Minecraft Pedagogy

Minecraft: Education Edition in the Classroom

It is August 24, 2017 and fresh freshmen faces are staring at me at 8am at Clemson University. I just finished reading my script explaining the classroom as a game and that they will be using Minecraft: Education Edition for project. I see some smirks, some looks of confusion, but mostly those of disbelief. Fast forward to September 19th...

I show my students the above video and most are intrigued, but some look terrified. Not a single student has dropped the course, and many of the skeptics have accepted--and have even come to enjoy--the game-based learning aspect of the course. After the trailer, I send them the world to log into and we get started.

Most of the students are excited, laughing, and willingly helping others figure out controls. I embrace the fast fail method of teaching with technology. It is important to dive in and try to figure things out before formal instruction. When students finally gather in the meeting location, the lessons begin: Explore, Learn the Controls, and Have Fun!

ENGL3120 Spring '19 World

After the release of MakeCode, I redesigned my Minecraft: Education Edition tutorial world to include some of the new blocks, features, and a "tournament ground" which helps showcase some of the coding functions. Click for World & MakeCode

ENGL1030 Spring '18 World

Building off of my previous world, I added new structures to explore, NPCs that allow for teleportation, and cleaned up Grand Central Station by adding teleporters in place of the minecarts. I also added a new open build area that allows for collaboration. Click for World

ENGL1030 Fall '17 World

Embracing the exploratory and playfulness of Minecraft, I created a new tutorial world that embraced mechanic functionality and trailing in an underground training room along with a larger outerworld for more experienced students. Instead of a smaller build area, I created building quests that focussed on design and aesthetics. Click for World

ENGL1030 Spring '17 World

Starting with the Minecraft: Education Edition tutorial world, I created a more involved movement tutorial, added pixel art, and designed a treasure hunt. The main added features include a room with all building blocks on display, a crafting area with instructions, and a free build area. Click for World


Tanked Presentations

My iteration of "Shark Tank" where students compete in groups to create a game within Minecraft: Education Edition using MakeCode and command blocks. The assignment is a culminating assignment in my classes (Found Here) where students create a development diary, marketing materials, and a persuasive presentation around the game they created. The games typically stem from a student's research guided essay and goes through a multimodal transformation to get to the Tanked Presentation. Some examples of recent student work is below, followed by a play through of each game (video is timestamped for each game):

  1. Debunkers Inc.
  2. Providence & Co.
  3. Ludos Game Design Studios
  4. Pixel and Mortar
  5. Ascension Games
  6. Lucky Leaf Studios
  7.  Social Harbinger Studios (SHS)

Do note that you need to go to resources and download on each page. Make sure to use the MakeCode as well.

Tutorials and development diaries are available on the sites as well.

Research Essay Transmediation

The Research Essay Transmediation project is where students take their research topic (in the below examples they are all "villain sanctuaries") and transmediate it to a Minecraft structure. For the full description, click HERE. The project is called "Raid Five."

The below student examples, starting from the top left and moving clockwise: Coraline's Real world and Other world; Camp Lehigh from Captain America: Winter Soldier; The Wicket Witch of the West; and a Star Wars Star Destroyer.

Architectural Reconstruction

The Architectural Reconstruction project is when students choose an iconic structure, either from popular culture or history, and recreate them in Minecraft: Education Edition and record the process. Students created videos and then presented them to the class.

For a full assignment description, click HERE. The project is called "Raid Seven."

Other Assignments

Creative Heuristic Builds - Give a term, concept, figure, or reading the students need to reflect on and let them build/design something. Asking them to reflect on their process and purpose helps them engage with both the "text" and their process.

Build Chellenge and Analysis - Give them a specific structure to build. Introduce simple design aesthetics and techniques. Have them create a video walkthrough or photomontage in addition to an essay. Have a classmate do a rhetorical analysis for added depth and engagement.

Multimodal Transformation and Presentation - Have students reimagine their research in a three-dimensional space. Have them create a virtual representation of their figure, structure, site, etc. and design a presentation around it. This can include videos, images, tutorials, demonstrations, and more.

Interactive Media Set - Students create places of learning around a specific issue with interactive NPCs to give information on the subject matter. The build can include coding to create immersive experiences. (Anything from an electronic monument to a tour of a campus).

Technical Manual Design - As a class, have the students create a manual for Minecraft Education. Allow students to work to their strengths or try something new by having the class work together in InDesign to design a technical manual explaining controls, blocks, functions, design tips, and more. This can also be made into a Wiki, a website, or a printed book.

Timed Group Build - Divide students into groups and design a timed challenge (30 minutes is a good limit) to do in class on the same map. You could send out the build objective the night before for everyone to prep before class. Have students build for 30 minutes and then have the class vote on the best one.

Experiential Play - Let students run loose and create their community space. Students learn play etiquette and collaborative practices in digital environments. This could also be one of the many worlds available to download.

Digital Presentations on Minecraft:

Conference Presentations on Minecraft:

  • "It’s Raining Chickens!: Introducing Students to Modding through Minecraft: Education Edition," Presenter, Computers and Writing, East Lansing, June 2019
  • “We Build This City: Transmediating Research into a Three-Dimensional Argument using Minecraft: Education Edition,” Presenter, Children’s Literature Association Conference, San Antonio, June 2018
  • “Gamed Invention: Multimodal Writing through Coding, Crafting, and Playing” Rhetoric Society of America, Minneapolis, May-June 2018

  • “Playful Phronesis: Composing through Failure in Playful Spaces” Computers and Writing, Fairfax, May 2018

  • “Why Electrate Learning Matters: A Case Study in Minecraft” – guest presenter, ENGL678: Digital Literacy, January 2018.

  • “Mapping the First-Year Composition Classroom: Outcomes, Habits, and Minecraft Education” Carolina Rhetorics Conference, Columbia, February 2017

  • “Mapping Minecraft: Education Edition onto the WPA Outcomes” – presenter, RCID Games and Film Colloquium, Clemson University, February 2017.

Media on My Use of Minecraft: Education Edition:

Classroom Heroes – Christopher Stuart” How Game-Based Learning Empowers Students for the FutureEduSurge.com, February 2018

"#6 Minecraft: Inspiring Young EngineersEngineering Matters, 1 Oct. 2018.

University Students Learn to Communicate, Create, and Collaborate with 3D Gaming Software.Microsoft, 23 Jan. 2018.

About the Author:

Christopher Stuart is a fourth-year PhD candidate at Clemson University in the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design (RCID) program. He is currently working on research in digital literacy, invention practices, and learning strategies that engage with game-based learning and analog and digital technologies.

Questions? Email me! cstuar2@clemson.edu