Watching one student’s learning in Minecraft

I am often asked what students are learning in Minecraft. This a difficult question to answer as I immediately think of the many levels of learning that are interwoven into the game. The learning outcomes, as a result, are very different for each student or groups of students depending on the purpose of their access to the game. A little while ago I mentioned a student who was in a junior high school class and only attending school on a part-time timetable due to being the best option regarding his needs associated with being on the autistic spectrum. As a result of his involvement in Minecraft we have seen very real positives occur for him.

The most significant learning outcome for  this student as a result of Minecraft is socializing with others. The Minecraft we offer at school is on a server and consequently is a multiplayer environment. The student was extremely tentative to start with and as did not involve himself in the class environment, he kept to the side of the room and near the exit working on a computer that was disconnected from the classroom space. We have seen incredible change here. He now enters the room works with others and they work with him. He moves from his ‘safe place’ to be with others in their space. He is collaborating and is now moving out of his ‘safe place’ in game to undertake work in a range of areas.

This student is also not keen on noise or being around large groups of people in a range of situations. To get to the class he must walk through corridors and many students. We try as best possible to minimise the negatives of this, however, he appears to be less worried about the things that he dislikes due to being able to immerse himself in Minecraft when he gets to class. The Minecraft class is also a buzz with noise, yet this too has not presented as a problem for him.

Communication with others is another learning area focus for this student. When I first discussed the concept of joining this class it was difficult to engage in two way conversation. This student would flatly refuse to comment. Now the tide has turned and he is eager to engage in conversation, with myself and other students. The focus I am now taking with this desire to interact is reading social cues with regard to the when and how of communicating with others.

The last but most significant outcome that we are now seeing is a young man developing friendships. Hence, a greater connection to our school community and reason to be involved.

The wonderful thing about games is you can practice in game what you might need in a real situation. It is ok to not get it right the first time and there is reward when you get it right. We take this approach in the classroom environment too.

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