MinecraftEdu is a school-ready remix of the original smash hit game Minecraft. Minecraft Education Edition - Bring Minecraft to the Classroom! We provide discounted Minecraft licenses to educational institutions, a custom edition of the game with features designed especially for classroom use, and a hosting service to let users connect and play together.
What is MinecraftEdu
Designed for Schools
Made by teachers for teachers, fine-tuned for the classroom.
Up to 50% off Full Price
Qualifying educational institutions receive significant discounts.
Flexible & Powerful, Yet Simple
Countless activities you can host yourself or in the cloud.
Programming is making its way to schools around the world and there’s an authentic need for diverse ways to introduce computational thinking and coding to a whole generation, not just us geeky types. Diane has found successful ways to introduce the topic to students who previously didn’t consider themselves equipped for programming. Be sure to follow Diane through social media to see how this years classes use MinecraftEdu!
My name is Diane Main, and I am Director of Learning, Innovation and Design (9-12) at The Harker School in San Jose, California, USA. I also teach a computer science class called Digital World and am an advisor to 8 students who are currently in grade 10. I began my career in New Jersey in 1992, and moved to California in 1997. This is my twenty-third year in teaching.
What was your relationship to Minecraft before MinecraftEdu?
I had really only “sort of” heard of Minecraft, and I knew it was a video game, when one of my chemistry teachers asked me if a student could turn in a project to her he had done in Minecraft. I said “Yes. And now let me go find out what Minecraft is.” And then, in my initial searching, I found MinecraftEdu and immediately wanted to try it for myself. A very long time ago, when I was in high school and college, I was a gamer. I played computer role playing games, such as Origin’s Ultima series. I also used to play RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons when I was younger. But I have not had very much time in recent years to devote to gaming (analog or digital). MinecraftEdu has reawakened the gamer in me, and my primary focus as an educational technologist has become the role of motivation and engagement in learning, especially GBL (game-based learning).
How do you use Minecraft or MinecraftEdu in the classroom?
The students who enroll in Digital World do so to fulfill our school’s requirement of one semester of Computer Science. Most students take Programming or Advanced Programming, and some choose to go on to AP CS and beyond. (We have many CS electives.) But my students don’t see themselves as a good fit for the Programming class. So we do three projects in MinecraftEdu during the course of the semester, in addition to many other projects and assignments outside the game. The first is that the students each teach a “lesson” in MinecraftEdu, which is something a player would want to know for Survival Mode. They have a lot of things they need to explain about their lessons, and then I use examples from their lessons to illustrate concepts from Computer Science, such as program, algorithm, subroutine, conditional statement, loop, iteration, array, and abstraction. Later in the semester, my students return to MinecraftEdu for a design thinking project in Creative Mode. Each student is tasked with being a client, a designer, and an independent inspector. With a literature tie-in to the children’s book Andrew Henry’s Meadow, I have the students interview their clients, and then build houses to suit their clients’ needs and preferences. Finally, after using Kodable and CodeMonkey as game-based programming tools, we return to MinecraftEdu and use the ComputerCraftEdu mod to program turtle robots. I’m excited to try the newest version of this mod this semester, as it has a lot of features my former students wished it had before. In addition to these projects, we also have a number of written assignments that have students reflecting on their game play. We study John Keller’s ARCS model of motivation as well as the Bartle Test of Gamer Personality, and we watch a video showing how John Miller’s students use MinecraftEdu to build the ancient Chinese city of Chang An. My students write as a method of reflection on their learning and experiences.
What were some of the challenges in getting started?
As I am the person at my campus responsible for helping teachers try new things, I didn’t really get much pushback, primarily because I chose to take the “seek forgiveness rather than ask permission” route. Once I decided to use MinecraftEdu with my class, though, I did involve my boss and the division head for my campus, as well as the Computer Science department chair, so they would all know what I was experimenting with. I initially ran the servertool on my laptop during class, playing in multiplayer with my students on the same computer. Then, one of our network administrators, who is also a gamer and who is involved with our robotics team and helping me with some of my class activities, helped me set up an online server so my students could continue their work online from home on their laptops. This opened up many new opportunities and allowed me to expand my use of MinecraftEdu in class. He later set up a second partition so I could run two servers at once, which has come in very handy. Our school is very supportive of the use of technology for learning, so I have had a great experience.
How have your students responded? Do you have a specific success story?
Reactions have been mixed, initially. Some students can’t wait until we use MinecraftEdu, because they have played Minecraft before. Common among my female students has been the “my little brother plays Minecraft” comment with a mild tone of disgust. However, even the student who told me she wouldn’t like it but would do what she was told ended up loving MinecraftEdu. The secret there? She loves animals. At first, she was a little intimidated and even turned off by the idea of using a video game in class. Not all students play video games, and that is totally okay. But when she discovered animals in Minecraft, and chose to do her Minecraft lesson project on breeding and raising livestock for food and other resources, she was hooked. And then someone else taught us how to ride horses, and this one student who didn’t want to play Minecraft actually rode off into the sunset at the end of class. “Come back!” I called to her. “Noooooooo!!!!!…..” she replied. And then the bell rang to end class.
Here is this semester’s class, posing for our group picture:
And here is a short video of the same group, working on the “building shapes” portion of the MinecraftEdu Tutorial World:
(The video begins with me saying, “No, you may not keep the bat.” because Kailee had just asked if she could keep it.)
What is the future of Minecraft in your classroom?
Student engagement has always been a primary concern of mine when designing instruction, but increasingly so in the past five to ten years. As I have matured as an educator, and become a parent myself, I have viewed teaching and learning through several new lenses. With MinecraftEdu, I don’t have to worry about student engagement. When students have goals and tasks to accomplish, they are motivated. And also, there is a lot about the game itself that students find engaging enough to pursue outside of our curricular goals. Given that my course lasts only one semester and I have a lot to cover, I don’t know if I will do MORE in MinecraftEdu for now, though I am always revising what I’m currently doing. However, I also share GBL and MinecraftEdu specifically with other teachers, both at my school and around the world. So I will continue to do that, because I believe that student engagement should be foremost in the mind of anyone who is designing instruction and learning experiences.
Do you have any advice for teachers starting out, or who are already working with MinecraftEdu?
The advice I always give to anyone just starting to explore GBL is to get in the game with the kids and just play. Figure out how it works, and more importantly, see how much the kids can already teach you. Ask them questions about their own game play. Allow them to showcase their expertise. Even with students who have never played before, you will find that they pick up on things very quickly, and they are less afraid than adults to take risks and just “see what happens.” For those who are already working with MinecraftEdu, please share your experiences, both positive and challenging. We learn from one another, and we gain strength and insight from what others have tried, whether it has worked well or not. If you’re creating content, please share it. If you’ve come up with a great idea for using the game in a particular subject area, please begin a discussion about it online. You never know how much you can help someone else just by sharing.
Would you like other educators to contact you about your experiences?