Minecraft PE and MinecraftEdu with students. Minecraft PE was much easier to help teachers with little or no experience get up and running. MinecraftEdu had amazing lessons built right into the worlds from the World Library. I only had to download them and “activate” them on the server. With both flavors, engagement and student achievement far exceeded my hopes and expectations. Students were highly engaged. I didn’t have to know much about Minecraft to use it in class. The teachers I worked with knew next to nothing about Minecraft. We knew our content knowledge and how to facilitate learning. We set up general projects for students to complete like this one on Teachers Pay Teachers. (Tweet this blog and send me a message on Twitter to get it for free.) Teachers from other classrooms stopped by and commented, amazed at the depth of questions that students were asking about math. We didn’t advertise what we were doing. We just did it. The results thus far have been amazing! Stay posted for more specific details!