Yes, I am a Minecrafter: ISTE 2014 Made Me Do It

Hi my name is Iram, I am 39 years old and I might have a little problem called Minecraft.

I blame Marianne Malmstrom’s (@knowclue) ISTE 2014 Session, Minecraft: Learning Blocks for pushing me over the edge.

Before this session I had no desire to actually play Minecraft. No matter how much my son begged me to, I just couldn’t do it. As I was thrown into the amazing ISTE 2014 experience, I thought I’d dabble in it and learn to play so I can connect with my students and my son. In no way did I see myself ever SERIOUSLY playing let alone ENJOYING it, but who wouldn’t want to try to create an amusement park with farm animal roller coasters, right?!!!

You know you are fully immersed in the game when you are on a family road trip and you are actually having an animated conversation with your 6 yr. old fellow Minecrafter about all the “biomes” you are driving through, the different types of trees you are whizzing by, what kind of rock the mountains are made of, where we could possibly find coal and diamonds and the government’s role in primary resource management. Also, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I knew this game playing was getting out of hand when I shut my eyes to go to sleep and all I could see was rock as I mined myself to sleep.

I’m currently on a husband sentenced Minecraft “break” (ahem, rehab)… I should be okay. As anything for adults and kids, it’s all about moderation folks!

Malmstrom hit me hard when she stated,

Minecraft isn’t the ultimate TEACHING tool, it’s the ultimate LEARNING tool.

Sometimes educators unintentionally can ruin a good thing by focussing on what they can make students do. As with any tech we need to be careful to remember that tech enhances learning by acting as yet another tool. It doesn’t magically teach curriculum and it doesn’t magically engage students. It needs to be thoughtfully integrated, but not necessarily integrated. It all depends on your students and their needs and learning styles.

In a recent blog post My Beef With the Gamification of Education, Bill Ferriter writes:

As most of you know, I’ve been arguing that technology DOESN’T motivate kids and that our goal SHOULDN’T be to engage learners for a long time… to suggest that students will only willingly embrace those skills when they are working through “exciting worlds full of monsters and magic juice” is a cop out for teachers and an insult to kids. Imagine how much more meaningful learning could be if kids were failing and planning and strategizing and sharing and collaborating with one another while trying to address a REAL problem facing REAL people in the REAL world?

As Howie Diblasi stated at another ISTE 2014 session I attended,

Gaming and simulations work well where kids can try new things. It’s a safe place to fail and persevere.

I believe that this is where Minecraft can play a role in schools. It provides a safe, non-judgemental outlet for students to learn and practice skills. From this point we can then step forward to link the skills learned from games to real life… to things that are actually going on in this world and to help students to step up and confidently play their part in changing the world.

I was inspired by Malmstrom to play Minecraft because I realized how important it is for everyone involved (teachers, parents and students) to have time to “play” before making judgements. It has been wonderful for my son and I to play together in a simulated world. We worked together to mine for resources to craft tools to survive. The 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creating were working over time. We got to a point in our game playing to be able to have the rich, real conversations we had on our road trip.

I have learned that Minecraft has connected my own child to real life issues in this world and I plan to help him explore them beyond Minecraft. I also have learned that it has allowed us to connect more and become closer. It has been a winner in my life and I am excited to see what it will do for the students that I work with. Thank you Marianne Malmstrom and Howie DiBlassi for pushing me into seeing that there is more to gaming than meets the eye.

15 thoughts on “Yes, I am a Minecrafter: ISTE 2014 Made Me Do It

  1. Iram, you’ve inspired me to try Minecraft. Cole is sooo into it and I have no idea what he’s talking about when he’s telling me about what he’s doing. If you like it, maybe I’ll enjoy it too and Cole and I can “connect” over Minecraft as well! 😉

  2. Erin, with the new update on the iPad version you are able to play in one world using more than one device. It has been so much fun!

  3. Iram,
    I love this blog. I have been taught Minecraft by a six-year-old nephew, a 15 year old nephew, and a grade three class who also taught each other. I am still mining for my first diamond. You inspire me to continue because playing and exploring can be real learning.

  4. Hey Iram,

    Great post! I love watching and playing minecraft with my kids as well.. Their creativity and imagination coupled with excitement makes it fun to watch. I am glad you are sharing this- I think gamefication is an awesome learning tool!

  5. Iram, thank you for taking the time to share this. I’m deeply moved, not that you are playing Minecraft, but because that you have given yourself permission to play. Even better, you are playing together with your son. It is heartwarming to hear your enthusiasm and awe as you embark upon this unexpected journey.

    You might want to check David Warlick’s blog called 2cents unlearning. I think you will find his last few posts especially relevant.

    Looking forward to following your journey.

  6. Such a great post, Iram!

    I love the notion that we can use spaces like Minecraft to practice and fail and then translate those lessons over to real world challenges and issues. That’s a nice bridge between my argument and the argument made by gamers.

    Once again, you’ve proven that there IS real tyrrany in OR and real beauty in AND.

    Well done, Iram.

  7. Well done Iram. Great connections to the real world. I love how you emphasize it is all about learning.

  8. So love the fact that you’ve given yourself permission to play 🙂 and it is the ultimate learning tool. It connects on so many levels. The sandbox nature is the key enabling learning to occur in a diverse ways and creativity to flourish. It’s a game changer re relationships both in and out if the classroom. It’s empowering! So glad that session was a winner for you 🙂

  9. It is so strange that we often encourage students to play, but we don’t take that direction for learning for yourselves. Love the sandbox!

  10. Thank you for your comments Marianne and thanks again for such an inspiring session at ISTE. I will definitely look into David’s posts.

  11. Thanks for the comment Kenneth.
    So lucky to have kids that push our boundaries!

  12. Thanks you! “Mining for my first diamond”, got my mind spinning. What a great analogy!

  13. I love all the real world connections you have mentioned this game allows you to make with your learning. You are inspiring me to try it out too, as insure my son will be over the moon about. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Pingback: #ISTE2014 reflection number 3 #Minecraft | My Thoughts......

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