By Anne Hayden Stevens, CTD Creative Studies Coordinator
A recent Chicago Tribune article on Minecraft discusses leveraging the game to help students think both creatively and critically while engaging them on their terms. We have been integrating games into our curriculum for many years here at CTD. We realize that our students truly thrive in challenging, student-centered interactions with their gifted peers. What happens to these relationships as networked strategy games move online?
Game play is used in many industries and science fields to train workers and to explore theoretical models. Game designer Jane McGonigal believes that we can heal ourselves or solve world problems with games. She designed a game to move out of a concussion-induced depression. She determined that doing small missions each day to build different forms of resilience (mental, physical, social, and emotional) could help her heal. Her game, Super Better, is currently being used as a healing tool by thousands of users.
Due to the popularity of Center for Talent Development’s recently piloted Design Studio: Minecraft Edu course in our Saturday Enrichment Program, we are running it over the summer as well as in a special two-day accelerated course this June 14-15. Families and students love the course because it offers history, science and strategy, as well as game play. Students at all expertise levels collaborate, share interests & knowledge, and build new skills together. Students tackle challenges that build mental and social resilience: designing castles, building houses together, and learning how to build with redstone. Students also demonstrate emotional resilience, facing server failure and damage to their projects by other students.
Our student population is accustomed to hitting the academic ceiling in school. Minecraft has no ceiling: the game cannot be won or completed. This is both liberating and engaging. Observers in our MinecraftEdu classroom noted ‘flow’ in the student’s engagement with the server world and each other. This is supported by gaming research, which states that game worlds can be powerfully motivating for students.
Minecraft (and a host of other creative building games) challenge the dusty notion that games are counterproductive in our daily lives and learning. Minecrafters challenge themselves with sustainability, crafting and sharing recipes, and building complex traps and systems. Advanced Minecrafters build new servers for their in game, in room peers, cultivating skills in Java and backend programming.
Our CTD Minecraft instructor noted,
MinecraftEdu encourages and allows for collaboration on a level not seen in other games popular with elementary students. For instance, there is no collaborative aspect to Angry Birds or Temple Run, but elementary students will play those games for long periods of time. While playing Minecraft, students are being asked to think spatially, strategically, and use multiple bases of knowledge (as opposed to practicing over and over to figure out exactly when to press ‘jump’).
This teacher observation points to the transfer capacity of skills gained in Minecraft. Gaming is compelling in part because we explore social structures in games. Networked gaming, whether supporting citizen science, or harboring international crime, is our future. Current global projects indicate that we will crowd source solutions to world problems through games. We are preparing our Center for Talent Development students to cultivate the resilience and technical skills they need to help shape the future.
CTD’s Accelerated Weekend Experience is offering a two-day Minecraft course on June 14-15 for grades 4 through 9. Look out for more Minecraft courses through CTD’s Fall 2014 Saturday Enrichment Program, Gifted LearningLinks, and Summer Program.