My interaction with students did not happen as much in the Minecraft world as it did in one of the classrooms in which they were participating in the project. Students from two of our junior high classrooms combined to participate in SurvivalCraft, led by a teacher who had a handful of students participate in GiverCraft earlier this school year. Because I know the students and they know me, our conversations about Minecraft, the novels, the scenarios, and the purpose of the game-play were both honest and enlightening. The two students who tutored me early in the semester were especially articulate when they talked about the project. The way they talked with each other in small group settings during Minecraft play was more authentic and sustained on the text and scenarios than in traditional novel study lessons and discussions. Students appeared to be truly interested in the scenarios and they wanted details to support their decisions in the game. They were so interested, in fact, that conversations about SurvivalCraft often spilled out into the hallways and lunchroom.
Professional development for faculty and staff is one of my responsibilities, so my internship activities also involved working with the classroom teachers whose students were participating in the project to better understand how I could support their desires to use games like Minecraft in the classroom. We also engaged in conversations about ways to make projects like GiverCraft and SurvivalCraft even more meaningful as English language arts experiences. Ideas for enhancing and strengthening the projects will become part of what we will do in our school district as students participate in similar projects. In addition, our professional conversations about Minecraft-related applications in the classroom resulted in detailed conversations and planning for district-wide blended learning work for the coming school year; as a result of the SurvivalCraft project, we will include training on game-based learning for teachers.
Now that work in "the world" has wrapped up, a final project for students who participated in SurvivalCraft is to create a defense of using Minecraft in the classroom using a digital tool of their choosing. Some will create infographics using tools I discovered in the course this semester; others will record podcasts with their defenses of Minecraft.edu; and still others will create short video documentaries detailing the benefits of studying novels by "living" the stories in the Minecraft world. I look forward to the students' finished projects.
While I have struggled a great deal with the Minecraft aspect of this course since the early days of the semester, I have also discovered the power of "the game" as a tool for learning by observing and interacting with students in the project, by working closely with teachers in a participating classroom, through interactions with colleagues in this course, and through my own professional reading and research. While I am not ready to transform every classroom in my district into one that begins with Minecraft as its foundational tool for differentiation, I certainly have come to understand and appreciate the power of the tool for learning. As an internship experience, working with students and teachers in my district in SurvivalCraft has provided me with an understanding of what Minecraft can do to engage students in learning, and it has certainly provided me with experiences to defend the use of educational games such as Minecraft as legitimate and, in some cases, preferred approaches to differentiating learning.