Discovering my “Explorer” self in Minecraft

After spending many hours this week playing in Minecraft, I’m even more convinced that this is the right tool for our middle and high school MOOC.

Building a shelter in Minecraft (photo credit @tmellen004)
Building a shelter in Minecraft (photo credit @tmellen004)

Last week I was focused on Lepper’s Instructional Design Principles of control, challenge, curiosity, and contextualization.   The game itself allows the students to control how they will participate and show their learning.  Alongside that is the curiosity they will have about other students who are sharing in the experience.  In the game, your own curiosity directs your control of your participation and your learning which is appealing to learners of all ages.  By assigning the content (The Giver, by Lois Lowry), we are giving everyone a context for their participation in the game; they each will bring their knowledge and understanding of the game and the book, which they will use to participate in the challenges we design.

It’s clear to me from our reading and from following gamification in the news just these last three weeks, that there are an increasing number of uses for gamification in teaching and training.

It’s also clear from seeing how gamification is used across many industries that it is increasingly becoming a tool that our students will use in the future, regardless of the career they choose to pursue.  Using gamification through technology, in our case Minecraft, to explore content is an opportunity for educators to engage students in a larger learning community than their classroom or even their school.

Kapp (2012) suggests that the right amount of competition, cooperation and self-expression is a recipe for the most “engagement and activity with gamified content” (p. 130).  He points out that not all of these elements will be equal and that usually there is a predominant element that is apparent in the game.  For our purposes, I propose that self-expression is the element we should highlight, for these reasons:

  • We selected a fiction book (The Giver, by Lois Lowry) to be our content which allows for a multitude of interpretations.  Rather than prescribing how the book should be interpreted, we could allow them to make meaning from what they read.  The challenge for students will be in creating a unique design to demonstrate their interpretation of the reading.
  • While there are many uses for competition, the logistics of managing the MOOC will be significant and adding a competition to be judged and then potentially rewarded seems unneccesary.  Competition may well be experienced between individuals or teams within the same classroom or school, however, our focus could be spent in developing the content to be appropriate to multiple grades and abilities.
  • Kapp (2012) writes, “Games provide the license to think outside of normal parameters, to add a little bit of fantasy or surrealism, and to force people to think in different ways” (p. 112).  We already have a fun and engaging tool by using Minecraft, focusing on self-expression will allow the students to use their imaginations in interpreting the book and showcasing their learning AND their creativity.

I certainly do not advocate for eliminating competition or cooperation, in fact, I think those elements will be apparent in our design of the Minecraft MOOC.

Kapp (2012) challenges us to determine the purpose of the game and then design it based on the type of interaction that will help achieve that purpose.  We’ve all been tasked this week to think about what that could look like in the context of the book using Minecraft as the tool.

I learned a lot about my gaming self this week playing many hours in Minecraft!  Kapp (2012) introduces us to “Bartle’s Player Types” of Achiever, Explorer, Socializers, and Killer (p. 132). I found that in Minecraft, I am definitely an Explorer! I like roaming around in the world, checking everything out, breaking things just to see what would happen, finding hidden paths, and collecting tools. Having a challenge to complete was only mildly interesting for me – a surprise since I’m usually very challenge-motivated!

Here are two great resources that I recommend for anyone who is also new to Minecraft Edu; I will be using these over the next couple of weeks to help our team with the Minecraft MOOC:

MinecraftEdu WikiThis wiki is the encyclopedia of all things related to teaching with MinecraftEdu.  

Screenshot 2014-09-19 06.57.33

** I’m new to MinecraftEdu so I found this site very helpful since we are using the MinecraftEdu version to build this game; the guides and sample lessons have been helpful in thinking about creating our lessons.

Minecraft Teachers Google Group – the Google Group dedicated to helping teachers use Minecraft to facilitate learning.  This is a place to share and explore the many uses of the game as a learning environment.

Screenshot 2014-09-19 07.06.02

** This is a great resources to view lessons, tutorials, and see how teachers are already using MinecraftEdu in their classrooms. I would recommend joining if you are considering using it in your class!




Kapp, K. M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction : Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.



9 thoughts on “Discovering my “Explorer” self in Minecraft

  1. Great post! My last unit last year was in game design and I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that I can not hope to catch up with kids who have been using Minecraft for four years! They created some amazing games on Minecraft that were way beyond my technological expertise, but which we were able to evaluate based on our rubric, gameplay and student presentation. I want to learn more and need to take the time to do so. Minecraft EDU us a great resource – will it change now that Microsoft bought Minecraft?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mia,

      The picture of us turned out great! Thank you, for the wiki resource. I will be using that for sure. I had one of my students yesterday, bring in mine craft game pieces. Where this is a game that he plays at home, in my class he’s very quiet and hardly talks. When explaining the game, creative level, survival level…etc he opened up and I saw a completely different side to him. He had built a roller coaster, a lot better builder than I probably can ever be. It made me think of Kapps 4 different types of players. My student was definitely and explorer as achiever. He did like killing zombies, but mostly liked to build. His dad plays with him. This is the road we are headed with education. Games let kids light up and explore. They don’t necessarily get to do that during a regular school day. It’s amazing to me students can have such difficulty in a subject, but they get on a game and soar!
      I have started reading the Giver, almost finished it’s hard to put down. It will be interesting to see how students interpret the story. I’m wondering if we will interpret more in depth or will the students through their creativity in mine craft?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you about encouraging self-expression and having that be the main goal. However, I do think there has to be some guidelines for the students to work through. Minecraft, for me, made more sense when I had a little bit of an expectation or challenge to reach this week. Otherwise, I saw no point in it. Having an expectation or guideline also can help teachers (including ourselves) to justify the premise behind the game/MOOC.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found it interesting what you said about competition. There’s a fine balance, isn’t there? We don’t want so much competition so that students/people end up feeling better or lower than anyone else. However, there’s a element of competition that a reality. I mean, think about it. Jobs promotions are competitive. We love competition shows. Some of us are better motivated by competition (my Fitbit says so). Monitoring and discussions about respecting others and sportsmanship are certain in order.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good prediction that gamification will be integrated into the future of today’s students. Great ideas for applying MCedu to the GiverCraft project, you are certainly on the forward thinking path. MCedu wiki is like my bible, and is always open in my browser now! Also, thanks for the google group link, have it bookmarked and will explore it later.


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