I've also seen this, my son is an obsessive minecraft fan and has learnt many skills from the game. At the age of 8 he is literally managing his own server on which his friends from school play. He performs regular maintenance activity, like backups, and has learnt to add 'mods' to the game, use powerful world editing tools, with minimal help required from me.
Standing outside his classroom recently waiting to see his teacher I noticed the work from a recent class project, to design, then build, a money box pinned to the walls.
There's were numerous beautiful illustration of complex, colourful, designs from many of the children, and in comparison the simple line drawing of my son's didn't look as initially impressive.
One thing struck me though, out of his year he'd been the only child to draw his design in 3D. The teacher commented on this too and said it was quite unique.
His teacher has also used the game Myst as a way of engaging children, particularly boys, in story telling and narrative, so there's plenty of creative ways technology and gaming can be used in a creative way within schools, but I think it has to be tempered with a clear educational goal in mind.
Both of my boys (4 and 10) and to a lesser extent my girl (11) love Minecraft. My youngest son created the cat buildings that feature in the article image above. I can guarantee that when my other two children were four, pre-Minecraft, pre-iPads, they could not have designed a range of 3D animals. They just couldn't have. The difference is Minecraft.
Minecraft has encouraged a love - and understanding - of design and planning in all my kids and has had astronomically positive effects for my eldest son (10). His collaboration skills (which were never his strong suit) have reached a level I didn't think possible. Collaborating on projects within Minecraft has led directly to him creating computer games and collaborating with the same friends on these new projects. They all brainstorm ideas, plan it, and he builds the games. They chip in for discs to save copies of the games for, and distribute them to their school friends.
It's like Minecraft has tapped into something that was always there, but was not encouraged through his education.
The news that a school in Sweden has now put Minecraft on its curriculum as a compulsory subject for 13-year-olds got me thinking – shouldn’t all education systems be harnessing our children’s interest in computer games and using them as an integral part of learning?
My son’s obsession with Minecraft did concern me at first, the hours he devoted to painstakingly ‘building’ his own little computer-based world, and his endless chatter about it when he wasn’t in front of the PC, but I soon noticed that certain skills he had learned from the game were filtering through into real life.
For example, his ability to handle a school project on 3D objects, something which might have totally foxed him if he hadn’t immediately likened the examples on his homework sheet to the blocks he was so used to playing and building with on Minecraft.
Then there was his increased creativity and keenness to make and build paper examples of the buildings he had created online, and, far from being left hyper from shoot ‘em up type Xbox games, or adrenaline fuelled from Mario races on the Wii, his concentration levels seemed to improve too.
Speaking to the Guardian last year, Ollie Bray, the National Adviser for Emerging Technologies in Learning at Education Scotland commented how teachers could take any commercially available game and ‘create education potential around it’.
‘The learning doesn’t come from the game itself but becomes the context for learning,’ he said, citing Guitar Hero as an example. ‘It has no educational value at all, but in the hands of the right teachers, it suddenly becomes a project about music, designing CD cases, marketing the band, there are all kinds of links to it.’
A premise which, as a parent, I think all schools should be exploring.
(pic: Elliot Seddon)
There are many ongoing efforts about putting games in schools' curriculum. I personally don't see anything strange since, for example, traditional games have always been an integral part in Mathematics (think about Hanoi tower and several dozens more).
Children could develop important critical thinking skills while playing many strategy games.
Age of Empire is such a case.
The open source 'minetest' has been a huge hit in my after school ict club. It is a minecraft clone, and has showed how creative and enthusiastic the pupils are, and how much energy they can channel into a project they enjoy. It is also free, and runs nicely on a the school local area network.
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