Minecraft is a community
Just recently I finished reading a book called The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog and one of the big messages throughout the book was that of community and the fact that children are best raised within a caring community and it is through this community,when impacted by trauma, that the brain can be healed after such an event or events. The following quote may not seem remarkable but is the essence of what is the underpinning message of the book:
“Brain development is use-dependent: you use it or you lose it. If we don’t give children time to learn how to be with others, to connect, to deal with conflict and to negotiate complex social hierarchies, those areas of their brains will be underdeveloped.”
While I was reading the book I regularly reflected on the concept of gaming and, in particular, the community that exists as a result of our Minecraft server. This then led me to think about some of the conversations that I have had with students as a result of our community. The Minecraft server that the Project MIST students have put together provides a playground that enables those students (who are whitelisted) to participate virtually as a community within the game. Sometimes this is in game building together in a collaborative way. At other times this is through discussions that occur in our group Skype chats. Regardless, there is always an adult around who is participating, listening in, or just near by if needed. Just like in a playground at school. Or is it? The difference is quite significant with regard to the listening and watching. The technology allows one to see and hear more than in a regular playground at school. It provides time to consider responses or can be instant. It is accepted that those within the game may be learning and consequently require greater support. It is accepted that all discussions and actions are monitored.
Thinking further with regard to the concept of community it is so important that we provide students with the opportunity to participate in a community such as the one the ProjectMIST students have created. Our lives are no longer just in existence within the face to face world, we are participating regularly in online environments. Surely the quote above, although focussed on trauma and children, applies equally as well to all situations and that includes the online environments that children are now actively participating within.