RVS Guest Author: David Smith, Principal, Langdon School – Some months back as I was walking down the hall in our school, I came across a boy who was playing a game called Minecraft on our school computer. My assumption initially was that this student was off topic, however I was completely wrong.
I pulled up a chair and sat down beside this gentleman. With his left hand he was typing, imputing numbers, creating structures through hot-keys, and with his right hand he was moving the mouse, directing a little man similar to a Lego character through a beta-looking screen. After sitting for 30 seconds to his right, I saw his eyes glance over at me and then back to the screen.
“How’s it going Mr. Smith?”, he said with a grin.
“Oh fine Sam, how are you?”
“I am doing great! You are probably wondering why I am on Minecraft right now aren’t you?”, he said with a slight smirk.
“Well, I have a feeling you are going to tell me aren’t you?”
Before I go any further I should give you a snapshot of what Minecraft is. This game thrives on self-creation and imagination. It allows users to create their own world and to move amongst that world in a 3-D form, mainly using icons and geometric shapes. Students can create worlds that are similar to that of Lego, but that have higher detail. They can share these worlds with each other and effectively create and destroy their creations very easily. The game itself is not very ‘fancy’; it does not have smooth graphics, it does not have superior detail or high-end background music with a score written by John Williams, rather, it is a form similar to that of the early video games, something I would call a ‘beta-game’.
As Sam spoke, I became fascinated with why he enjoyed this game so much, in fact, why so many students enjoy using this game when it didn’t have what so many of our game makers thrive on today – that is HD graphics, original music, AI interaction, violence, speed, and more. As Sam spoke it became clear to me that he enjoyed this game because he had the option to create, explore, and apply his knowledge with simplicity. The game itself is built upon geometric shapes. The more detailed and symmetrical you are in your creation, the better your world appears to the viewer. Furthermore, it is limitless and it allows for cooperation.
What does this have to do with school? Grade 6 student Austin used his knowledge of Minecraft to explain to his science teacher how the ecosystem of plants and trees work in nature. If you would like to see more, click here for a short video of his demonstration.
To bring this home, it was an entry point in his learning. He was engaged, he was excited, and he was able to communicate his learning to me. If you are interested in seeing a snapshot of his work, go to our Langdon School web page and then go to student showcase. You can also find it on our YouTube Channel, The Langdon School (which is currently under construction).