Is “Minecraft” a Viable Teaching Tool?

In the midst of falling test scores and poor performance in our public schools systems, academics are turning to video games to engage children in the classroom. The main reason given for this by teachers is their perception that children connect to this medium intuitively given our current culture. By the fall of 2013 seventy-four percent of teachers surveyed said they were using digital games like “Minecraft”, “World of Warcraft” and other “serious games” to enhance learning experiences in the classroom. Teachers say the children are more engaged in subjects and readily immerse themselves in learning. One teacher believes that using “World of Warcraft” enhanced teamwork and encouraged the children to problem-solve.

When I homeschooled my children, time with video games whether they were to enhance learning or not was limited intentionally. I believed then and still do that children need to acquire the ability to use any and all tools available for learning. It is hard for me to believe that watching a science experiment or building a 3-D world on the computer is as engaging as gathering tools and equipment to do this with your own hands. The 3-D world might look awesome and function but does the child really obtain an understanding of what it takes to stack brick on brick and make adjustments in real-time to correct mistakes? While preparing to perform an experiment or create a tangible project children learn about organization, record keeping and cleaning up after the work is completed. How is this duplicated in a computer game?

The “serious games” being created can have an underlying social message, which many parents might not be aware of. Is this appropriate? In these cases if the material is presented solely at school parents do not have the occasion to talk to their children about what is depicted and discuss both sides of an issue. I am a firm believer in encouraging children to take a subject or social issue and explore all facets and aspects with an open mind. If a “serious game” does not explore all sides of an issue then this can instill intended or unintended biases. Parents should stay informed and talk to their children about what is presented in school and social settings. Remember as a parent you are the greatest teacher you child can ever have.


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