Minecraft Dilemma

A school in Sweden has made Minecraft compulsory. Settle down, this is a headline – Minecraft didn’t become a subject like Maths or Science, just another ‘thing’ schools make kids do during some appointed time. Mums against Minecraft will be horrified still.

This is a dilemma, as it’s impossible to make learning compulsory, however I get the point that as an immersive experience, some students would perhaps find it of use. How you’d measure that is another matter – especially as standardized tests are lump-hammers. Other comments immediately called for ‘evidence’ that it would be edumacational. A standard volley these days, but indicative of the cultural assumption that other parts of academic activities are more educational. This is the belief that what has proven true in the past is stable and improvements can be made every year.

I am not denying the nobility of that idea, but as this comment reflects, schools seem to assume while technology is useful in modernity, and notionally see this as ‘computer assisted learning’ – they remain unable to deal with the potential that it is only now that accepted educational theory from respected scholars like Dewey and Pappert can be leveraged though well designed games. Note that I am talking about ‘networked independence’ and ‘learning’ – not ‘teaching’ as an act.

I am also not suggesting that this would be true for all learners, or that having an adult teach something is not a worth while and valid part of childhood development – far from it – as there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise, though like games, there is no universal truism. For many kids (one of my own) not understanding how he learns, means he will tune-out. Many teachers do this too, “oh, video-games … I can’t learn anything from those” … and tune out too.

Tune back in – it may well be that kids can play games in learning episodes that don’t rely on teacher’s to police it, or put it in a lesson-cage at a certain time of day. This again is well documented in early childhood research. Games are useful for learning in many ways – however the outstanding problem with schools and teachers is pedagogy – something that remains dominated by teachers. Game design remains dominated by imagination and controversy – as games are also a form of art.

Art is education. Playing a guitar teaches you many things, and draws the learner into ever deeper learning. It is only objective bias that argues, picking up a game controller is time-wasting entertainment – mostly in order to deny the possibility that a more of the school-day can be given over to greater freedom of choice, liberty and art – not less. I do advocate for Minecraft, but endorse the sentiment in this comment completey. Learning is not better is you put it in a straight jacket and assume a teacher has to teach it.

I argue this lack of attention to games, and right now Minecraft is part of the reason parents are picking up the heat at home and concerned about the amount of time kids are playing it. When they think ‘is this learning’ – they imagine what learning looks like. If it looks like lessons, cells and bells – then you know what most will decide.

Games like Minecraft are a role model for how learning could occur – and schools as a function of society still refuse to accept their resistance to change the day to day regime is setting a bad example to kids and parents. Teachers are a function of school, so it’s futile to say they ‘don’t get it’. They do a good job, inside the parenthesis of the job. When people say “I’m stuck in traffic, the correct reply is, no … you are the traffic”. This to me is the  impass in educational technology right now. The gurus that espoused Web2.0 can’t see past it – because web2.0 dogma is based on computer assisted learning. You can sell that to schools, but clearly you can’t sell it to all teachers and only a handful of students.

Great to see Minecraft in schools – but better to see schools operate more like Minecraft.


Minecraft Dilemma