Connected Learning through Minecraft

I’m excited to be writing my first blog post here for Connected Camps! I’m an educational researcher and a big focus of my work has been on how games can make learning better and more fun. But almost everything I know about Minecraft I’ve learned from watching my son build. (He’s going to be a camp counselor and he has a Minecraft tumblr.)

What I love about Minecraft and the Minecraft community is that is a fabulous environment for what my colleagues and I have been calling “connected learning.” Connected learning is when you’re learning while doing something you’re genuinely interested in with others who share that interest. I see that all the time with Minecraft. It is a game that is fun and social, but also helps people learn design, problem solving, community organizing, digital citizenship, and coding.

My research network wrote a report synthesizing the research on connected learning a few years ago. Minecraft was front and center in our minds. The report featured a case study of a connected learner who played Minecraft. Tal started playing with her cousin, and then helped start a Minecraft club at his school. As part of the club activities, he started writing scripts for videos they were producing in Minecraft. Eventually that led to an interest in creative writing that tied back to his school work. This is an example of how Minecraft can be an environment that connects what kids do for fun with their learning in school. You can read more about it in our Connected Learning Report.

Minecraft is unique in how it has brought kids, parents, and teachers together. I’ve been studying games and learning for over twenty years, and I’ve never seen a game this popular that is loved by kids, educators, and adults. In fact, just a few weeks ago I help organize a Minecraft Educators Summit with the support of Microsoft Research and I was amazed at how many educators have brought Minecraft to their schools, libraries, and community organizations.

Minecraft is similar to creative games like SimCity or Roller Coaster Tycoon, but its popularity is at a completely different scale. By some counts, its the most popular game of time. Actually, Minecraft breaks all kinds of rules in a good way. Not only is it a massively popular creative game, it is gender neutral, and started off as an indy game!

The best part about Summer of Minecraft for me is that its a connected learning experience for me too. It connects that I do for fun with my family with what I do in my own work as an educator and a researcher. I look forward to sharing more about both my research and my experiences with Minecraft as we gear up for the summer.

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