The popular sandbox game called Minecraft is beloved by the educators for its use as a learning tool. It allow the students to explore, make and imagine in a completely different way than they could ever do in the traditional classroom. The beauty of Minecraft game is in the way it unleashes the creativity of both the students and the teachers.
If you are considering using Minecraft in your classroom, here are some steps to guide you through incorporating the game of Minecraft into your curriculum.
STEP 1: DEFINE THE LEARNING GOALS
You may select to use Minecraft as a learning tool is to help in the students’ understanding of your DNA extraction lab. We get information that when a teacher did this lab with their students in the past, the students walked away with extremely little understanding as to why they followed those steps. This vision is to make a cell model in Minecraft that the students can explore and manipulate. This pre-lab activity will allow them to use different “chemical tools” to break down the various parts of the cell and identify a list of materials needed to complete the DNA extraction lab.
STEP 2: MAKE THE MECHANICS AND BUILD VIRTUAL WORLD
Although you are a novice to Minecraft, but you are able to work closely with a game designer (Claudio) to help make a realistic cell model. Also, he figured out how to create some of the materials susceptible to certain chemical tools, while being impenetrable to other people. When this mechanic is ironed out, you are able to create the world of the cell quickly. Finally, you have a single-player, immersive world in which the students can explore the inside of a cell while using the chemical tools to break through to the DNA. They are able to use their content knowledge to find the DNA, and they are figuring out which chemicals are necessary to dissolve the components of the cell.
STEP 3: FOCUS THE EXPLORATION
We make a student handout to serve as a guide for focusing their exploration. In addition to providing setup instructions to start that exploration, the handout included a checklist for exploring the cell, and questions for the students to answer as they interacted with the different chemical tools in the cell. The purpose of the student handout was to provide them with some sort of direction as they explored, and also to point out connections between the game and our class content that they may not have noticed on their own.
STEP 4: ASSESS PROGRESS TOWARD LEARNING GOALS
The questions on the handout also provided a way for us to assess the students. You are able to see if they can make connections back to course content while getting a clear picture of whether they can meet the learning goal and identify the chemicals needed for the lab. In the end of the activity, the student have a clear understanding of the changes the cell goes through during the DNA extraction lab. When you actually completed the lab, the students felt comfortable talking about it and can successfully explain why they use each chemical.