How Can We Use Minecraft to Differentiate Instruction?
There are many things that a teacher can do with Minecraft to differentiate instruction. Students can work together on an assignment or work alone. Students can build something they are learning about. They can count blocks, have an adventure, and talk to others, and the teacher can create a quest for them to follow.
According to an article in Education World, in the classroom, Minecraft can benefit students by
- giving learners the freedom to invent, pushing their imaginations to the limit and allowing them to be creative in ways not possible in the real world;
- building problem-solving skills, the game can inspire students’ higher-level and critical thinking;
- providing opportunities for social engagement where students can rely on other players for help in the sometimes-unforgiving Minecraft world. When students work together, it builds positive classroom climate, teaches the benefits of collaboration and facilitates teamwork in a way that’s more organic than, say, being assigned to work together on a project. Students who might not get along in the real world can become allies in the Minecraft world.
I think if I were to try Minecraft in my classroom I would see how I could relate it to my content area. In my social studies class, I could relate Minecraft to history by having kids build famous buildings. Let’s say we are reading and studying about Egypt. Students could create pyramids in Minecraft. I could also ask students what they can do with Minecraft. I feel that they would know more about this than I do. Students, like adults, are more likely to commit effort when they’re included in the decision-making process. (McCarthy, 2014.) Providing them opportunities to make choices is one approach. Students like when they are included in the decisions. I think you would get buy in when the students are involved.
Deeper differentiation occurs when a student’s voice is nurtured. When we know our students, then it’s more likely we can really differentiate instruction with them. Opening ourselves to what students bring to the classroom informs us how we might best meet their needs and expands our instructional toolbox to help other students. That source of support may come directly from the teacher, the student, or other stakeholders and experts (McCarthy, 2014). The more we know about the learners and the more we include them in the instructional dialog, the better equipped they will be to succeed (McCarthy, 2014). This is what we want for all of our students—to increase participation by providing instruction a particular student can relate to, by giving the student the power to make decisions, by doing things that involve social interactions—all in order to nurture the student and increase her or his knowledge. Some teachers don’t believe in games; they just believe in teaching to the core. I think if teachers really knew how Minecraft activities relate to the Common Core standards, they would be surprised.
The minecraft.edu website lists the core standards that Minecraft supports: speaking, listening, writing, math, and science are some that relate to Minecraft. (See http://services.Minecraftedu.com/wiki/Teaching_with MinecraftEdu). I think this is good to know because many times you might have a parent or another teacher ask you how Minecraft is helping their student.
Students are growing up with technology and gaming. Many spend much of their time in electronic realities that provide them with instant feedback. When students come to school they are not always getting that. Games provide immediate feedback. Not just any feedback, but usually feedback that helps students fix or improve on their previous performance (Hertz, 2015).
Oftentimes we teachers are hesitant to try new and unfamiliar methods to differentiate our instruction, but it’s important that we push past our own fears to use tools like Minecraft that teach young people effectively by using devices they are already comfortable with.
Hertz, M. (2015). Using the Video Game Model in the Classroom. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/education-gamegaming-technology-tools-design-project-mary-beth-hertz
McCarthy, J. (2014). Students Matter: 3 Steps for Effective Differentiated
Instruction. Retrieved January 19, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/3-steps-effective-differentiated-instruction-john-mccarthy
Teaching with MinecraftEdu. (2015). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from
Thinking About Using Minecraft in Your Classroom? (2015). Retrieved
January 23, 2015, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/benefits-Minecraft-classroom-students.shtml