I’ve had quite a few different types of history classes. Some of them are long, drawn out lectures with the teacher droning on and on about the economic expansion of colonial America for what seems like hours. Others have been interactive group-versus-group activities that fall just short of being games. Many, throughout Middle and High School, have been bubble worksheets, coloring books, and word searches. But, something crossed my mind a few days ago. With new advances in technology and design, and with entertainment seeming to merge with information…could a classroom environment be structured using video games?
We’ve heard about this type of classroom structure in the past. Minecraft, an open world game that promotes “creativity, collaboration, and problem solving”, has recently developed an idea to completely merge entertainment and information once and for all. They, owned by Microsoft, have come up with a new form of the game labeled, simply, the Education Edition.
With expansive ways of exploring, discovering, and engineering, Minecraft Education Edition has a rather sturdy foundation to promote learning even at higher levels. Architectural skills are required to create expansive designs and buildings. Engineering and basic scientific skills come together to create a unique crafting system within the game. Physics play a pretty important role in the game as well. But above all else, the idea of Minecraft is simple: you have to survive.
All of these skills come together to make what Minecraft is, a somewhat over-hyped community-based open world game that has the design of a third grader playing with bricks. But, whether you like it, hate it, or know barely nothing about it, the idea is pretty cool. You’re basically wasting time while also learning game mechanics, which are heavily rooted in real world subjects like science, mathematics, and survival.
Now that sounds fine and all. We can sure as hell put a bunch of kids – really at any level, if you think about it – in a room and tell them to build. Or, as Minecraft Education Edition wants, structured lessons can occur within the platform itself. Imagine being a small kid given a rather large task: to recreate and rebuild your entire school using bricks and materials given to you. Not only does this increase awareness, it works on team-building strategies and allows a unique experience. Even if you’re at a higher level, for example High School, the idea of recreating a digital version classroom by classroom with your friends and fellow classmates peaks a bit of an interest.
Things could go further. A city could be pre-designed by a teacher, and it’s up to students to fix problems in the “world” they’re placed in. Water wells could be broken, animal pens left open, streets need repairing. The possibilities are endless. This brings in a subject of politics – diplomatic problem solving on limited budgets and materials.
But that’s Minecraft. In a world that’s technologically advanced, shrinking on a daily basis and coming out with new innovative ideas, why would we stop at one game that could be seen as interactively educational?
Imagine walking into your engineering class and having the entire period based in Minecraft. Then, after the bell rings, you head to history, where the teacher loads up Crusader Kings II (fun fact, this medieval based video game has already been used in certain curriculum!). After an hour block of that, you head to Physics, where you and your classmates sign into Besiege. The bell rings and you move on to economics, where you’re assigned a broken country with happiness in the negative and dollars in the red within Sid Meier’s Civilization V. Class is over and you’re taking journalism, where The Westport Independenthappens to be your assessment for the day. You’re getting the point, right?
Of course, it’s near impossible to imagine a complete schedule based solely around assignments given in video games. But, if you think about it, what if we walked away from the games mentioned previously and work harder to develop video games directly made and published for a classroom environment? Vaguely and thinly disguised as entertainment, like Minecraft and Crusader Kings II, but with even more informational qualities that could enhance player knowledge?
Instead of forcing students to attempt to follow historical accuracy in a game that allows you to break free from it, how about a game being developed where you literally follow history from ancient times to modern events?
I don’t know about any of you, but the idea seems pretty cool.