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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Learning with Minecraft

During the holidays, Sierra became very curious about Minecraft.

Source
A homeschool friend told her about it and she was constantly bugging us to get an iPod so she could play. We did a bit of research (this article is great) and with friends recommendations we discovered there are some very positive learning aspects to the game; such as: problem solving skills, research skills, communication skills, spelling, typing, vocabulary, science, creativity, as well as math and spatial reasoning skills.

This sold us on the potential positive benefits to the game. So the day before Christmas we decided to break the budget and buy Sierra an iPad mini instead of an iPod touch she asked for basically because of the bigger screen for playing games and watching movies or youtube videos (see the differences between the two HERE). The components of both are very similar. Price per GB appears to be the biggest difference besides screen size. Sierra was ecstatic to say the least.

Since Sierra has started playing Minecraft Pocket Edition (Mobile version of full game of Minecraft) her time on electronics has gone up substantially (partially because it is a new iPad mini and new game). As a general rule we don't set time limits for electronic use by our children. When the weather is good they usually choose to be outdoors (we spend a lot of time outdoors together) so it has never been a problem. Right now our Ontario weather is cold (-20 C with windchill in the -30's) and we all like to hibernate inside especially after our move from the great winter weather in BC.

Some of the ways we have seen Sierra learn while hibernating inside and playing Minecraft are:

-She is being creative by creating houses with different rooms and furniture (interestingly she loves to place bookshelves everywhere in her game homes).







 

-She is cooperatively playing together with other family members through wifi. This is daddy mainly as I genuinely dislike playing video games myself due to my own preconceptions of video games. However I see how involved she is, how much she is benefiting from playing and I try to learn with her to share her experiences.

-She is learning communication skills and empathy during cooperative play as she is extremely concerned for who she is playing with and how they are performing in the game. In the future when she plays online with the main computer version (daddy is setting it up today) she will be playing with local friends and making new friends all over the world.

-She is learning to research (which helps spelling, vocabulary and reading too) by searching out minecraft youtube videos to expand her own knowledge and ability to play the game. She watches videos of people creating different things and afterwards she makes her own with the information she researched (This video below is a basic first time use video for beginners. Be warned sometimes the videos you find have more adult content or swearing in them then you feel is appropriate for your children. You need to be the judge of what your child watches. Sierra is very good at turning off videos she feels are inappropriate).



-She is learning basic problem solving for life skills in survival mode. She has to collect resources such as wood and coal to build herself a house and craft tools or armor to survive the elements of the game. She has to find food as well, all before it gets dark (ten minute intervals) when the creatures come out and attack her or she can starve to death without food.


-When not electronically connected to the game she is imaginative and role plays Minecraft creatures when creating new games to play with friends  (Creeper tag, or playing keep away from the skeletons).

-She is having fun playing and learning about what she is interested in. It's hard to believe that all of this has occurred within the last couple weeks! I can barely wait to see where the learning expands to next.

So if you are concerned about how much your child(ren) are playing Minecraft think about this quote:

"They ARE  learning from these games.  Many times it’s obvious that they are gaining valuable skills and sometimes it looks just like play.  Gaming is truly an amazing way to explore the world if we can just let go of our preconceived ideas about it and let our children (and ourselves) thrive at it."  source

What are your thoughts about Minecraft? Do your children play? Do you limit their play time? Do you play together?