2018-02-11 / News

Three schools selected to use Minecraft in the classroom

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


LakeVille Middle School eighth-grade student Joel Marenic is enrolled in the elective “Learning through Gaming,” and devised a choose-your-own-adventure style program with partner Jayden Roney. Students like Marenic are “extremely excited” to get their hands on the Minecraft: Educational Edition, likely hitting their class in the spring. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese LakeVille Middle School eighth-grade student Joel Marenic is enrolled in the elective “Learning through Gaming,” and devised a choose-your-own-adventure style program with partner Jayden Roney. Students like Marenic are “extremely excited” to get their hands on the Minecraft: Educational Edition, likely hitting their class in the spring. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese LAPEER COUNTY — Soon, students in Lapeer County will find themselves learning in a virtual world that might be familiar.

Three educational entities in Lapeer County — the Lapeer County Intermediate School District (LCISD), LakeVille Community Schools and Chatfield School — were selected to be among the second cohort in Michigan awarded licenses for Minecraft Educational Edition, and educators at the schools are preparing for when the licenses are unlocked in March. Between the three districts, Lapeer County schools were awarded more than 300 licenses for the program, and plans are underway on how best to utilize Minecraft in the classroom.

Minecraft is immediately familiar to many as an open-ended 3D game that took the world by storm when it was released in 2011. Designed by Swedish game designer Markus Persson and published by Mojang, Minecraft allows players to build with a variety of different cubes in a three-dimensional, procedurally generated world. Other activities in the game include exploration, resource gathering, crafting, and combat.

Minecraft: Educational Edition draws from the basic building blocks of the base program and injects an emphasis on creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive environment. Educators will be able to customize lessons on math, science, language arts, history and visual art for age groups from kindergarten to 14 years old and up through the use of the program.

“We got the information in early January about the grant and I thought that it sounded interesting,” said LakeVille Community Schools instructional technology coordinator Mike Petty. According to Petty, he and his team of educators plan to integrate Minecraft: Educational Edition into the middle school STEM lab class. “Normally in that class students rotate between a number of learning stations. Now that we have Minecraft as an option, that will become a significant part of that class,” he said. “It’s an open world that kids can explore. Imagine being in science class and the kids have infinite manipulatables.”

Petty is currently launching a new class dubbed “Learning Through Gaming,” an elective utilizing games of all sorts, both digital and nondigital, to teach math and language content, and he expects Minecraft: Educational Edition will factor into this class as well. Petty himself is a published game designer and self-professed lifelong game enthusiast, but he’s quick to point out that as an educator, in order to make games valuable as an educational tool, there has to be proof. “As much as I love games I have to play the role of the skeptic,” he said. “This is giving us a great chance to try this out.”

Dawn Mosher, instructional services manager of the Lapeer County ISD, is in the process of determining the most effective way to utilize the 200 licenses LCISD will be receiving. “There’s a lot of aspects of the program that are attractive,” she said. “It’s got a bunch of lesson plans built in, and I like that we can use it in not only the high school level but the middle school level as well.”

According to Mosher, the earliest Minecraft: Educational Edition will be integrated into LCISD programming is likely in the summer, added to the already popular slate of summer camp activities held at the Lapeer Education and Technology Center that includes camps on culinary arts, entrepreneurship and go-kart construction.

Petty said it’s possible that Minecraft and games in general might just be a hook to interest students, but he’s willing to find out exactly how useful games can be in an educational setting. “I’m quite skeptical about bringing in games just to hook students,” he said. “Working with the teacher on this class will give me a great opportunity to see how we can use them in a way that truly enhances the learning experience.”

Petty said that his interest in the grant to acquire Minecraft: Educational Edition licenses grew as he looked into the program. “If it was just a hook and nothing more, we wouldn’t want to get the grant if it was, but what I’m seeing is they’ve put the work in to allow them to master the concepts,” he said.

According to Petty, while the program might be useful to teach lessons on science and math, it could also prove useful as a method to teach students important life skills like collaboration, cooperation and communication. “Things have really changed (in education), the teachers have to get the kids ready for the future,” he said. “It’s an interesting time for education. Collaboration will be a huge part of (using Minecraft in class).” Mosher also pointed toward the program’s collaborative aspect as a key point of interest. “Our goal is to use this in a collaborative manner,” she said.

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