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Minecraft as a Sandbox for STEM Interest Development: Preliminary Results


Abstract and Figures

After a brief review of the science of interest and the game of Minecraft, we present a taxonomy of common Minecraft actions and activities and propose that they represent links to specific STEM disciplines. We then discuss the development of a Minecraft survey intended to identify STEM-related interests, and present the results of a pilot study using the survey in three Minecraft camps held in the summer of 2017. We describe the most and least popular Minecraft activities, and report correlations with a previously developed survey for gauging STEM attitudes and interest, revealing moderate correlations between the surveys, specifically in the earth, biological, and environmental areas of STEM. The paper concludes with highlights from interviews conducted with selected participants, a discussion of the results, and an overview of future plans for using Minecraft modes to trigger interest in specific STEM areas.
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Chen, W. et al. (Eds.) (2017). Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on Computers in
Education. New Zealand: Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education
Minecraft as a Sandbox for STEM Interest
Development: Preliminary Results
H. Chad LANEa*, Sherry YIa, Brian Guerreroa, & Neil Cominsb
aUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA
bUniversity of Maine, USA
Abstract: After a brief review of the science of interest and the game of Minecraft, we
present a taxonomy of common Minecraft actions and activities and propose that they
represent links to specific STEM disciplines. We then discuss the development of a
Minecraft survey intended to identify STEM-related interests, and present the results
of a pilot study using the survey in three Minecraft camps held in the summer of 2017.
We describe the most and least popular Minecraft activities, and report correlations
with a previously developed survey for gauging STEM attitudes and interest, revealing
moderate correlations between the surveys, specifically in the earth, biological, and
environmental areas of STEM. The paper concludes with highlights from interviews
conducted with selected participants, a discussion of the results, and an overview of
future plans for using Minecraft modes to trigger interest in specific STEM areas.
Keywords: interest, educational games, Minecraft, STEM education, informal learning
1. Interest and its impact on learning
1.1 Why interest matters
The presence of interest can have a profound impact on an experience. For example, someone who
loves the game of baseball is more likely to enjoy a low-scoring, nine-inning game (even perhaps
deeming it a “chess match”), while one who lacks that interest is more likely to leave by the 6th inning.
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that interest in a topic (like baseball) has a powerful influence
on one’s perceptions, beliefs, memories, attitudes, and willingness to learn more about that topic (Krapp,
1999; McDaniel, Waddill, Finstad, & Bourg, 2000; Renninger, Nieswandt, & Hidi, 2015b; Silvia,
2006). Hidi & Renninger (2016) summarize what research on interest has revealed:
People who are interested in what they are doing are recognizable because they tend
to have positive feelings, be invigorated, and choose to reengage with a particular
object/activity/idea, or content, repeatedly. Their engagement with the content is
distinctive and appears to be self-sustaining; their interest positively affects their
attention, goal setting, comprehension, motivation, and learning, and it can influence
their ability to achieve and succeed in their careers (p. 1).
Interests do not emerge from thin air, of course, and are influenced by a wide range of contextual and
experiential factors. For example, an attendee at a baseball game who is not really interested in the sport
might be drawn in by the passion and excitement of the other fans. Children at a science museum may
have their interest triggered in zoology after petting a worm or holding an insect. In this paper, we
address the more basic question of how choices made while playing a video game may reflect potential
interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Specifically, we ask to what extent
specific Minecraft activities may reflect interest in STEM disciplines.
1.2 Defining interest
Early empirical research employing measures based primarily on affect tended to describe interest as
an emotion (Ainley, 2007; Reeve, Jang, Hardre, & Omura, 2002). More recent formulations present
interest as a more complex construct that incorporates cognitive and temporal components. Renninger,
et al. (2015b) describe five characteristics on which researchers tend to agree:
1. Interest refers to interaction with particular content (e.g., physics).
2. Interest exists as a relation between the learner and the environment.
3. Interest has both affective and cognitive components, which can vary over time.
4. Learners may or may not be consciously aware that interest has been triggered.
5. Interest has a neurological/physiological basis it is rewarding and linked to approach
At this stage of our work, we adopt the simplistic view that interests can be inferred via likert ratings to
judge interest in Minecraft play and STEM fields, but will adopt a longer-term orientation for our
upcoming studies.
1.3 Consequences of interest (or lack of it)
The many positive consequences of establishing interest and its facilitating effect on learning are well-
documented (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000; Renninger, Nieswandt, & Hidi, 2015a). When a learner is
interested, that interest can actually feed on itself and grow (i.e., it is self-sustaining) (Barron, 2006).
As a result, motivation to learn and attitudes about content improve (Potvin & Hasni, 2014),
achievement and performance in school improves (Harackiewicz & Hulleman, 2010), and learners are
more prone to establish deep conceptual understanding than are those lacking interest in the subject
(Andre & Windschitl, 2003).
One of the most important findings is that interest is malleable and can change over time. A
four-phase model (Hidi & Renninger, 2006) captures this malleability as two primary forms of interest:
situational interest, a product of environmental features, followed by individual interest, a relatively
self-motivating and enduring state that is marked by reengagement over time. Two sub-phases of each
lead a four-phase model: 1) triggered situational interest can become 2) maintained situational interest,
then under ideal conditions 3) emerging individual interest can grow into 4) well-developed interest, an
enduring and resilient state. In learning contexts, a trigger is simply some experience (e.g., touching a
worm) that establishes engagement and involves contextual features (Renninger & Bachrach, 2015).
Importantly, a well-developed interest has been linked to higher levels of self-efficacy and
decreased negative self-perceptions (Lipstein & Renninger, 2006) and is predictive of future academic
choices (Harackiewicz, Barron, Tauer, & Elliot, 2002). Conversely, an absence of interest can hinder a
learner’s willingness to engage or persist (Nieswandt, 2007; Sansone, Fraughton, Zachary, Butner, &
Heiner, 2011). Interest both emerges from experience and is heavily influenced by context. Our on-
going research integrates both of these aspects, and seeks to inform the design and deployment of
educational technologies in informal learning contexts. How to foster interest development is a critical
question with widespread implications for parents, educators, researchers, and policymakers.
Appropriate triggers and continuing opportunities to pursue those interests are needed if interest is to
flourish, both independently and with encouragement.
2. Minecraft
2.1 Why Minecraft is relevant for education
Minecraft has seen a dramatic rise in its adoption by educators worldwide who use it for educational
purposes (Schifter & Cipollone, 2013; Schwartz, 2015). The simplest probable reason for its rise is
that interactions in Minecraft involve a broad range of educationally relevant content, and how one
learns to play the game is entirely compatible with classical and modern theories of learning (Lane &
Yi, 2017). For example, in Minecraft, players routinely engage in activities that involve:
Exploring and investigating different biomes and climates that match those on Earth,
including deserts, forests, jungles, taigas, and many others.
Navigating in and around different types of terrain, such as hills, mountains, caverns, caves,
oceans, and more.
Interacting with a wide variety of wildlife and agricultural content, including animals, fish,
birds, wheat, grass, fruits, vegetables, and a long list of fictional content.
Searching for, mining, collecting, and combining many different resources such as different
kinds of wood, stone, metal, dirt, and more.
Building electrical circuits, switches, and complex machines.
Players have even reconstructed world wonders, many of which can be found online (e.g. YouTube,
dedicated servers) that are virtual copies of actual structures like the Taj Mahal or fictional places,
such as Westeros from the Game of Thrones. To achieve such feats of engineering, players often work
collaboratively by planning and coordinating their tasks. They assume roles (e.g., as resource
collectors, planners, builders, etc.), work iteratively to refine their creations, and of course, share their
work with friends, family, and the online community. In this paper, we ask what the choice to engage
in such activities implies in terms of young players’ interests.
2.2 The popularity of Minecraft
Since Markus Persson released an early version of Minecraft in 2009 (with the official release coming
in 2011 through his Swedish company, Mojang), millions of children across the world have chosen to
spend hundreds of thousands of cumulative years playing. With well over 100M players, 241M logins
per month, and 2B+ hours played on Xbox alone
, in 2016 Minecraft ascended to be the second most
popular game in history (passing Grand Theft Auto V but still well behind Tetris) (Peckham, 2016).
One report that looked at server usage data identifies 15-21 year olds as the largest demographic
(43%) and children under 15 as the third largest (20.6%).
Another way to think about its reach is that
millions of children worldwide have decided to interact deeply and meaningfully with a simulation of
the natural world. Given this, we believe that it is probably having some influence on the way they
think about the world around them what it consists of, how it works, how we manipulate and exist in
it, the use of resources, etc., and we wish to gain insights into how.
2.3 What is Minecraft?
Simply put, Minecraft is played in a world made entirely out of blocks. The various blocks encountered
in the game have different compositions and functions, such as many variants of stone, wood, and metal.
Even liquids, such as water and lava, are modeled as block units, although they adhere to natural laws
such as gravity and flow accordingly. Prior to starting a single-player game, the terrain (i.e., a virtual
world) must be generated. These digital worlds are huge. The exact cubic volume area of a Minecraft
world is two hundred sixty-two quadrillion by one hundred and forty-four trillion blocks (West &
Bleiberg, 2013). The terrain generation algorithm produces remarkable (block-style) landscapes and
includes features found in the natural world, such as varying biomes (e.g., desert, forest), caves,
mountains, oceans, rivers, and lakes (Figure 1 shows two typical screenshots).
Figure 1. Typical Minecraft interactions. The left screenshot shows a player-constructed
shelter on the hillside above a creek with animals. The right screenshot shows a crafting screen
where the player can create new items (like an anvil) from more basic items (like iron ingots).
In stark contrast to a majority of commercial games, Minecraft does not include an active narrative or
set game play objectives. Nor is there a direct way to “win” or even obvious ways to “level up, although
some elements of experience points are used and patterns have emerged for imposing goals (e.g., killing
the Ender Dragon). The two most commonly used game modes are: Survival, where the player must
actively seek resources, craft tools, build safe houses, and fend off monsters each night to survive as
long as possible; and Creative, in which monsters are non-aggressive and players are invincible, can
fly, and are given an unlimited supply of resources. Survival mode is more action packed and stressful,
while Creative mode is typically for large-scale projects and experimentation.
3. A Taxonomy of Minecraft Activities
In order to more formally approach analysis of Minecraft, we first created a Minecraft action/activity
taxonomy. To begin, we reviewed documentation, research literature, discussion boards, Minecraft
wikis, and talked with expert players to create a master list of actions. The first three authors
independently organized the actions into groups, then came together to form an overarching structure.
Common but significant in-game actions were selected, and six categories with subcategories emerged
(see Figure 2).
We then tagged each action using the 2010 Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP)
Codes from the US Dept of Education and National Science Foundation in the order of highest
CIP codes provide structure for STEM fields, skills, and professions. The purpose of the
CIP is to support the tracking and reporting of fields of study and program completions activity. When
combined with our Minecraft action taxonomy, the resulting tags become our claims of relevance to
those STEM fields. The links trace each action taken to specific STEM contents. For example, building
a functioning clock from scratch in Minecraft requires an understanding of circuitry, the ability to make
the appropriate calculations, and the ability to craft and design a model. Therefore, in accordance with
our taxonomy, building a clock would relate to electrical engineering, mathematics, and mechanical
engineering (from the greatest to the least significance).
Figure 2. Top two levels of our Minecraft taxonomy. The number of actions in each top level is
shown in the figure, with 166 total distributed across the sub-categories.
Minecraft action taxonomy
Build, Create,
Destroy (75)
Build (e.g. build a
Redstone (e.g.
build a logic
Craft & brew (e.g.
tools / potions)
Breaking (e.g.
destroying the
Improve quality of
life (e.g, build a
Collect (20)
Farming (e.g.
Mining (e.g. mine
for resources)
Combat (14)
Active (e.g. kill the
Ender Dragon)
Passive (e.g. craft
armor and shields)
Explore (26)
Discovery (e.g.
discover; visit
diffferent biomes)
Methodology (e.g.
ride animals, fly)
Plan, analyze,
communicate (16)
Solo (e.g. playing
MC alone)
Group (e.g. play
MC with friends
on a server)
Plan (e.g. planning
and designing
Meta actions (15)
Use text command
(e.g. change time
of day)
(e.g. create and
maintain a server)
Modding (e.g.
customize world
with shader packs)
Change game
mode (creative or
Research (e.g.
watch MC videos
on Youtube)
It is important to note that not all actions can be sensibly tagged with a CIP code. This is
especially true in areas of communication (e.g. playing alone vs. playing with friends). Nonetheless we
find collecting data on the social aspects of Minecraft to be just as important as the correlation between
in-game actions to STEM content. Furthermore, non-STEM activities (those not tagged with a CIP
code) may play a mediating role in triggering interest: a player may enjoy the social aspects of Minecraft
while working on projects together, and then choose to become an expert in Redstone to promote these
social goals (Redstone is a Minecraft version of electricity).
4. Method
As an initial evaluation of our Minecraft taxonomy and of the efficacy of our tags, we conducted a
pilot study using two surveys: one for Minecraft, based on our taxonomy, and a second, previously
developed STEM-attitudes survey. In this section we describe the study and report preliminary results.
4.1 Participants
In July 2017, we recruited 39 children participating in three, Minecraft-themed summer camps held at
the Champaign-Urbana Community FabLab. The camps used Minecraft for different purposes,
including to play group survival mode, 3D printing of Minecraft structures, and advanced topics (such
as using mods, setting up servers, command blocks, etc.). Participants ranged in age from 9 to 15, and
were all from the Champaign-Urbana, IL area. Based on survey responses, 9 were female (23%), 27
were male (69%), and 3 preferred not to answer (8%). In terms of ethnicity, 8 participants identified as
Asian (21%), 2 as Hispanic (5%), 22 as White/Caucasian (58%), and 11 preferred not to answer (29%).
In terms of experience with Minecraft, 2 said they were “new” (5%), 4 had played before and knew the
basics (10%), 10 played “often” and for “hours at a time” (26%), 19 considered themselves experts
(49%), and 4 said they play “way too much” and explore advanced topics often (10%).
4.2 Procedure
Upon arrival on the first day of each one-week camp, parents were approached by researchers who
introduced themselves and described the goals of the research. Children were then invited to
participate in the research project if they chose to and their parents approved. For those that approved,
consent forms were given to the parents to read and sign. Researchers spent the first day of each camp
getting to know the participants, observing their work, asking general questions, and helping
whenever possible. At a designated time during each camp, two surveys were given to participants
who had consented: the first survey focused on Minecraft play and the second on attitudes and
interests in STEM topics. At later times, we the interviewed selected campers to gain a better
understanding of their interest in Minecraft and STEM.
4.2.1 Minecraft interest survey
We designed a 60-item survey by pulling a representative sample of items from the Minecraft action
taxonomy (section 3), which currently has 166 leaf nodes (recall: leaf nodes represent game actions or
activities). We chose items based on several criteria. First, we sought balance across the STEM
disciplines (according to our CIP code tagging), but also included other critical aspects of playing that
were not directly STEM-related, such as playing with friends, decorating buildings, and combat-
related activities, to name a few. This opens the possibility to infer a more nuanced understanding of
why children choose to play. Second, we attempted to include critical game activities that were
somewhat core to game play (such as crafting, building, exploring, mining). Finally, for advanced
activities (such as Redstone), we sought activities that were more common and likely to be recognized
by a wider range of players. Some sample items and a screenshot of the survey is shown in Figure 3.
Given our focus on middle school learners, we chose to use emoji rather than verbal descriptions for
eliciting judgments. We selected the set showing in Figure 3 based on research that these specific
representations have been shown to have high reliability and appeal for children (Rounds, Phan,
Amrhein, & Lewis, 2016). A big smiley represents “strongly like” and progressively less positive
faces through to the tongue out emoticon represent strongly dislike”. Participants were instructed to
mark the middle item, “neither like or dislike”, for actions that they did not recognize.
Figure 3. Example survey items and interface (from SurveyMonkey).
4.2.2 STEM attitude survey
Participants also completed the Student Attitudes toward STEM survey (S-STEM), developed and
validated by researchers at North Carolina State University as an attempt to capture attitudes that
middle school and early high school students have towards STEM and 21st Century learning skills
(Faber et al., 2013). Part 1 of the survey consists of subscales capturing learner beliefs about their
abilities in key areas: math, science, engineering/technology, and 21st Century skills (e.g., “I am
confident I can set my own learning goals”). Part 2 of the survey focuses on future interests of the
learner it provides short descriptions of 12 STEM-related fields (physics, environmental work,
biology, veterinary sciences, mathematics, medicine, earth science, computer science, medical
science, chemistry, energy, and engineering), and asks participants to rate from 1-4 how interested
they are to learn more in that field. In our correlational analysis below, we refer to part 1 as “S-STEM
beliefs” and part 2 as “S-STEM Future”.
4.2.3 Interviews
Finally, as time permitted, we conducted open-ended interviews with 19 of the 39 participants,
focusing on players from underrepresented groups in STEM. Questions emphasized STEM-related
aspects of how they play Minecraft and how they feel about STEM-related content in school. It gave
participants a chance to go into depth about the reasons they play, what kinds of projects and tasks
they choose to pursue, and what aspects of the game are most appealing (or not). A few questions
from our protocol include:
Give me some examples of things you like to do in Creative mode? What kinds of things do
you build?
Tell me more about how you go about building X? Do you plan it in advance? What materials
do you use?
What’s the longest you ever worked on a single project in Minecraft? Tell me about it.
Do you have a favorite biome in Minecraft and why?
Do you use Minecraft in school? If yes, tell me how you used it. If no, do you have ideas for
how you might use it to learn?
Participants were given as many opportunities to explain their answers as possible, and to elaborate
more fully on responses they gave in the survey.
4.3 Results
Here, we report preliminary analyses of our data by sharing results from each survey individually,
followed by initial results that show modest correlations between STEM-related items (and sets of items)
on the Minecraft survey with specific items on the S-STEM survey. At the time of this writing, we have
not yet analyzed additional aspects of surveys, such as those related to gender, age, ethnicity, or
Minecraft experience.
4.3.1 Stated interest in Minecraft activities
Unsurprisingly, participants in the study generally experienced Minecraft players positively rated
many of the activities covered by the 60 items. Indeed, the mean rating across all items was 3.91 (with
the highest rating scored as 5, and the lowest 1). Nonetheless, some notable differences do emerge from
the data with respect to the relative scores between items. For example, as shown in Table 1, of the five
highest rated items from the survey, two fall into the meta category (playing with friends and playing
on a server), one in build-create-destroy (blowing things up with TNT), and two in the explore group
(new maps and flying/viewing from high up).
Table 1: Top 5 (blue) and bottom 5 (red) items from Minecraft survey (of 60 items total).
Item (M)
Strong like
No opinion
Playing Minecraft with friends (4.62)
Destroying things / blowing things up
with TNT (4.44)
Playing Minecraft on a server (4.41)
Exploring a brand new map (4.36)
Flying / viewing from high above the
ground (4.36)
PVP combat (3.41)
Calculating and measuring distances
when building a large structure (3.41)
Watching Minecraft story videos
(fiction) (3.08)
Watching YouTube videos about
combat (3.05)
Building a calculator (3.0)
4.3.2 S-STEM
Survey results also generally suggested that participant attitudes towards STEM fields and beliefs about
their skills with respect to STEM were also positive. While responses to specific career-related
questions were modest with respect to math (3.67) and science (3.54), participants responded very
positively to questions related to creativity and engineering. Three of the five highest rated items were
found in the Engineering & Technology portion of the survey (*):
I can get good grades in math (4.28)
I like to imagine creating new products* (4.26)
Knowing how to use math and science together will allow me to invent useful things* (4.23)
When I have many assignments, I can choose which ones need to be done first (4.13)
I would like to use creativity and innovation in my future work* (4.10)
The two lowest-rated beliefs of participants both had to do with science. They had less interest in
pursuing a career in science (3.54) and were less sure they could do advanced work in science (3.51).
We note that these are still positive scores. Interestingly, while students claimed to know how best to
select assignments during homework (a metacognitive skill), they rated their ability to use time wisely
far lower (3.64). Our current study lacks the power to determine if these are significant differences,
however the differences are certainly worth of future investigation. Finally, in part 2 of the survey that
focused on future interest, computer science and engineering were clear leaders (3.28 and 3.23,
respectively, on 4-point scales), with veterinary and medical science coming in with the lowest ratings
(2.31 and 2.28).
4.3.3 Cross-survey correlations
Our overarching hypothesis is that Minecraft play reflects underlying STEM interests of children who
play, in part because the game models significant aspects of the natural and engineered world.
Furthermore, our ultimate goal is to design Minecraft-based experiences that trigger interest in specific
STEM areas (e.g., Astronomy). In this initial phase of the work, we seek to show connections between
stated Minecraft and STEM interests. For example, we posit that a player who uses Redstone frequently
is more likely to be drawn to mechanical engineering and electronics than one who focuses more on
farming and interacting with animals in Minecraft (who we would predict would be more drawn to the
agricultural sciences). As discussed earlier, we have attempted to articulate these connections through
linking our Minecraft action taxonomy and STEM CIP codes. Viewing these links as hypotheses, we
have completed an initial correlational analysis of our two surveys.
Using only the first coded tags of the items on the Minecraft survey, a Pearson correlation coefficient
was calculated between the mean ratings of sets of MC-items of a given STEM tag and the
corresponding relevant items on the S-STEM survey. For example, all items tagged as relevant to
agriculture (AG) were checked for correlation with S-STEM items related to both general science
beliefs and the specific future interest question for agriculture. All “sensible” correlations were run, and
are displayed in Table 2.
Table 2: Cross-survey Pearson correlation coefficients (NOTE: ANS = Animal Science)
4.4 Interviews
At the time of this writing, we have transcribed interviews but not yet analyzed them. Unsurprisingly,
participants were eager to share when it came to topics for which they had an existing interest. Many
described their favorite mods, using advanced features (the few who were experts in Redstone
especially), setting up servers, exploring maps, and so on. A great deal of self-direction and motivation
was evident from their comments, especially to understand Minecraft at a deep level. A few examples
“I just self-taught myself, I also watched a ton of Minecraft videos.
“I also like Galactacraft. Its where you can go to the moon and harvest asteroids and you need
to have the right oxygen set up and make your rocket.
Um, it's a game that's very what you make of it. Like Minecraft isn't really a certain thing, it's
what you make of it. It's what you want it to be. Um that's part of why it's so popular.”
In discussions of STEM and school, most had very positive attitudes towards science and math, which
was reflected in the S-STEM survey. An emphasis on problem solving was also evident in their
responses, however we will need to continue analyzing the interviews to explicitly link these statements
to Minecraft activity preferences.
S-STEM (Beliefs)
S-STEM (future interest)
4.5 Discussion
All of our observations require the caveat that this was only a small pilot study with a limited number
of participants. The goal of this work is to begin to identify the links between Minecraft play and
STEM interest. We will use the pilot to refine the instruments and improve the accuracy and
usefulness of the Minecraft taxonomy.
With respect to ratings of Minecraft activities, none of the top 5 activities are particularly
surprising, however it is notable that combat-related items did not make the list. Interestingly, the
highest rated items in our combat category were “build a safehouse” (4.26) and “craft armor and
shields” (4.23), both of which fall into the protection (or “passive”) subcategory of combat. Based on
the fact that 33 of our 39 respondents indicated at least that they were experienced Minecraft players
with strong knowledge of the game, these results are most likely skewed towards the later stages of
interest (in Minecraft, that is). In other words, novice players may find basic resource management
and exploration more appealing until they emerge into more advanced topics. We will analyze our
data along different experience dimensions in the future. Readers familiar with Minecraft are unlikely
to be surprised by the high ratings for engineering and creativity found in the S-STEM survey. The
links between creative aspects of STEM and Minecraft play are also worthy of further investigation.
Finally, our correlational analysis provides some potentially useful results. First, there appears
to be minimal correlation between STEM beliefs and Minecraft play it is possible that game-related
attitudes and STEM-attitudes are not related in a meaningful way, however we will continue to
analyze the sub-questions for relationships. Several potential correlations are worthy of note, though
in particular, items and categories related to animal science, agriculture, geology, environmental, and
earth science seemed to have the highest correlations. We were surprised at the lack of correlation
between engineering related items and the S-STEM responses. As we progress forward, we will
revisit our engineering-related Minecraft questions as well as how the S-STEM survey presents the
field (for example, its description focuses largely on development of products rather than
encapsulating Minecraft-relevant aspects of engineering). We also note that the S-STEM survey was
developed for middle school and high school students, and we discovered some participants may not
have fully understood the descriptions.
5. Future work
Our work seeks to elaborate on the links between Minecraft play and interest in STEM. Our
overarching hypothesis is that video game play not only reflects interest in STEM, but influences it as
well. We have reported our initial steps into investigating these questions and found modest
relationships between some aspects of STEM and stated Minecraft preferences (mostly those
revolving around agricultural, animal, environmental, and earth sciences). Surprisingly, our pilot data
suggests less of a connection between engineering and Minecraft, however we intend to continue
analyzing this data since our interview data does not support the result. The ultimate goal of our
research is to design informal learning experiences that trigger interest in STEM via specially
designed Minecraft mods. In particular, we are development mods that represent hypothetical but
scientifically valid versions of Earth (e.g., “What if the Earth had no moon?”). Using the tools
developed in this pilot work, we will investigate whether exposure to such virtual worlds has the
power to trigger interest in astronomy, astrophysics, and more.
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant No.
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... In the literature review, studies in which Minecraft was used as a teaching tool among local resources are also limited. In the national and international resources found, Minecraft and Minecraft EDU games are generally used in STEAM and maker (Niemeyer & Gerber, 2015;Lane et al., 2017;Sarıçam, 2019), English language acquisition (Smolčec, Smolčec & Stevens, 2014;Uusi-Mäkelä, 2015;Lyngstad, 2017;Egbert & Borysenko, 2019), reading skills (Cipollone, Schiffer & Moffet, 2014;Jiménez-Porta & Díez-Martínez, 2018;Wilson & Rennie, 2019), mathematics teaching (Bos, Wilder, Cook & O'Donnell, 2014;Hultstrand, 2015), science (Short, 2012;Dias & Rosalen, 2014;Dezuanni, O'Mara & Beavis, 2015;Pusey & Pusey, 2016), engineering education (Shaw, La, Phillips & Reilly, 2014;Schafer, 2017). Studies in which coding or programming skills were measured (Balogh & Beszédes, 2013;Zorn, Wingrave, Charbonneau & LaViola, 2013;Da Silva, Oliveira & Martins, 2017;Kutay, 2020) were less common in the related literature. ...
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In the current study, it was aimed to examine the effect of game-based Python codingeducation with Minecraft EDU on students' problem solving skills and attitudestowards coding. The study was designed with a one-group pretest-posttestexperimental model, which is one of the quantitative research methods supported byqualitative data. The research group consists of 7th grade students studying in a publicschool in Zile district of Tokat province in the 2021-2022 academic year. The study wasmaintained with a 6-week program of 12 hours in total. The data collection tools usedto collect data within the scope of the research are "Problem Solving Inventory forChildren (PSI)", "Attitude towards Coding Scale" and semi-structured interview form.According to the findings, no difference was found in the problem solving skills of thestudents participating in the study. Gender, daily game playing time and dailyinternet usage time variables were found to have no effect on problem solving skills.However, the variables of computer use duration show a significant difference. As aresult of the research, no difference was found in students' attitudes towards coding.Similarly, it was found that gender, duration of computer use (years), daily computeruse, daily internet use and daily computer game playing time had no effect onattitudes towards coding. In addition, it was determined that game-based codingeducation is fun, more instructive, provides active learning, increases interest andmotivation towards the lesson and makes the process more instructive and thelearning process enjoyable. Moreover, it was determined that text-based codingcaused difficulties for the students and the fact that the code groups were in Englishmade the process more difficult.
... The educational benefits of using COTS have been studied extensively. For example Lane et al. (2017) find out that improved the interest in Math and STEM, and Egenfeldt-Nielsen (2016) confirmed that that playing Europa Universalis in the History class improved the students' knowledge about the XVI century, the use of COTS in our sample of teachers is scarce. Thus, more in-depth research is needed to delve into the reasons why this use is so scarce in our study. ...
Conference Paper
Game-based learning (GBL) is a methodology that has shown important educational benefits over the last few years. The wide range of GBL approaches include a whole plethora of experiences ranging from the use of full-fledged games (both commercial and educational) to the inclusion of game elements in the learning process in the so-called gamification. This exploratory research analyzes the experience of teachers from Spain, Belgium, and Turkey regarding the use of GBL. It also identifies which are the most common ways in which they implement GBL in the classroom. Results suggest that teachers have a certain degree of experience, with most of them having used games or gamification for one to three years. An in-depth analysis shows important differences by countries with most teachers in Spain and Belgium having more than five years’ of experience. Results also show that most of the teachers’ experiences are related to the use of games (especially physical games or educational digital games) rather than to gamification practices.
... Endeavors in contemporary research attempt to measure interest using data mining techniques utilizing videogame technologies with the aim to predict a child's interests based on in-game actions and overall engagement [27]. Multiple scholars have argued for the use of games to promote interest in STEM [28][29][30], yet more research is needed to develop an understanding of best practices and learning structures across a diverse range of students. ...
Conference Paper
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In this case study, we tracked children's interest in math during a voluntary math learning program using a constrained version of Osmo's "Math Wizard Magical Workshop's Potions" game. This game targets addition and subtraction skills taught in first through third grade. Families with children six to eight years old (N = 75) volunteered to play 15-minutes daily for two weeks. The entire learning experience was conducted remotely. We administered six surveys to measure participants' attitudes toward math at three time periods (Pre-, Mid-, and Post-experience). We then use regression to explore the relationship between interest and learning gain scores, and minutes of play. Results were mixed with mostly weak positive correlations across variables. Hand-coded responses revealed that the greatest increase of interest triggered from Mid-to Post-Experience was 'Affect' from parents. We discuss the implications of this study on future analyses with children during a pandemic. CCS CONCEPTS • Applied computing; • Education; • Interactive learning environments ; KEYWORDS case study, tangible interaction, interface design, interest development ACM Reference Format: Sherry Yi*, Yuqi Yao, and Heidy Maldonado. 2022. Studying Interest During a Pandemic:: A Case Study of Evaluating Interest of Young Children Through a Tangible Learning Game. In Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’22), June 27–30, 2022, Braga, Portugal. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 7 pages. https: //
... We utilize the popular video game, Minecraft, for participants to explore, to make observations, and to ask questions about hypothetical versions of Earth customized by our laboratory (refer to Yi et al., 2018;Yi et al., 2020). Minecraft provides an ideal space for our work because of the variety of science concepts that can be conveyed through the game, as well as being a space to collect data and conduct research on how gameplay reflects interest (Lane et al., 2017). ...
Conference Paper
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Our work investigates interest triggering, a necessary component of sustaining and developing long-term interest in STEM. We gathered interview data from middle school aged learners (N = 7) at a science-focused Minecraft summer camp over a period of one week. We first identified STEM interest triggering episodes, then categorized each episode based on codes developed previously by Renninger and Bachrach (2016). Our initial findings show differences in the frequency of interest triggering episodes across individuals and suggest that personal relevance and the use of Minecraft played prominent roles.
... Levitt [44] studied the evolution of the creative process around the creation of Minecraft mods. Additionally, several studies [43,65] investigated Minecraft mods and their role in enhancing individual creativity and general interest in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). They found that modding in the context of the Minecraft game positively influenced both of these aforementioned aspects. ...
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It is becoming increasingly difficult for game developers to manage the cost of developing a game, while meeting the high expectations of gamers. One way to balance the increasing gamer expectation and development stress is to build an active modding community around the game. There exist several examples of games with an extremely active and successful modding community, with the Minecraft game being one of the most notable ones. This paper reports on an empirical study of 1,114 popular and 1,114 unpopular Minecraft mods from the CurseForge mod distribution platform, one of the largest distribution platforms for Minecraft mods. We analyzed the relationship between 33 features across 5 dimensions of mod characteristics and the popularity of mods (i.e., mod category, mod documentation, environmental context of the mod, remuneration for the mod, and community contribution for the mod), to understand the characteristics of popular Minecraft mods. We firstly verify that the studied dimensions have significant explanatory power in distinguishing the popularity of the studied mods. Then we evaluated the contribution of each of the 33 features across the 5 dimensions. We observed that popular mods tend to have a high quality description and promote community contribution.
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Utilizing digital games for learning vocabulary can be auspicious. Thus, the current study investigates the potential effectiveness of implementing Minecraft to teach vocabulary. The participants who underwent this study were eighteen students of intermediate Saudi schools in Riyadh. They are 12-13 years old. They were grouped into two groups: the experimental and control groups. The pupils were randomly chosen. Both groups were taught the same vocabulary. While the control group was taught via the traditional methods, the experimental group was taught by using Minecraft. The experiment lasted two weeks before the post-test was carried out. The researcher made an observation sheet to examine students' acceptance of employing Minecraft and their behaviors towards it. The results of the pre-post tests were analyzed through SPSS. The present study's findings revealed a significant distinction in favor of the experimental group, which was taught using Minecraft. In addition, the students exhibited a positive attitude towards Minecraft. Besides, it is desired that teachers support other learning methods, including games that raise creativity and construct a comfortable condition.
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Use this link to cite item: In this dissertation, I investigate the extent to which a digital sandbox game that allows for autonomy and peer-to-peer interaction can trigger interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as explore how prior game mastery impacts these changes. The sandbox game, Minecraft, is used as a platform to test whether interest in STEM can be triggered within a digital learning environment for adolescent learners. This study seeks to contribute to our foundational understanding of how interest functions within a digital learning environment.
Online multiplayer games like Minecraft, gaining increasing popularity among present-day youth, include rich contexts for social interactions but are also rife with interpersonal conflict among players. Research shows that a variety of socio-technical mechanisms (e.g., server rules, chat filters, use of in-game controls to ban players, etc.) aim to limit and/or eliminate social conflict in games like Minecraft. However, avoiding social conflict need not necessarily always be a useful approach. Broadly defined in CSCW literature as a phenomenon that may arise even amidst mutual cooperation, social conflict can yield positive outcomes depending on how it is managed (e.g., [Easterbrook et al.,1993]). In fact, the aforementioned approaches to avoid conflict may not be helpful as they do not help youth understand how to address similar interpersonal differences that may occur in other social settings. Furthermore, prior research has established the value of developing conflict-resolution skills during early adolescence within safe settings, such as school/after-school wellness and prevention interventions (e.g.,[Shure, 1982], [Aber et al., 1998]), for later success in any given interpersonal relationship. While games like Minecraft offer authentic contexts for encountering social conflict, little work thus far has explored how to help youth develop conflict-resolution skills by design interventions within online interest-driven settings. Drawing from prior literature in CSCW, youth wellness and prevention programs, we translated offline evidence-based strategies into the design of an online, after-school program that was run within a moderated Minecraft server. The online program, titled Survival Lab, was designed to promote problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills in youth (ages 8-14 years). We conducted a field study for six months (30 youth participants, four college-age moderators, and one high-school volunteer aged 15 years) using in-game observations and digital trace ethnographic approaches. Our study data reveals that participating youth created community norms and developed insightful solutions to conflicts in Survival Lab. Our research offers three key takeaways. Firstly, online social games like Minecraft lend themselves as feasible settings for the translation of offline evidence-based design strategies in promoting the development of conflict-resolution and other social competencies among youth. Secondly, the design features that support structured and unstructured play while enabling freedom of choice for youth to engage as teams and/or individuals are viable for collective or community-level outcomes. Third and finally, moderators, as caring adults and near-peer mentors, play a vital role in facilitating the development of conflict-resolution skills and interest-driven learning among youth. We discuss the implications of our research for translating offline design to online play-based settings as sites and conclude with recommendations for future work.
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It is becoming increasingly difficult for game developers to manage the cost of developing a game, while meeting the high expectations of gamers. One way to balance the increasing gamer expectation and development stress is to build an active modding community around the game. There exist several examples of games with an extremely active and successful modding community, with the Minecraft game being one of the most notable ones. This paper reports on an empirical study of 1,114 popular and 1,114 unpopular Minecraft mods from the CurseForge mod distribution platform, one of the largest distribution platforms for Minecraft mods. We analyzed the relationship between 33 features across 5 dimensions of mod characteristics and the popularity of mods (i.e., mod category, mod documentation, environmental context of the mod, remuneration for the mod, and community contribution for the mod), to understand the characteristics of popular Minecraft mods. We firstly verify that the studied dimensions have significant explanatory power in distinguishing the popularity of the studied mods. Then we evaluated the contribution of each of the 33 features across the 5 dimensions. We observed that popular mods tend to have a high quality description and promote community contribution. In addition, simplifying the mod development is positively correlated with mod popularity.
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This chapter elaborates on the potential impacts and roles of one the most important and widely used video games of this generation: Minecraft. We argue that Minecraft, an open-world, exploratory and generative game, is highly relevant for educators and learning science researchers alike. Gameplay involves acquisition of a wide range of skills and knowledge relevant to school and the real world. It is likely that playing Minecraft represents the first meaningful exposure to powerful ideas in STEM (e.g., engineering, agriculture, biology). We argue that it is critical to better understand how the game is influencing children's development of STEM competencies, their perceptions of what it means to be an engineer or scientist, and their acquisition of metacognitive skills such as planning and reflection. After describing the Minecraft experience and its broad appeal, we provide a summary of the most relevant features for learning and uses in education. We describe how teachers are already using it in the classroom, and for which goals. Next, we discuss what research is needed to best deploy Minecraft to support learning goals. We conclude with suggestions for future research in the context of emerging developments in the rapidly evolving Minecraft universe.
Technical Report
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This report summarizes two studies designed to test the validity of an emoji-anchored Interest Profiler Short Form (Short-IP; Rounds, Su, Lewis & Rivkin, 2010). The Short-IP is a 60- item inventory that assesses vocational interests according to Holland’s (1997) Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional (RIASEC) personality types. Emojis are ideograms commonly used in text messaging and email platforms (e.g., Facebook, Android text messaging, Gmail). These simple images most commonly depict faces expressing different affective responses (e.g., smiley face). As O*NET explores the possibility of moving the Short-IP onto a mobile platform, it is important to determine whether emojis can serve as anchors in the response scale. Besides being compact and ideal for use on small screens, similarly constructed “face rating scales” are often preferred by respondents (Champion et al., 2010) and may even be more accurate at capturing affective responses in some populations (Kunin, 1955; Izard, 2007; Lindquist, Barrett, Bliss-Moreau, & Russell, 2006). Two studies were conducted to determine the efficacy of emoji-anchored Short-IP scales. In the first study, we identified five sets of emojis that represented an array of affective responses and had unrestricted use and licensing permission rights. A sample of 36 participants sorted the emojis in these sets according to the traditional lexical categories (strongly dislike, dislike, unsure, like, and strongly like). Based on the total percentage usage (portion of participants sorting an emoji into a particular category) as well as the percentage of misclassifications, we determined the set of emojis that would be used in study 2. Study 2 used a randomized block design in which people completed two interest inventories (separated by a filler task). 569 working adults were randomly assigned to one of four blocks: (1) two traditionally anchored Short-IP scales, (2) two emoji anchored Short-IP scales, (3) a traditional anchored scale followed by an emoji anchored scale, (4) and an emoji anchored scale followed by a traditional scale. We assessed test-retest (pre-post) reliability and found that emoji anchors were just as reliable as traditional anchors. We then tested whether emoji scales would predict the same RIASEC high point codes as traditional anchors. The Kappa index of agreement indicated substantial high-point code agreement between emoji and traditional anchors, indicating emoji-anchored inventories produce the same high-point codes as traditional inventories. We then tested the rank order stability of individuals’ entire RIASEC interest profiles. The correlations between profiles across time for all four blocks were high (r ≥ .85). This provides evidence of substantial rank-order stability in RIASEC profiles regardless of how the scale is anchored. A doubly MANOVA was performed to rule out possible order (emoji or traditional) and time (pre and post) effects on RIASEC scores by checking that proper randomization was achieved in a four block experiment. Although there were significant main effects of RIASEC scale and time, there was no three-way interaction between RIASEC scale, time, and block, suggesting that scores did not differ as a function of time and block assignment (i.e., randomization was successful). Furthermore, there was no interaction between block and time, suggesting that across blocks pre and post scores did not differ. Finally, there was no interaction of RIASEC scores and blocks, suggesting that RIASEC scores across the different blocks do not differ. These results suggest that means are very similar across all RIASEC scales regardless of the anchors used and that no order effects influenced results. The structural validity of RIASEC scores was examined via two analyses: the randomization test (Rounds, Tracey, & Hubert, 1992) and circular unidimensional scaling (Armstrong, Hubert, & Rounds, 2003). These analyses test whether resultant RIASEC scores had inter-relationships that were characteristic of Holland’s vocational interest model (Holland, 1997). Results from these structural analyses demonstrated that RIASEC scores from the Interest Profiler, using either traditional or emoji anchors, conformed well to the circular-ordered, interrelationships of interest scores expected in Holland’s model. Altogether, these studies were able to identify a set of emoji anchors for use in the Interest Profiler without compromising psychometric properties of the scale. We conclude that researchers and practitioners can use an emoji-anchored interest inventory just as they would the traditional inventories to measure vocational interests.
The Power of Interest for Motivation and Engagement describes the benefits of interest for people of all ages. Using case material as illustrations, the volume explains that interest can be supported to develop, and that the development of a person’s interest is always motivating and results in meaningful engagement. This volume is written for people who would like to know more about the power of their interests and how they could develop them: students who want to be engaged, educators and parents wondering about how to facilitate motivation, business people focusing on ways in which they could engage their employees and associates, policy-makers whose recognition of the power of interest may lead to changes resulting in a new focus supporting interest development for schools, out of school activity, industry, and business, and researchers studying learning and motivation. It draws on research in cognitive, developmental, educational, and social psychology, as well as in the learning sciences, and neuroscience to demonstrate that there is power for everyone in leveraging interest for motivation and engagement.
This chapter addresses three questions: (a) What is the relation among students' interest for writing and their conceptual competence, goals, and strategies as writers? (b) What is the relation among students' interest for writing and their perceptions of their effort, self-efficacy, and feedback preferences in their writing? (c) What conditions support students to be effective writers? Portraiture is used to depict students in each of the four phases of interest development identified by Hidi and Renninger (2006): triggered situational interest, maintained situational interest, emerging individual interest, and well-developed individual interest. Data from questionnaires and structured in-depth interviews with middle school students informed portrait development. Discussion centers on the relation among students' phase of interest for writing and their corresponding motivational strengths and needs as writers. Pedagogical implications are considered.
In this article, we discuss the contribution of observational methods to understanding the processes involved in triggering interest and establishing engagement. We begin by reviewing the literatures on interest and engagement, noting their similarities, differences, and the utility to each of better understanding the triggering process. We then provide background information about observational methods and a case illustration of their use in a post hoc analysis of observation records collected during an out-of-school biology workshop. In conclusion, we consider the advantages and limitations of observational methods. We suggest that they can offer unique insight into the triggering process. In the post hoc analysis, this includes information about multiple, co-occurring triggers for interest and variation in responses to triggers based on learner characteristics. It is acknowledged that observational methods are not sufficient, but they are necessary; they provide essential detail, especially for understanding the triggering process.
Psychologists have always been intrigued in interest, and modern research on interest can be found in nearly every area of the field: researchers studying emotions, cognition, development, education, aesthetics, personality, motivation, and vocations have developed intriguing ideas about what interest is and how it works. This book presents an integrated picture of how interest has been studied in all of the wide-ranging areas of psychology. Using modern theories of cognition and emotion as an integrative framework, it examines the nature of interest, what makes things interesting, the role of interest in personality, and the development of people's idiosyncratic interests, hobbies, and avocations. The examination reveals deep similarities between seemingly different fields of psychology and illustrates the profound importance of interest, curiosity, and intrinsic motivation for understanding why people do what they do. A comprehensive work devoted to interest, this book reviews the history of psychological thought on interest, presents classic and modern research, and suggests fruitful directions for future work.
Building on and extending existing research, this article proposes a 4-phase model of interest development. The model describes 4 phases in the development and deepening of learner interest: triggered situational interest, maintained situational interest, emerging (less-developed) individual interest, and well-developed individual interest. Affective as well as cognitive factors are considered. Educational implications of the proposed model are identified.