The problem with Minecraft Edu thinking

The addition of the new Microsoft Coins and Marketplace to Minecraft (public) will soon be something parents will come to hear about. That assumes their child has discovered the game, and already and has figured out how to access the numerous server communities.

It’s usual to ‘donate’ to servers and in return buy ranks (privileges) for often tiny amounts. Eventually, kids get tired of the ‘free spaces’ which tend to be less than stable or come with restrictions, griefers, and officious moderators. Many kids, according to my field work, find online communities which are far more socially-bound – and often provide an environment based on on-going faction based wars and territorial raids on rivals.

Many kids, according to my field work, find online communities which are far more socially-bound – and often provide an environment based on on-going faction based wars and territorial raids on rivals. The level of agency and literacy to participate in these environments is no less complex than any big MMO such as Warcraft. Building skills are needed, but the community space is far from a sandbox.

I seriously doubt Minecraft Teachers using the Educational Edition take this into account. From what I ‘see’, they are happy in their cut-down, teacher empowered solution which removes 90% of what is possible in the actual Minecraft community. However, my concern is not this – but that when a teacher enables their school game, they induct kids into a broad new culture – and take no responsibility for it. Sure, many kids play Minecraft, but there is an ethical dilemma here – you are showing kids a vast online culture, with media (not intended for children) – and leaving them and their parents to mediate and navigate it. When I’ve raised this online, people reply  – MCEdu is the school only world or that they are teaching ‘digital citizenship’. This might be true – but two issues arise – first, there is no research to suggest this is true – as the concept of ‘digital citizenship’ in as vague as ‘digital literacy/ and second, that they fail to address (or even discuss) the teachers role in adequately preparing what I’ll call – inducted players – into not just a game, but a massive online community which comes with both good and bad elements – with no responsibility. Furthermore, we are rapidly finding in research

Furthermore, we are rapidly finding in research, parents have little information on how to mediate games in general, let alone Minecraft. They also don’t make connections between the game culture and readily available game media on sites such as YouTube. Like teachers, the block world, devoid of blood and other anti-social content – seems safe. The fact that public servers are heavily invested in role-playing and imagined situations, from kidnapping to bank robbery isn’t observable.

So while I read so much about how awesome (for teachers) Minecraft Edu is – my challenge to those teachers is that you are being at best nieve and possibly negligent when you induct kids into the Microsoft Marketplace and Coin-grab – and unethical when attempting to ignore or annexe the ‘real game’ culture from that you establish in class. So far, I see no Minecraft Teachers addressing this – because it’s no something they want to deal with – and worse, not presenting any evidence that kids are developing any new skills or understanding – possibly as they have not read enough literature, and far too many tweets.

Inducting kids into Minecraft, means bringing them into the total Minecraft culture (good and bad) – and unlike using Word, writing a blog or some Canvas poster – Minecraft is a MMO/MUVE which comes with the same issues and dilemmas associated with previous spaces – such as Second Life, Ultima etc., Just because it looks like Lego and you can get it running inside a school biome — doesn’t make it okay … but then I’m also are that the echo-chamber of EdTech doesn’t have to take any responsibility for what it pushes onto kids – YET. But as a professional – I argue teachers have an ethical responsibulity to ensure parents and children are adequately prepared for using Minecraft – not just comply with the rules the teacher sets in class.