Game Based Learning – Push the cart and stop lollygagging.

Minecraft is not the apex of ‘game based learning’ nor is it the ‘best’ game for kids to ‘learn’ in the classroom. Minecraft Edu set out to be a ‘for profit’ solution that could be sold to teachers and therefore enslaved kids inside that biome. It panders to the teacher agenda and boundaries around their own belief, knowledge and experience of ‘games’. It was a great idea – as a business idea – but as a theoretical or pedagogical model about as sound as jello. If we look at the feast of game design and game theory – why eat jello!


This was then ‘sold’ to Microsoft for an undisclosed sum and has been repacked with their overall ‘school marketing’ campaign in the ongoing turf war with Google and Apple.

Get off the cart and start pushing. Stop presenting Minecraft at TeachMeets and try something new … even if it won’t make you Chitter-popular. Be a professional, be a gamer … be into it or drop out the game.

Today, Minecraft is presented as the ‘default’ and most teacher-relatable ‘game’ solution. It is popular with kids (ie acceptable to their parents) and recognised, even if some think it’s a lego game.

Most of this ‘gaming’ is PC and laptop, I see few working with Pocket. It’s not the same story that was useful in 2010, but over used and remixed. It’s safe, it’s easy and apparently it signifies ‘innovation’.

But, it you want actually want to get the cart moving again about the value of games – games that didn’t exist in 2010 – get off the cart an push the damn thing. Don’t forget – games are a valid and unique media literacy that don’t need to be integrated with an essay in Google Docs to become valid in the classroom. Just like ‘play’ itself is valuable because it’s a great way build self-efficacy and agency in the world around us. It’s also fun, not creepy treehouse fun.

Teachers love the “we’re teaching kids for jobs that don’t exist yet” dogma. Well I think you may be using games that fail to promote the kind of learning and social connectedness that already exists – and if you follow the research – kids are spending over 80% of their time streaming music, TV, Netflix, Stan, Spotify and youtube. If not they are following links to terrible content via apps.

The old worry “Google will make you stupid” is dead. Kids don’t even Google. They follow links and consume TV along side their parents in binge-watching sessions. Kids don’t spend 8 hours a day on a game, young kids spend 8 hours a day playing dozens of games, which they don’t go back to ever. They download, play the basic level and when it gets hard, quit and get a new game. Forget digital natives – they are nomads for years before they get to be teens and play comp with their mates – and thats all about connectedness and shared experience, not content.

There are games, game cultures and game methods – all of which an be used to create engagement and mindfulness. They can also be presented from the stance of digital nutrition and digital sunscreen. And yet, what do we get? More people droning on about Minecraft … because it’s easy and profitable … not because anyone’s shown it improves anything yet.

Game Based Learning is not what is being presented … push the cart to the next checkpoint or the other team win.

(another unpopular opinion of a games/parenting researcher and player.