Top three tips for using Minecraft to spark critical thinking in your classroom

Guest post by Aaron Maurer, Instructional Coach for Bettendorf Middle School, Bettendorf, Iowa, USA

It's the game recognized by millions around the world. The game that creates excitement and places students in a world where they think critically, collaborate, communicate and more.

The game is Minecraft.

We teachers hear so much about Minecraft, yet so many of us really have no grasp of the power of the game to enhance our classrooms. Minecraft at its very core can do so much to help students build the all-important 21st century skills.

Here are my top three tips for using Minecraft in your classroom to build a critical-thinking culture:

  1. Weave and mix Minecraft into the classroom and curriculum. The best way to get the power of Minecraft to work in your classroom is to weave elements of the game into your curriculum. Why add more to your already over-packed plate when Minecraft can actually streamline teaching and learning? Instead of layering Minecraft on top of everything that you are doing, integrate it into what you're already teaching.


  2. Utilize the power of games. Games work – and students love them. So when you start to use Minecraft in the classroom, avoid the tendency to "schoolify" it. Let the essence and power of the game work on its own. I have found that when I keep rules, limitations and criteria to a minimum, students – and their ability to think through challenges critically – bloom. Learn to let go and trust that the students will blow your mind. Many years ago, we had a teacher who let a group of students use Minecraft before Minecraft in the classroom became "cool." Those students recreated the entire digestive system using Minecraft. When the students' creativity was set free, their learning soared. 

  3. Create a culture of learning. To create a classroom that is built around a culture of learning, I challenge you to first identify a problem. What is it that you are trying to solve? What is it that your students are trying to solve? Identifying the problem must take place before they can critically think. 

The five C's — yes, five, not four — critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and the Common Core all need to work together in order for Minecraft to work in your classroom. Teachers are students and students are teachers. We are in this together, and when you use Minecraft in the classroom, the spirit of teamwork is alive and well.

For even more tips on using Minecraft in the classroom, check out the Minecraft blog Coffee for the Brain, my webinar on Minecraft in the classroom, the crowdsourced OneNote Minecraft notebook (where we are working to create the greatest education resource online), and be sure to follow me on the Microsoft Educator community.

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