Minecraft digs deeper into learning.

Minecraft has many potential benefits in education. I believe these are being under-estimated. While some uses seem obvious — building a sustainable house, making a replica of a ancient monument and so on — it’s important for teachers (and parents) to recognise and value the learning processes which are happening. I’m about to argue these processes have widely been considered the domain of adult eLearning — and are skills which go beyond many definitions of “21st Century Learning”. In addition, your children and mine are bringing these skills into school.

Regardless of whether a school allows or sees value in Minecraft, there will be a significant number of children (using sales, age and platform sales) who have these skills and are sharpening them evenings and weekends.

Let me be more specific here. Using John Keller’s ARCS model of motivational design, its possible to show Minecraft is teaching kids skils that get buried underneath ongoing controversies around screen-time.

Keller’s ARCS Model for motivational design

  • Attention – Get the learners interest and curiosity
  • Relevance – Show the importance and usefulness of the content to the learner
  • Confidence – Including challenging, but do-able activities (tasks and sub tasks)
  • Satisfaction – Make the experience worth it (ie Why should I care about this?)

Using computers to assist learning only really works when the learner feels satisfied and commits what they learned to long-term memory. We’ve all been to demo or had training where we walk out and never revisit the lesson.

As a parent, it’s totally frustrating that my children seem to remember a thousand items in their favourite video game inventory — yet can’t remember what todays homework was. Keller’s model is the foundation of many eLearning and classroom activities. What I’m saying is that we can see kids doing this without any adult prompts or motivators. The brilliance of the game design is that it allows humanistic learning.

The major problems of our age deal with human relations; the solutions can be found only in education. Skill in human relations is a skill that must be learned; it is learned in the home, in the school, in the church, on the job, and wherever people gather together in small groups. – Knowles.

Minecraft doesn’t have ‘rules’ on how to accomplish a task other than the machine-rules about the properties of objects in the virtual landscape together with the players ability to interact with those objects. The game itself allows an ‘idle’ state where by the player can do nothing at all if they want. Time passing is marked by the sunrise and sunset. The first task learners perform is how to create a personal space — where they can be safe from harm. The classic hierarchy of needs becomes realised almost immediately. She builds a shelter by analysing her performance constantly to race again time and if successful in that task — starts to think about deeper task analysis.

This is hugely powerful stuff. A four year old is undertaking constant task analysis more often than they are reacting to tasks set. To me this represents a significant alternative view of “flipping the classroom”. Among the questions she’s asking herself (and seeking media information to answer) are:

  • What’s the complexity of the task?
  • How often does it needs to be performed?
  • Is the task critical to the end state (performance) I want?
  • Is this task separate, connected with or linked to other tasks?
  • What does the overall task-relationship look like?
  • What are the risks associated with not being able to complete the task?
  • What background skills to learners need to perform these tasks?

It’s critical to acknowledge that kids playing Minecraft are developing two fundamental skills. They are working towards developing the kind of reflective, critical “self-directed” skills previously associated with adult learning.

This immediately creates new challenges and opportunities. Minecraft allows kids to engage in humanistic informal learning by becoming self-directed learners, maintaining deep motivation towards their own goals. I think Knowles would have liked Minecraft.

This will, to some, clash with many EdTech’s assumptions about what kids can/should do with computers. In particular who benefits most from using them – students, system or teachers. It fly’s in the face of popular opinion and assumptions. When I then hint at the power of connectivism and network culture, I begin to see kids as part of a new and vast network of learners.

I think using this lens, kids are doing things in Minecraft is quite staggering. The objects they make are not the measurement of their achievement, but simply a landmark on their increasing ambition, skill and knowledge. As I said at the beginning of this post — I question the need to create lessons for Minecraft. I see greater value (to them) by simply allowing kids to play for a few hours a week. This has benefits which so far, EdTech has really not achieved despite vast investment and enthusiasm.

Minecraft is not just a game — it’s a sandbox for self-directed learning which is probably one the most significant skills children will need in the years ahead. Obsessing over “digital literacy” seems a particular teacher and system obsession.

(Tapped on a phone, in a train).

The Minecraft Experience at Games for Change, NYC, April 2014

mmpIn 2011, when Mincraft was a beta-game with 100,000 players and not the 1,000,000 it has today – a small idea called Massively Minecraft took flight. It’s main activity was to enable children and adults to play on a server which attempted to allow children to develop ‘digital skills’ based loosely on ISTE’s NETs for students.  Today we’re launching a new project around Minecraft — building the right drivers in home, school and research.

I’m thrilled to be feel like I’m at the centre of it, both as a parent and now as a games researcher. Minecraft represents a unique media-phenomenon and has clearly been taken in remarkable new directions by the community. There is no one ‘best’ way to play, teach or parent around this game in particular. Unlike much of the technological determinism associated with technology and children, Minecraft has achieved what educational software and culture hasn’t. It has managed to bridge the gap between family literacy and school literacy. But all too often, the voices of parents and kids are lost. They are the subjects of research, not active researcher — and that’s what the Massively Minecraft Project is about — actively helping support autonomous research by parents, teachers and kids in to Minecraft.

The Minecraft Experience – at Games for Change, April 2014, New York City.

Today we are pleased to put up the first of a series of projects in this space, reviving the “Massively Minecraft” research and practice agenda. The International “Games for Change” has accepted our panel discussion with leading Industry experts on the “Minecraft Experience” as game, media, educational and cultural artefact. We’re provoking the panel and audience discussion by inviting you (and people you know) to share your road-story (good or bad) with us. This takes place in April 2014 in New York.

Here’s Bron’s open call for participation … please share it widely so that the panel discussion in April (In New York City) takes in as much as possible!

You can read all about it here http://www.minecraftexperience.net and we really want you to spread the word!

This project is a chance to have your say about Minecraft. We want to be able to describe Minecraft is all its different experiences and to do that through the eyes of those most experienced with it – youth, teachers, parents and designers.

You can add content to the wiki or point to fab content you have already online (stories, blogs, photos, videos etc). Contribute to a page or design a page of your own. Take this space in whatever direction you feel it needs to go to describe Minecraft well!

Those wanting to contribute will have to join the wiki. We have chosen to not have this a completely open wiki in order to monitor and protect any of our young contributors. And we would love them to contribute and sign their contributions with their username and identifying whether they are ‪#‎youth‬‪#‎teacher‬‪#‎parent‬‪#‎designer‬ or other. This will be very useful data as time goes on.

We want this to be a global project with the widest ownership possible, so don’t be shy or feel that your contribution will not count because this crowd sourcing stuff is only powerful if every voice is heard.

Are you in? Let me know if you need any further info or advice.

Bron Stuckey & Dean Groom
The Massively Minecraft Project

Minecraft and over parenting

One reason to allow children to play Minecraft is to redress control issues associated with modern parenting and dare I say it … teaching.

Whether parents and teachers use positive rewards or negative punishment to get children to comply with a demand, its not allowing them agency over their own choices. Its a huge problem and one I’ve been guilty of for a good while.

Minecraft (and other games) give kids a sense of autonomy which is becoming a rare experience for many kids suffering from over parenting.

But its not enough to let them play, they need parent support and encouragement. They are learning about their own agency against fierce odds and parents focused on control (all be it well meaning).

There’s something to balk at.

Minecraft isn’t just a game

In the 1950s, Disney hit on the idea of connecting classic folk-tales to their animation technologies, and from that creating their own books, magazine and toys. Minecraft, also started by one man with an plan — has enabled a very similar process except as a company, Mojang don’t chase down every licensing and copyright claim imaginable.

It’s another reason parents can’t compare Minecraft to other sandbox games — they are not all about the value-add sell, but of course do licence certain aspects. It must be a total nightmare to manage, but cudos to them for at least attempting it.

Online there are some amazing toys, gadgets and artwork that have emerged because of Minecraft. Mojang don’t appear to mind people adding their own creativity to their game such as this.

Crafting-1.3-Part-1-1 (1)

Now you don’t have to PLAY video games in your classroom to be able to see how this is brilliantly executed story. There is enough detail in this story for anyone who’s read a romantic story about the heroes journey to be able to figure out what is going on here.

This is simply ONE part of FIVE posted onto the website 9Minecraft. You can go read the rest yourself … and find out how it ends. That’s five comics, filled with pop-culture references that kids could EASILY relate to … and any (good) teacher could put to work.

I post this as an example of how VIDEO GAMES are part of cultural literacy. Minecraft is as embedded in today’s culture as Donald Duck was for Disney — and better still there is a massive fan-talent base producing plenty of FREE or low-cost resources that kids can relate to. Getting primary aged kids to turn their classroom into a Minecraft house would require almost zero effort on the teacher’s part. Go on, I dare you …


Making sense of media reports about games.

I happen to believe video games are an essential media-element in the lives of Australian families, because they are pervasive in our culture. They are on mobiles, computers, tablets and in classrooms.  In the decade that saw teacher-endorsement of Web2.0, and equal amount of time, effort and millions was spent trying to protect society (which includes children) from video games – and the DER vanished into history as school leaders try to ignore the past and talk this afternoons trope.

Parents are not idiots and everyone uses a mobile these days.

Firstly, games has a classification system. Given 97% of adults have played a game and 85% are present when games are purchased, media panics over game producers pushing horror an violence on the public (which includes children) is wrong. But then, as a thinking adult, I’m sure you know that media, especially when owned by Murdoch and friends, is both selective and biased. In addition, traditional media (which includes journalism) has nothing to gain (status or economic) from people playing video games and not giving them the attention they assume they warrant, despite social media being far more open and accessible than they are. But I digress.

Schools don’t believe in video games at all – ask why.

Video games are educational.  By saying that I mean — of themselves. They are as worthy of children freely exploring them as they are given silent reading time, free play in the school yard or put on the ‘edu-game’ in the library.

Games and game players are subjected to more academic scrutiny that 99% of technology that is now assumed to be “the norm” in classrooms — yet no significant studies suggest “Web2.0” makes any difference in the lives of children — or that games would be worse. That’s the tragedy of Web2.0 in education for me, it quickly became an unambitious trope, full of commercial dogma pretending to be scholarship in order for a few to create a conference-circus lifestyle, in the traditions of American Fairground Shows. Web2.0 is introduced at will because it’s popular – and because brands are great at getting your attention. Schools systematically and selectively represent media that they think politicians and bishops ‘like’, especially if they get to crow about it at a conference. If a game is allowed in, then it will be sanitised. The teacher must be the celebrated innovator and leader in the story — and the students emancipated from otherwise ‘dull’ teaching methods. Again, no evidence that this has any positive effects at all — where as there is plenty that a few hours alone with a game works wonders on kids – especially boys who clash with school. It works even better if adults are helping them. Kids are as BORED with mini-laptops and ‘apps’ as they are with listening to Bueller, Bueller — Beuller.

The method matters when reading about video games, not the metaphor.

When reading about what games,it’s really useful to look for the method by which the authors come to their conclusions. In academia, methods matter — and offering opinions over evidence doesn’t get you too far. Its like saying people drive cars, cars kill people therefore people are cars. It just doesn’t make sense.

In many cases the method is neither obvious or  mentioned in the popular press articles. In some domains, particularly clinical psychology it’s the wrong method, used to validate a theory — not to generate new theory of games. Rarely do they address the rich evidence available. For example, neuro-science shows video game play has numerous benefits to humans, but not all humans. Again, not all humans like TV, walking the dog or writing blog posts. Each of those need methods of approach, which can be from many angles.

Clinical psychologists turned ‘game addiction’ into a multi-million dollar business.

In this research domain, ideas in which data fits the theory “games are adductive” are commonly echoed. Somewhere they will state — less than clearly — that hundreds of studies show games are addictive and refer back to gambling addiction. Most famously, is Kimberley Young declared in 1999 that internet addiction was “akin” to gambling addiction, and has since tacked on mobile phone and video games, which she also connects with moral decay and loss of innocence. Young’s declaration has less to millions of dollars in therapy sessions to drive out the human enjoyment of interactive media. On the basis of these studies 97% of Australians are pathologically addicted to the Internet, mobile phones, computers and video games. However, try asking your health insurance if that is covered or apply for workers compensation for over use of technology at work. You see, as much as they want it to be true — it remains little more than ‘something to work on’ as far as the World Heath Association is concerned. Game addiction is right up there with Scientology when it comes to it.

Playing Black Flag: A pirate game, where feeling like a pirate allows a scarf to be a hat, and a dog to keep you company.

More cowbell

While it may be true that hundreds of studies repeat and reaffirm this negative position, there is also hundreds of academic counter positions which generate and offer better theory of games – and how to mediate them in the lives of children. You might have seen James Gee talk about this on PBS or conferences. There is significant other social research which rejects this need to validate and vilify electronic media on the basis of false theory and popular journalistic interest in whipping up parent anxiety. Why is this person saying this? What’s is they want? Why now? Mostly – what the hell to these people play?

For parents, it’s useful to remember when you read about how terrible games are that the data presented in most often there to verify and keep afloat continued assertions of clinical psychologists who’s business is — treating internet, game and mobile phone addiction — which is not a recognised pathology by any stretch of the imagination. They might as well treat you for TV addiction — which of course prior to 1999 was their previous gold mine among nervous parents. I like this quote attributed to Rod Sterling (1924 – 1975), best known as the creator of The Twilight Zone, was a seminal figure in the Golden Age of Television and became a cultural icon of the 20th century.

It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.

Today, you can’t have a serious conversation about video games without 12 dancing clinicians waving toilet paper at you – In the mean time, peoplewatch TV and play.

There no such thing as video games!

The best research generates theories of games which can be seen in examples in the real world, not simply small laboratory experiments or citing previous studies which agree with your view. This is where better understanding and approaches to social gaming emerges from. Sadly though, many educational games are not based on this research either, but on avoiding the wrath of clinicians our casing in on popular culture and parent fears. Having said that, clinicians and educators use a very broad brush when it comes to which video games hurt or help. Which games? Where are they used? What for? By whom? What did they say? How was this conclusion arrived at?

Video games are not a leap of faith. They are the most significant media firm used in society to date and part of cultural literacy.

Over 97% of people in western countries have played them. They it’s no evidence to suggest those people have any long term behavioural issues. With parent mediation, along with any other media, they are of themselves a valid media text which your child with both enjoy and learn from. They will not learn more from an educational game, though they may be able to repeat facts or patterns. They certainly won’t learn from our about them in school, which has historically done everything it could to ban and demonise them. The leap of faith comes when parents and schools recognise that playing them is healthier when they step back and don’t overlay it with their own agenda. Only then can they start to see the theories being featured in social research as game related media studies.

Let them play, learn what they play, learn how to predict and prepare kids for media. I’m sure my theory that a few hours a week of video gaming at school for the sole purpose of playing (enabling alert, orientation and executive brain networks) won’t be seen as academic, unlike copying from the board or one prison telling you about how the world is. But that’s because I have unicorn blood and I’m a parent as concerned about media as another.

Be what you want them to be

There is a lot of desperate nonsense online in relation to games and kids aggression.

Even the much cited Eron criticism of TV found a 10 percent debatable correlation between kids and tv watching related aggression, whereas they found fifty percent of kids aggression results from family interaction. The adult she sees everyday is the model of what she is supposed to be.

Thus means that whatever game they are playing, is not going to have the biggest impression, it’s parent behavior while the game is in focus.

You can tell kids what you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be less interested in it. Remember too, this is a fantasy, and in a fantasy imagining fighting zombies or burning down a forest is interesting. The best model for parents is to calmly lay out an argument, not yell an opinion.

This is much better than seeing you freak out with anxiety. It’s also why kids won’t play games in school (even if you call it edu) in the same way they do at home. In school, playing minecraft doesn’t affirm who they are so much as it shows them most teachers don’t understand games … and them.

This becomes obvious when I see YouTube videos of teachers bossing kids around in a classroom (playing minecraft) too. I don’t see them building mutually respectful arguments for gaming any more than non game interested teachers … it’s just “bang, hey kids, were going to play minecraft” … as they attach behaviour and imagination cuffs to be the power broker. Terrible in every level.

This isn’t modeling what teachers want kids to be, it’s partly frustration with the system and in some things I’ve seen … a dubious pedagogical basis for gaming. Banning games is simply the opposite reaction (much favoured by school leaders stuck in their own fantasy hyperbole of what constitutes media literacy).

Similarly, I’d argue parent anxiety over minecraft (or other) as being addictive our violent, won’t show any change because a kid plays at school (should someone actually research it with a valid method). It hasn’t before in studies of other media, so why would minecraft be different here?

Modeling who you want them to be requires cultural acceptance of games as a unique media form that plays a significant economical and societal role.

Parents will take games and virtual worlds seriously when schools do.

When it becomes a discipline such as media studies, english or computer science, then it will get further. Right now it seems the focus is in furthering the agenda and/or bank balance of a few enthusiasts.

But the is some hope. Numerous free online courses (moocs) allow parents to explore games and learning from a research base. And why should parents not join them?

Plenty of gaming teachers are actually unqualified too, in terms of “accredited to teach”. So give it a go,  model an interest, ask questions of your kids and explore what interests them.

Personally, I think this is much better than hoping the teacher has any deep grasp of gaming (for transformational play). I seriously doubt “gaming” will be a timetable event outside of novelty or attention seeking any time soon.

Be the expert you’d like them to see. There’s are dozens of courses starting in October, all free, and all backed by University grade content. That will impress your kids much more than anything else. You are their parent. You don’t have to pay, or even like the games they do, but it’s a good idea to know why from some of the world’s most respected scholars like Jay Clayton.

The tether fantasy

Reading some ambitious theory about how kids come to play Minecraft by Christopher Goetz in “Tether and Accretions: Fantasy as Form in Videogames”. One of his key ideas is that games allow players to explore the darker and scarier side of existence, while maintaining a tether to the home or home base. This allows exploration as a kind of oscillation between binaries (good/bad, safety/peril) from the perceptual safety of the home. It’s a great read and goes someway to highlight the appeal of Minecraft in the home, and why, as a cultural object, school based Minecraft tends to not allow students to move away from home base at quite the depth and ambition as they do at home. It really supports the argument that games are a part of literary culture, and parents play a vital role in children’s understanding of the world though media.

It also signals reasons so many people are exploring new forms of media and relationships from home, yet at work, they tend to less motivated. He says the digital fantasy a provides a “reliable, infinitely repeatable source of pleasure”. He also asserts “tether fantasy encourages us to consider everyday routines as creative acts permeated by a playful impulse: as we leave one site of adult identity for the next —whether it is bed, the cubicle at work, a car, or home—”. Certainly most people engage in this kind of activity via twitter for example. In addition he says it can be used to both engage and withdraw for the world and the power invested in these objects enables you to go beyond what is normally possible. I’ve said several times that I see twitter as sandbox game, and this article opened some new doors for me.

It’s a great theory, not least as it deal with the progressive autotelic narrative of building and venturing further from home base in a really interesting way.

Minecraft Whispering #1

I’ve decided to write a series of posts for parents of children, specifically 6-12 about learning how to manage Minecraft. It may work on other ages, but typically 6-12 year olds are wired differently to teens and adolescents.

First of all, you and I are not dealing with dark-magic in Minecraft code. It, like other games, has no addictive qualities in the way the media like to suggest games are addictive like smoking and so on. In a small number of kids, circumstances and context conspire such that some kids are more likely to form habitual habits than others. It’s also fair to say that adults are generally told by the media that spent in “online worlds” are at expense of  the “real world” – and ironically they read this online these days due to the increasing domestication of the Internet onto phones, tablets and so on.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and for some, Minecraft is addictive. I don’t happen to agree with that at all due to the lack of evidence to support such a generalisation. Like all ‘new media’ hyper connected games challenge parents – because parenting skills around these things something most never thought they’d need to develop when she arrived in the world. One day she’s playing with lego and being cute, the next, she’s build an entire universe of her own and being sassy. Its completely human to feel a sense of frustration and even abandonment. There’s no inner demon worse for a parent than abandonment – but this is a feeling, not a reality.

The first step is to understand that you are about to become an expert negotiator. This post is pre-that idea. It’s about spending some time looking at her life and trying to imagine how the world see’s her, and her it. It’s hard, as kids are so imaginative at this age and we, boring old adults, tend forget the power of imagination as we get older. For most of us, being imaginative in our daily lives has been drummed out of us. Get on with your job, stop day dreaming … that’s not your role … blah blah.

To do this you need to accept that your child grows ever more curious as the world begins to open up. Right now, a 7 year old has massive access to detailed information online because of the domestication of the Internet into devices adults own.

I know my own 7 year old will watch dozens of Minecraft tutorials on YouTube every day week. Not only that, he’s learned how to be bottom line orientated, and how to spot ‘good’ ones from ‘bad’ ones. He’s also made his own and left comments on others. I say this in order to explain, that unlike myself at aged 7, he’s somewhat of a polymath.

Your Minecraft playing child lives in a world which (to them) doesn’t stack up. They are, at different times of the day treated in very different ways. Imagine if you were at work and your boss speaks to you slowly and repeats simple instructions because he thinks your too stupid to understand. Imagine then someone walks in the room and the boss talks about you as if you were not in the room. Then you leave and go back to your desk to work on this idea called Instagram that you and your friend had. That is how kids are treated daily by adults.

  • Children as performers
  • Children as subjects
  • Children as audiences (e.g. in schools)
  • Children as makers

Sit down and work out what your child does under these headings. In Minecraft children act as performers and makers – not subjects or audiences.

This is a simple observation, but one that has a huge impact on them and in turn your own behaviour (often being frustrated and angry). This is the first generation to have such power on tap – so it’s futile saying “go outside and play”, when in their mind, this is play – it’s play they find really useful in figuring out the world.

In the past only the ‘gifted’ kids were top performers (sports, music, math) and only the most talented made objects, engineering and art and so on. We called these kids ‘gifted and talented’ yet by all current measures of that in “schoo”l – games are not something used to ‘identify’ it.

I can’t see anything wrong with wanting my kids to know that they are NOT the subject or audience as I was at the same age, and well into adulthood. If that’s something you want too, then start with looking at the routine of your kids and consider how life feels.

Minecraft’s Notch is the new Rodin.

Minecraft again today.  Just a quick post as I wait for a machine to finish a dull task.

I thought I’d introduce parents to a theory of learning called “contructionism”. As thats probably not interesting, I’ll skip to a few points that are – why Minecraft is the best FREE design teacher you’ll ever meet.

Minecraft encourages two of forms of learning that teachers would see as absolutely brilliant in their classroom (if they could magically have anything they wanted). These things are also REALLY important to “design thinking” which is another really ‘hot’ topic in how to get kids to think critically about problems and coming up with solutions.

So what are they? Perspective-Talking and Object Construction. These two topics have been mulled over by academics for decades, as they are all about our relationships with knowledge – or put another way – how do we get smarter.

Minecraft forces kids to ‘de-centre’ their view point and take someone else’s point of view. That might be in the game with another player as they make something, or it might be when they try to explain what they are making to you (the awesomely important parent and praise giver). It might be in a forum debating which is the best solution to a redstone problem or disagreeing with a YouTube “Let’s Play” video which is WRONG.

Despite outward appearances, Minecraft is not all about the player – it’s actually more about their relationship to knowledge (how to get more of it, ditch the rubbish and improve the wobbly bits).

Object construction gives them a kind of “gods eye view” of the world they are making. But they can’t succeed if this is their only view. It’s one BIG reason parents need to play with their kids in the game, not just moan about it and why allowing one person to have all the power tends to suck for the rest of us. Relate that to life – anyone know someone with a god-complex that likes to rule over everything? Did you read the Hunger Games?

In order to build knowledge Minecraft uses imagination to teach kids that they are not actually gods, ruling over the game or others, no matter how many tantrums they pull. The game-world works in certain ways only. If they really want to change the way the world works, then they need to learn how to ‘mod’ it. Is this not the same message ‘self improvement’ pundits like to talk about? Don’t take the world as it is, but take action to improve and change it?

By playing Minecraft, kids learn when they start to learn from opposites, forge new relations and separating ideas about the game-world, they have relevance to the real world. I’m yet to meet a kid playing Minecraft that’s a sheep. They are all goats who like to do whatever they want. That’s powerful stuff, but it’s also massive thing to learn, and Minecraft (can) do it really well. (With great power comes great responsibility). You tend to only hear about the ‘bad Minecraft’ in the media of course. But trust me “good Minecraft” can be used to tackle just about anything positively too. Notch has put down the ground work, but parents clearly need to be on deck to help their children make use of this new found knowledge and agency.

This form of learning (yes, learning) is not at all unlike the way science is taught under constructionist methods. If fact, it’s endorsed by your local school. I’ll just use Science to illustrate here. There is a borad consensus that children’s learning depends critically on their ideas about science, scientists and experiments. Minecraft is just a science lab by another name. The fact it can replicate this experience without a teacher or curriculum at all is just one of the many unique qualities games have, and most schools don’t’. It’s powerful stuff, and of course disrupts how we see ‘learning’. As with science, the way we ‘learn’ it can result in active identification with it (Science is awesome) or alienation (Science is rubbish). It’s the same with computer and video games, how we (you, me and others) learn about them matters a great deal. Remember I said – perspective talking. That’s what is happening all the time when playing Minecraft.

Take social media in schools and collages. No one’s learning about them as a subject, in fact most schools BAN them completely. Yet in order to make sense of the world, students need to learn about them (just as they do science) if they are to function in parts of the world where online is just part and parcel of life. Teaching them only about ‘fear’ is like only teaching them about “when science goes bad” and in fact education spends vasts about of time trying to build “wicker men” from any technology it doesn’t understanding (like games).

My point is, that simply allowing kids to play Minecraft in school would be far better than giving they stupid cyber safety chats, quizzes and lectures by the local police. Kids don’t turn learning off and on, like teachers sometimes turn the job on and off (bells). You can’t tell a kid that games are not learning and you can’t stop them learning when a game like Minecraft is so optimally tuned into the most powerful educational theories out there. The irony of course is that ‘culture’ get’s in the way and most educational administrators have not themselves learned the value of perspective talking and can’t separate the game from the objective.

Designers sort out what object mean to them or others; then they selectively connect features of an object and features of a CONTEXT into a coherent unity. This belongs here because, this works here because, I am happy here because and so on. Over time, designers build up a lot of knowledge and understanding about how to place and connect objects in the world, so as to give them situated meaning to others. BIG examples: Egyptian pyramids, great sailing ships, statues, buildings, vehicles.

Now ask yourself, what is MY kid doing in Minecraft … playing AND learning to be a designer? – How are they relating DESIGN in the real world to themselves and others in the game-world?. How does copying from the board do this? How does filling out a worksheet do this? How does listening to a lecture do this?

It doesn’t. Kids put up with it, because kids have no power at all in school – despite dubious claims from educational advoates about how technology ’empowers students’. Rubbish, one persons in charge, the dude at the front. And that dude has no clue about games like Minecraft, so will avoid it like the plague.

Most of all, according to the theory, the construction of meaning is most potent when learners are engages in building external and sharable facts. Minecraft is all about those things.

To the generations past, Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker” was the prototypical image of thinking. Notch gave us a new image, one which is a now prototypical of todays “thinkers”. They happen to look like boxy-stick-people, but really, Notch’s design for the new thinker is right up there with Rodin in terms of art and craft.

Minetest is good for schools

Currently there’s a war being fought over corporate copyright ownership. It’s not just in the courts, but in media-representation of morality. It’s vital the public believe the ideas created to keep ideas and information under limited ownership are important. For educators, I highly recommend downloading (legally) Steal this Film to gem up on what’s happening beyond your biome. This post is in part, showing how changes to how be perceive ownership lead people to different solutions many more benefit from.

This is for those who want to play Minecraft, but their computer is too old or slow to deal with that monster java power-drain.

It’s well known, Minecraft creator – Notch has strong views on the topic of software ownership such as

Trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive (they slown down technical advancement), evil (they sacrifice baby goats to baal), and costly (companies get tied up in pointless lawsuits).

This leads me to Minetest. It looks a lot like Minecraft and is a great example what I’m talking about here.

Take a casual look at it’s looks like a Minecraft rip-off – a clone, an infringement on copyright. How can they get away with this? Well, not everyone has bought into the ‘feed’ view of ownership of ideas – even creators of hugely popular titles such as Minecraft. In educator-brains, if Minetest isn’t copyright infringement, then it’s plagiarism! – Copying! Stealing … grab the redstone torches and get him!

You see, we’re teaching a generation that copying isn’t okay. Rubbish. It is a brilliant way to learn – especially when you’re a kid – especially if you’re a kid playing Minecraft.

Benefits for schools who won’t allocate money to ‘games’.

So if you’re looking for a way to talk to your kids about ‘copyright’ then Minetest is a great discussion point. If you just want a sandbox game, like Minecraft, that runs free and on older machines — then play Minetest. I would think that for what most classrooms might need, Minetest is a perfectly respectable way to introduce resistent schools and IT-guards to the idea. Now you don’t have to pay for it.

Why you should support the creator-verse.

But you should donate real money to Celeron55 here. Because if educators don’t get off this idea that something free this way comes eventually – very little ‘new’ things will be made at all. So support people who make stuff and give you stuff. Even if it’s a comment or a cup of coffee . Put your head out the window and wave some coin.

I promise you, education will only improve globally in exact proportion to the number of teachers who get off the free-roundabout being marketed to them at the Twitter-Bar.