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Minecraft, teachers, parents, and learning: What they need to know and understand.

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School Community Journal, 2016, Vol. 26, No. 2
Available at http://www.schoolcommunitynetwork.org/SCJ.aspx
Minecraft, Teachers, Parents, and Learning:
What ey Need to Know and Understand
Tisha Lewis Ellison and Jessica N. Evans with Jim Pike
Abstract
is article explores six eective principles for teachers to use to understand
and apply Minecraft in today’s classrooms. Video games have become one of
the fastest growing forms of media for youth and adult consumers. Minecraft,
a multiplayer online game (MOG), is one of the most popular video games
to date. By allowing its players to build simulated, virtual worlds, Minecraft
aims to foster creativity, control, and imagination. Yet while the aordances
of playing Minecraft spark collaborative learning, critical thinking, and prob-
lem-solving skills among youth, one constraint still remains: there appears to
be a disconnect between some teachers’ and parents’ understandings about
the Minecraft world’s mechanisms, uses, and benets. Due to the success of
Minecraft in the digital era and in some schools, studying this game is signi-
cant. For instance, students benet from using Minecraft to enhance learning
in STEM/STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts), and Math] and
English Language Arts content areas. In addition, teachers benet from us-
ing Minecraft to increase academic engagement with students and reinforce
parental involvement. is article (a) provides an examination of educational
research on the use of Minecraft in classrooms; (b) suggests educational ben-
ets for students and practical classroom approaches for teachers from various
disciplines; and (c) presents a handout for teachers to share with parents about
what they need to know and use to support their children’s literacy practices
and learning while playing Minecraft.
Key Words: Minecraft, video games, learning, parent involvement, teachers,
family literacy, teachers, student engagement, pedagogy, STEM, STEAM
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Introduction
In this article, we explore how teachers can utilize Minecraft in the classroom
to promote creativity and learning in ways that would aord more educational
benets for students. Minecraft, a digital “sandbox” and pixilated video game,
allows individuals to freely create and manipulate their own simulated worlds,
which enables them to have full control to design these worlds in intentional
ways. With over 100 million users registered (including 6 million Xbox gam-
ers) in more than 66 countries, more than 1 billion hours played, and over 130
million worlds created (Makuch, 2014), Minecraft is one of the most discussed
video games for youth and adults (Junco, 2014) and adds to the high popular-
ity of video gaming worldwide (Jenkins, 2006). We learned that Minecraft is
not simply a video game that allows youth to build and create virtual worlds;
Minecraft has now become an educational tool used as a vehicle for teach-
ing critical content. Youth who play this game have the ability to take control
and be active learners, thus enhancing their motivation for learning (Junco,
2014).It also acts as a supplement in today’s classrooms—a popular learning
activity in content areas such as science, math, history, engineering, architec-
ture, and computer coding. Minecraft also helps students achieve the goals of
the Common Core State Standards (Lorence, 2015; Magee, 2015). In fact,
MinecraftEdu.com, a platform that is a replica of Minecraft, is made speci-
cally for educational purposes. 
Figure 1. Screen Shot of Minecraft
MINECRAFT AND LEARNING
27
Figure 2. Screen Shot of MinecraftEdu.com
Situating and Positioning in Minecra
Lewis Ellison, a former Title I reading/writing skills teacher and current re-
searcher and teacher educator who has explored adolescents, adults, and families’
digital literacy practices—particularly among African Americans (Lewis, 2011,
2013, 2014; Lewis Ellison, 2014a, 2014b, 2016a; Lewis Ellison & Kirkland,
2014)—and Evans, graduate student and former teacher with a background
in teaching adolescents how to create digital stories, collaborated with Pike,
a fth grade math teacher who created Mathcraft, a Minecraft curriculum, to
share their interests in gaming.We found that the more we talked openly about
video games, played them, wrote about them, taught them, and shared them
with youth, their teachers, and parents, the more we noticed that Minecraft
was a popular game among both youth and adults. We have all felt the angst
and confusion of teachers and parents who are curious about Minecraft but do
not know the benets of video games. e need for teachers and parents to un-
derstand students’ digital literacy practices and the extent to which youth live
in the virtual worlds of the 21st century is signicant. Youth attend school all
day, but text all the way home, then communicate on Facebook, send tweets
to their peers, and play video games (Institute of Play, 2012). Today’s youth
do not separate their conversations between these worlds; rather, they extend
them. Yet some teachers do not yet understand students’ fascination with the
Minecraft world because they do not know what Minecraft is, how students ac-
tually benet from the game, or how to apply it to their curriculum.
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ere is an art to the design, manipulation, and overall practice of video
games like Minecraft that makes youth passionate about more than the device
they hold in their hands. Hollett and Ehret (2014) describe how playing Mine-
craft reshapes the “social, relational space” in which adolescents use it and helps
them understand this space of gameplay “as populated with agentive, aecting,
and aected bodies—both human and nonhuman” (p. 2). at is, students are
able to foster agency through this video game. Indeed, youth involvement with
video games is often misunderstood by stakeholders (e.g., teachers, administra-
tors, parents) as a practice that is irrelevant and time consuming. is dismissal
may stem from a lack of information on how, according to Renzhog, Anér,
and Leijo (2013), video games are the “forefront of innovations and digital ser-
vices, predicted to be one of the most growing forms of media and expected to
rise in sales to $82 billion in 2015” (p. 5). According to a 2008 Pew Research
Center report, 97% of adolescents play video games, and among 13–17 year-
olds, 59% of girls and 84% of boys play video games either online or via their
phones (Lenhart, 2015; Lenhart et al., 2008). With this understanding, teach-
ers can consider the educational benets and possibilities of implementing
video games like Minecraft to enhance students’ learning across content areas.
As teachers come to understand the benets of gaming for learning, they can
also share this information with parents, using it as an opportunity to increase
communication and partnership between home and school. e aordances of
this work lends itself to other ways that research can support parents in under-
standing the educational benets of gaming, whether situated in pedagogical
practices or social practices in the home (Di Salvo, Crowley, & Norwood,
2008; Entertainment Software Association, 2014; Gee, 2003; Griths, 2002;
Lewis Ellison, 2016b; Ulicsak & Wright, 2010; Wang Yu, 2009).
Relevant Literature: Video Games, Learning, and Minecraft
While some theorists claim that there is not enough scientic data to un-
derstand the relationship between video games and learning (Blunt, 2007),
there is some evidence that recognizes the benets to educational games and
problem-solving in K–12 schooling (Young et al., 2012). In addition, there lies
substantial research and practice from literacy researchers and theorists that
there are concrete connections between video gaming and literacy learning
(Conrad & Donaldson, 2004; Dezuanni, 2010; Gee, 2003, 2005; Griths,
2002; Shaer, Squire, Halverson, & Gee, 2005). In fact, Gee (2003) reminds
us that when we learn to play video games, we are indeed learning a new literacy
and that video games contribute to learning in principled ways. Additionally,
as Norton-Meier (2005) states:
MINECRAFT AND LEARNING
29
e video game has the potential to push an individual to learn and
think cognitively, socially, and morally. Players actively create new virtu-
al worlds; participate in complex decision making; and think reectively
about choices that were made, including the design of the game. (p. 430)
Video games like Minecraft provide vital benets to youth, helping them to
express and control their emotions, build strong social ties, and spark creativ-
ity, imagination, peer engagement, and teamwork (Alton, n.d.). ese skills are
benecial in the classroom, especially as education moves toward using coop-
erative and collaborative learning models which focus on knowledge as a social
construct (Pappas, 2014). Additionally, Gee (2003) states that to be an active
learner, one must experience the world in new ways, create anity groups with
like-minded people, and use these elements to prepare for future learning. Gee
(2000) describes anity groups as having an “allegiance to, access to, and par-
ticipation in specic practices” (p. 105); in this way, individuals in this space
can “challenge players’ taken-for-granted perspectives on the world” (p. 140).
While the digital divide has further separated those who have access to technol-
ogy from those who do not, Gee (2003) also identies an “acceleration divide”
that extends beyond access to identify the gap between adults’ ideas about how
youth should use “technology, texts, and games in integrated ways” (p. 23) and
the ways in which youth actually use them.
Video games like Minecraft are only one of many sources that support learn-
ing and literacy, but we must also point out that such sources generally help to
“situate meaning in worlds of experience…that is ultimately shared, collabora-
tive, social, and cultural” (Gee, 2010, p. 189). Today’s students are no longer
observers in video games but are placed in positions where they can be creative
and make decisions that actually aect and change the gaming world (Barab
et al., 2010).
Processing Minecra Multimodally and Pedagogically
Minecraft is particularly signicant to learning because youth learn to pro-
cess information in dierent ways. For instance, Minecraft oers multimodal
(multiple modes of meaning) texts that allow youth to read images that carry
meaning beyond the words in a text to the realms of embodied movement
and interaction (Dourish, 2001; Streeck, Goodwin, & LeBaron, 2011), as well
as visual images, sounds, and music (Kress & van Leeuwen, 1996, 2001). In
Minecraft, there is limited use of written language, but the game oers multi-
modal modes including graphics, images, symbols, and “visuospatial reasoning
skills” (Junco, 2014) that help learners create and manipulate objects in a vir-
tual world. In enhancing cognitive ability, this skill has signicance similar
to constructing three-dimensional models, building complex structures, and
drawing (Mervis, Robinson, & Pani, 1999).
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While researchers are beginning to collect data about Minecraft and its im-
pact on students’ learning, pedagogical practices on gaming in the classroom
are also slowly being better understood and used by teachers. Research has
described how Minecraft is used in various content areas such as social stud-
ies, math, science, and English Language Arts (ELA) to stimulate the creative
minds of today’s youth (Kenkel, 2015; Risberg, 2015). For instance, Pike, a
former third-grade teacher and parent from the Western U.S., became cu-
rious about Minecraft after he watched the game for the rst time, and he
subsequently started using it to teach Common Core math, science, computer
science, and ELA. Pike mapped out his lessons based on the benchmark assess-
ments his students took three times a year. He ultimately created a curriculum
called Mathcraft, which helped raise his third grade students’ scores from 18%
to 84% in one academic school year. He taught students in multiple grades to
use Minecraft’s game blocks as hands-on manipulatives to create and solve math
problems (see Figure 3).
Figure 3. Mathcraft Algebra Architecture
Saez-Lopez, Miller, Vázquez-Cano, and Domínguez-Garrido (2015) tested
the educational eectiveness of MinecraftEdu.com (a “school-ready remix” of
Minecraft) among sixth- to eighth-graders in a unit of history and architecture.
Study participants were school students from the United States and Spain.
MINECRAFT AND LEARNING
31
e authors sought to understand students’ outcome improvement with Mine-
craftEdu.com; analyze students’ motivational, learning, and engagement levels
when playing Minecraft in a history classroom; and assess the attitudes from
the respective school communities (students, teachers, and parents) regarding
the implementation of MinecraftEdu.com in history. While teachers’ attitudes
were moderate and parents thought game-based learning was negative and a
waste of time in the classroom, some did conclude that the use of this tool
outside the classroom might be better. However, students appreciated the im-
plementation of MinecraftEdu.com in their classes because it aorded them
the opportunity to be in control and be active participants, protagonists, and
creators in their virtual worlds. e researchers concluded that there was an in-
crease in creativity and learning in their implementation of MinecraftEdu.com
in their classes (Saez-Lopez et al., 2015).
In addition, an eighth-grade social studies teacher from the Midwest used
Minecraft to prompt students to write a constitution for colonies to elicit gov-
ernmental and economic policies for slaves and Native Americans. Students
used Minecraft to create a two-dimensional map to “...build town halls, black-
smith shops, churches, and farm land and later connect roads” to other virtual
colonies (Colias, 2015). Furthermore, Short (2013) described how he used
three-dimensional (3-D) images in Minecraft in college settings. Such practices
provided pedagogical strategies for students to learn biology, ecology, physics,
and chemistry to (a) create 3-D maps of the human body (biology); (b) form
biomes through a map generator to display temperatures, heights, and water
color (ecology); (c) use Minecraft blocks to develop how the earth structures
are built using water, color systems, and gravity (physics); and (d) design a 3-D
periodic table of elements to highlight 3-D images of mathematical functions
in the Minecraft world. Another way of processing and situating video games
like Minecraft is by examining the potential video game learning has for stu-
dents with special needs.
Video Gaming, Learning, and Students With Special Needs
Research indicates how play is a signicant mediator for learning and so-
cialization (Piaget, 1951) and how computer/video games promote engaged
learning and motivation for students (Habgood, Ainsworth & Benford, 2005;
Ke, 2008; Ke & Abras, 2013). In addition, techniques in video games such
as virtual simulation and problem solving are also key components for active
learning (Gee, 2003). While there is limited research on the eects of Minecraft
and learning among students with special needs, research has acknowledged
that web-based games provide signicant results for motivation and compre-
hension for these children (Rezaiyan, Mohammadi, & Fallah, 2007). While
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more research is needed on the role of computer video games for students with
special needs and their learning, Ke and Abras’s (2013) study explored the de-
sign features of three prealgebra video games used to create engagement and
learning for students with special learning needs. ey found that the design
of the games Lure of the Labyrinth, Ker-Splash, and Lemonade Stand used vi-
tal components to promote engagement and learning for these students. e
following principles describe six eective principles for teachers to use to un-
derstand and apply Minecraft in today’s classrooms for all students.
Principles
Within this vein, we frame this article as a guide for teachers to use in their
classrooms as instructional models for STEM, STEAM, and ELA-related unit
lessons. By providing answers to six key questions, we provide pedagogical
approaches teachers can use to not only acknowledge today’s digitally savvy
students’ funds of knowledge (knowledge students acquire from their family’s
historical and cultural backgrounds; Moll, Amanti, Ne, & Gonzalez, 1992),
but also to create possibilities and aordances for students to support their
knowledge and learning across and beyond school borders.
1. What is Minecra, and why is it so popular?
According to Mojang, LLC, the creator of Minecraft, this video game is
about placing blocks and building structures simple or grand and working
together or alone to create wonderful, imaginative things (Mojang, n.d.).
Minecraft has a “three-dimensional Lego-like environment in which the user
can build and interact with a virtual world” (Bos, Wilder, Cook, & O’Donnell,
2014, p. 56). Minecraft allows players to use their creativity to build worlds us-
ing pixelated blocks without any limitations. It also allows players to develop
their own creative spaces, explore the creative spaces of others, and interact
with players on various multiplayer public servers that are specially designed
for Minecrafters with specic subinterests. ese servers provide Minecrafters
opportunities to engage and create with other Minecraft enthusiasts from all
over the world.
In Minecraft, there are two modes in which youth operate: creative and sur-
vival. While creative is more open-ended, survival involves surviving a zombie
apocalypse by nding shelter and food, outmaneuvering monsters and spi-
ders, and so forth. Additionally, there are other survival subgames created by
players, which involve competitive and collaborate play. Overall, Minecraft has
no agenda or rules, as there are no instructions, no winners or losers, and no
levels to reach and surpass. erefore, the main objective of the game is to
MINECRAFT AND LEARNING
33
freely create sustainable worlds according to players’ own standards and then
do whatever one desires.
It is also important to acknowledge that teachers should be aware that Mine-
craft does allow for actions/building/tearing down that would defy the laws of
physics present in the real world. It is recommended that if teachers notice
students engaging in such practice, they can use the moment as a teachable
moment—possibly prompting the student or whole class to consider or actu-
ally try out how this practice might work (or fail to work) in the classroom.
2. How can I apply Minecra in my classroom while meeting the Common
Core State Standards? 
Certain school districts have found that Minecraft assists students in not
only consuming content but in creating content in alignment with the Com-
mon Core State Standards (CCSS; Magee, 2015). Both Minecraft and the
CCSS are bourgeoning in schools and other academic sectors, like digitally-
geared nonprot organizations and webinar providers. Minecraft can be used in
the classroom to eectively teach information in content areas like mathemat-
ics. Bos et al. (2014) states that the creative mode of Minecraft can be used to
teach mathematics, particularly, “to explore such concepts as algebraic patterns,
measurement, perimeter, area, and volume” (p. 56). 
Some of those concepts are explicitly stated in the CCSS for mathemat-
ics (CCSS. Math. Content. 3. MD. D. 8; CCSS. Math. Content. 3. MD.
A. 1; 2). e specic domains listed under Mathematics CCSS that overlap
with Minecraft concepts include geometry, measurement and data, algebraic
thinking, expressions, and equations (CCSS. Math. Content. 4. MD. A. 1; 2;
CCSS. Math. Content. 5. MD. A. 1). us, with eective planning and prep-
aration, playing Minecraft “becomes an opportunity to explore mathematical
ideas within an online community” (Bos et al., 2014, p. 57).
3. How might I use Minecra to teach STEM, STEAM, and ELA-related con-
tent areas?
ere are a vast amount of tangible school-related projects and practices
that teachers can use to modify in their classrooms. Below are just a few practi-
cal approaches teachers can use to teach with Minecraft in the classroom.
STEM
In an eort to teach students about the cell structure, teachers can create
an animal cell in Minecraft and allow students to move through each living
organism and describe the shape and structures of each cell part and its role.
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(Note: a more in-depth explanation of this lesson is located in this link: http://
minecraftedu.tumblr.com/post/117511692581/stephen-elford-minecraftedu-
featured-educator)
Most school and public libraries are providing ways to foster an interest in
STEM-related subjects, both inside and outside of the classroom, some by of-
fering STEM programs such as Minecraft Building Clubs to students. Students
can participate in building competitions to learn how to survive the world of
Minecraft.
STEAM
Based on the virtual worlds students build in the Minecraft game, students
can take those skills, creativity, and imagination to bring the virtual worlds
to life using arts and crafts. A school in the United Kingdom orchestrated
“STEAM Week” to allow students to recreate Minecraft into STEAM, calling
it “Bridgecraft.” Teachers can utilize this practice for elementary to high school
students to design and build big algebraic and geometric shapes to include in
“their world.” Educators posted photos of the shapes with the student creators
on the school’s blog and showcased them as an exhibit throughout their school.
(For more information on Bridgecraft in action, view this link: http://uked-
chat.com/2014/07/08/feature-how-one-school-turned-minecraft-into-steam/)
e STEAM conference provides activities for teachers, researchers, parents,
and middle and high school students to encourage learning through project-
based workshops at various college universities. Many of these workshops are
led by students. Teachers can encourage the attendance of all stakeholders to
explore and learn from STEAM workshops in physics, music, Robotics, and
more (for more information, see http://www.steamconf.org).
Teachers can also participate in an online arts integration and STEAM
conference over the summer to learn how to implement STEAM-related cur-
riculum with students. Information on this conference can be found here:
http://artsintegrationconference.com/.
ELA
In order to enhance students’ reading comprehension and visualization
skills, students can use Minecraft to recreate dierent settings and scenes from
literature they are currently reading and use the game to oer predictions on
what might happen in the texts. is information can help students integrate
information in multimedia formats and better understand various topics and
issues (CCSS. ELA-Literacy. RI. 6.7).
Teachers can log on to MinecraftEdu.com for helpful ways to use Mine-
craft in the ELA classroom to support learning through writing (journaling),
MINECRAFT AND LEARNING
35
graphic organizers (concept webs), diagrams (illustrations), and readers theater
workshops (scriptwriting using Minecraft characters). More information to tar-
get ELA-themed subjects are found on this site: http://services.minecraftedu.
com/wiki/Examples_by_Subject.
4. How do I support students with special needs and their gaming practices?
Choosing the right kinds of video games are fairly important for all stu-
dents, especially students with special needs. Murray, Silver-Pacuilla, and
Helsel (2007) recommend avoiding overly complex video game instructions
for students with special needs. Teachers and families are encouraged to iden-
tify the kinds of skills the students need to improve for eective learning with
video games to occur. Teachers can provide a mentor teacher and/or peers as
well as time accommodations for students to reinforce their learning, interac-
tions, and engagement on the computer.
5. What do I do if I have disengaged students who do not want to learn with
Minecra?
Stephen Elford, an early adopter of MinecraftEdu.com and a math and
science teacher of 12- to 18-year-olds, taught an “Animal Cell 01” lesson (see
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBUesxvMw74), during which he experi-
enced diculties with one female student who refused at rst to engage in
Minecraft to learn. In fact, the student preferred to learn via textbooks. e
student made comments such as “stupid,” “I hate games,” and “I dont like it.
I would just prefer to just do this stu [referring to a textbook],” and initially
refused to engage in the lesson. e above cited video/audio demonstrates a
live discussion between Elford and the student and his attempt to have the
student work with the game and the textbook. For students who are more
skeptical or disengaged, it is important to state in the beginning of the lesson
that learning is not linear or static, but uid and experiential and that by mov-
ing things around and throughout, as within Minecraft play, critical thinking
is developed.
6. What kinds of resources are important to use Minecra in classrooms?
While there are many educational games that teachers may use in the class-
room, very few have been highly popularized and satisfactorily educational for
all students. However, Minecraft teaches students valuable skills that can be
used across various content areas in the classroom. Due to the increased in-
terest in Minecraft among school-aged students, teachers should know about
resources that provide them with information on how to use various types of
technology like Minecraft as educational tools.
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Websites like MinecraftEdu.com not only provide educators with a version
of Minecraft specically tailored to the eld of education, but also provide les-
son plans and information on how the game can be used to teach concepts in
various content areas. e site also includes forums for educators to commu-
nicate and prepare lesson plans. In addition, edWeb.net is a free professional
social network site for educators to share ideas, information, best practices, and
technology support. EdWeb.net also provides a Web 2.0 platform, including
wikis, webinars, and blogs for collaboration and has oered many webinars on
game-based learning communities including Minecraft.
If teachers want to extend learning across borders with their students and
incorporate Minecraft into their school curricula, it is recommended that they
rst play the game and learn its components. In this way, teachers can better
understand how digital technologies aect student achievement and promote
success in creative and innovative ways that are safe yet challenging for all
learners. Some action steps to consider to initiate further learning:
Watch Jane McGonigal’s TED talk, “Gaming Can Make a Better World”
to understand the benets of playing online games: https://www.ted.com/
talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world?language=e
Watch Stephen Foster’s TED talk, “Minecraft: Keep Calm and Code On”
about Minecraft and coding and the advantages it has for our future:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn4RHIxriEY
Subscribe to www.edWeb.net to participate in asynchronous and synchro-
nous webinars about Minecraft and other video games, and sign up for
the Daily Digest to receive relevant posts about professional learning from
various edWeb learning communities.
Share articles like this one and links to online sites such as www.mine-
craftedu.com and www.edutopia.org with other teachers and parents (see
Appendix. Minecraft Cheat Sheet for Parents), then oer to host discus-
sions (perhaps at Parent–Teacher Association/Organization meetings or
family literacy night) on ways to make Minecraft more learner-friendly in
the classroom and at home.
Skype/invite a teacher currently implementing Minecraft into the class-
room (individually and/or collaboratively with students) to share relevant
in-class approaches.
Watch one of the classroom links from Table 1 using Minecraft as a practi-
cal tool with students and discuss with students ways in which their indi-
vidualized learning can be enhanced.
Consider starting a Minecraft group for teachers as part of a professional
development day.
Investigate some of the other helpful resources included in Table 1.
MINECRAFT AND LEARNING
37
Table 1. Resources for Using Minecraft in the Classroom
Webinars
• http://home.edweb.net/mathcraft-use-minecraft-teach-common-core-math/
• http://home.edweb.net/mathcraft-combining-minecraft-with-math-for-expo-
nential-learning/
• https://www.graphite.org/webinars
Websites
• http://mathcraftplc.com/
• http://www.edutopia.org/blog/minecraft-in-classroom-andrew-miller
• http://www.minecrap.com/minecraft-sites/
Video Lessons*
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88Cg8sqalpM
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R8bPo9fxWU
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7XwEbo-Ni0
Books
Dikkers, S. (2015). Teachercraft: How teachers learn to use Minecraft in their class-
rooms. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press.
Gallagher, C. (2014). An educator’s guide to using Minecraft® in the classroom: Ideas,
inspiration, and student projects for teachers. San Francisco, CA: Peachpit Press.
Whale, D., & O’Hanlon, M. (2014). Adventures in Minecraft. London, UK: Wiley
Press.
Student Work*
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea7RFPjC1sw
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWs1JDQan3k
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIfr2em9yR8
* School-based information was provided by Pike.
Conclusions and Implications
In this article, we described six principles that teachers need to know and
understand about Minecraft. While Minecraft is just one way to actively en-
gage teachers with students’ in-school practices, this article demonstrates how
Minecraft is relevant in and out of the classroom. By implementing Minecraft
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into the classroom curriculum, it provides a space in which students can freely
play and maneuver Minecraft and foster creativity, control, and imagination.
While today’s youth will continue to reinvent themselves within video games
like Minecraft in this ever-changing, increasingly digital society, it is equally vi-
tal for teachers to become more digitally savvy as a way to understand, educate,
and stimulate today’s students.
Research is slowly creating wavelengths on the impact and eectiveness
of Minecraft and other games in education, but more is urgently needed to
understand how gaming in homes, schools, and communities can actively sup-
port children’s learning. Situating research methods and frameworks around
Minecraft and home/school, such as youth participatory action research (Bau-
tista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013; Burke & Greene,2015),
can encourage all stakeholders to galvanize partnerships between parents and
teachers to prepare today’s children for this digitally mediated world in which
they live.
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Tisha Lewis Ellison is an assistant professor of language and literacy education
at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. Her research explores the intersections
among family literacy, digital literacies, and multimodalities. She takes a critical per-
spective on how agency, identity, and power among African American adolescents
and families are constructed as they use digital tools to make sense of their lives.
Correspondence concerning this article may be addressed to Dr. Lewis Ellison at Lan-
guage and Literacy Education, e University of Georgia, Aderhold Hall, 310 Carlton
Street, Athens, GA 30602, or email tlewisellison@gmail.com
Jessica N. Evans is a graduate student at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.
Previously, she served as a seventh grade speech and theater teacher at Austin Achieve
Public School in Austin, Texas.
Jim Pike is a fth grade teacher at Albert Einstein Academy of Beverly Hills, CA.
He is also director of game-based learning at CodeRev Kids Learning Centers and the
lead consultant on the Rio Hondo College MindCraft Grant Program. He developed
the Minecraft Professional Learning Community, which oers Common Core State
Standards-aligned lesson plans and professional development workshops.
Appendix. Minecraft Cheat Sheet for Parents
Parents are important stakeholders in learning and understanding Minecraft
with their children. It is relevant that parents know there is more to it than just
allowing their child to play with video games, and there are ways to support their
learning at home and at school. is cheat sheet oers suggested practices and
strategies for parents who are interested in becoming Minecraft-literate. e pages
that follow may be printed out and shared with families.
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Questions About Minecraft and Parental Engagement With Answers/
Recommended Strategies/Resources
1. What is Minecra?
Minecraft can be described as a video game very similar to LEGO blocks
in which children can build, create, and tear down blocks in creative ways.
ere is no wrong way to play as children have the ability to create what-
ever they choose.
2. How can Minecra be used with the family?
One way that Minecraft can be used with the family is for parents to allow
their children to demonstrate how to play the game and create opportuni-
ties for family members to connect and reconnect with one another about
the practices that are important to them. Some useful recommendations are
as follows:
Watch how your child plays Minecraft.
Ask your child questions throughout about the worlds they create and
why.
Ask them to teach you how to play Minecraft.
Play Minecraft with your child.
Watch webinars and videos about Minecraft with your child.
3. How can parents engage in Minecra at their child’s (children’s) school
and in the community?
ere are many ways that parents can engage with their children in school
and in community spaces to learn more about Minecraft. For instance, Jim
Pike, also a parent, openly provides ways for parents to engage in learning
Minecraft. Parents may consider the following:
Seek out workshops at your child’s school to learn how to navigate
Minecraft with your child.
Attend an in-class lesson when your child’s teacher will be implement-
ing Minecraft in the class, and play the game with your child.
Volunteer time to assist the teacher and children with Minecraft ap-
proaches.
Ask the teacher/administrator for the ability to learn and play Minecraft
after school with other parents.
Allow each student to share their understanding and skills and teach
Minecraft to their parents.
MINECRAFT AND LEARNING
43
4. What are the dangers associated with Minecra and safety steps to take?
When playing video games like Minecraft, parents need to understand
how the digital environment works, be aware of what their children
play online, and monitor their activities on a daily basis.
Parents should know that Minecraft can be set up to allow children of
all ages to play the game with age-appropriate content.
ere are also several forums, message boards, blogs, and other websites
that allow Minecraft players to communicate with strangers. Parents
should be aware of these websites and look for “profanity-free Minecraft
servers.” Parents can ensure that their children are practicing proper
Internet etiquette and cyber safety. For additional information see the
following links:
http://www.21things4students.net/21/cybersafety/
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-internet-safety-games-kids-cyber-
smart/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/resources/
parents/#t2
Parents are also encouraged to require their children to use safe place
sites such as www.kidkam.com when searching for online Minecraft vid-
eos, rather than using other sites such as YouTube. KidKam.com oers
100% screened videos, free accounts for parents and teachers, parental
control features, and there are no message boards.
Common Sense Media www.commonsensemedia.org is a free website
that helps parents, teachers, and children to make productive media
choices online.
5. I have an autistic child. How is Minecra benecial for my child?
It has been noted that video games such as Minecraft are very benecial for
children with special needs. New websites have been created to focus spe-
cically on children with autism. For instance, http://www.autcraft.com/ is
a website that oers a way for children and families to play Minecraft on its
website server.
Further Resources for Parents:
A Parent’s Guidebook to Minecraft® byCori Dusmann
Minecraft for Parents by Cody WagnerandErica Wagner
Minecraft for DummiesPaperbackby Jesse Stayandomas Stay
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