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Minecraft for Education

I’ve always been blown away by the richness of the Minecraft “game engine”. While ostensibly a game about breaking and placing blocks (while potentially surviving against monsters and other players depending on the server and the game mode), its “creative mode” as well as widespread user modifications to the game have unleashed an amazing amount of creativity resulting in people building amazing worlds including (but not limited to, HT: Mashable for a lot of these)

What blew my mind recently, though, was discovering that people have even used the Minecraft game engine to serve as simulations for things as sophisticated as a computer processor:

and a 1 kilobyte hard drive!

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Knowing how much kids enjoy Minecraft made me wonder if it would be possible to use the game and these sorts of rich models as an education tool to complement the traditional “blackboard lecture” model of teaching which does a very poor job of imparting intuition and understanding. The beauty of something like Minecraft is that it can be used to produce a visual, modifiable simulation in a format that students are probably already consuming (or can probably learn how in a short amount of time), and as a result, it lends itself to exploration and to students making or modifying things to demonstrate and improve their understanding.

Building a microprocessor or digital storage system may be too difficult for a class assignment (although at a reduced level of complexity, they could become very useful teaching aids), but a digital tour of ancient Rome or an assignment to build an Egyptian pyramid or a basic AND or OR circuit? I think that type of learning could benefit a great deal from some Minecraft-ification :-).

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