Hannah West, i2e Program Manager
Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE) is a powerful tool that leverages game-based learning to teach students new concepts on a platform they are already familiar with. During the past year, insight2execution (i2e) has worked closely with Broward County Public Schools’ STEM team to train its teachers on M:EE and demonstrate how they can integrate it into their classrooms to improve learning outcomes for students.
To accomplish this, i2e Professional Learning Specialists have traveled to Broward County to deliver in-person M:EE trainings to cohorts of Broward County teachers, training approximately 200 teachers to date. The push for trainings came following an initiative in Broward County to empower students through game-based learning to complement their focus on STEM, especially engineering.
An inside look into Minecraft trainings
M:EE trainings typically run for two days. Professional learning specialists from i2e deliver training content specially designed by Phygital Labs and customized for the school and audience needs. Participants spend the majority of the first day learning how to play Minecraft and getting comfortable with the game. Throughout the training, our team provides teachers with recommendations on how to use Minecraft in their classrooms and encourage reflection and sharing from participants.
“When I see someone’s eyes light up, I say, ‘Okay, something just clicked for you. How might you apply that in your classroom?’” said Cathy Cheo-Isaacs, i2e Professional Learning Specialist.
Once participants become more comfortable with Minecraft, our trainers begin to introduce more advanced concepts outside of simple building. For example, they can build things with circuits, automate their builds, or begin to understand the power of natural elements in the Minecraft world and how they behave in a similar way as they do in the physical world.
On the second day, the district can select a specific focus for the training. For Broward County, that focus has been coding, so our trainers integrated that element into the training. “Teaching coding in Minecraft provides another level to a game that students are already invested in,” Cheo-Isaacs said. “Most students are already playing Minecraft at home, so this gives them another opportunity to dive deeper into this tool while learning a valuable skill.”
Throughout the training, participants are encouraged to be active on social media and share the work that they are doing. They are also encouraged to follow Minecraft: Education Edition and other Twitter accounts that regularly post valuable Minecraft content for ideas and inspiration and are provided with resources to help them as they begin to integrate Minecraft into their classrooms. One example is the My First Lesson Kit from Phygital Labs, a resource that gives teachers tips and a sample world to get started with their students.
Minecraft: Education Edition in Broward County classrooms
Trainings are an important tool to get started, but the real success comes when teachers implement their knowledge from the trainings into their classrooms and allow their students to use it in creative ways.
Erik Leitner, STEM and Computer Science Instructional Facilitator for Broward County Public Schools, recently had the opportunity to observe Minecraft in action in a Broward County classroom. Students were tasked with researching a species native to the Everglades and were given the option to present their research on its ecosystem, habitat, and food chain in Minecraft. A student who selected the Egret not only built a museum with interactive exhibits to display his work, but also chose to construct the outside of the museum in the shape of a larger-than-life Egret. Another student chose to present her work by building a roller coaster through the exhibits, allowing visitors to learn about her species while riding the roller coaster through the museum.
This is just one example of how Minecraft can be used in the classroom, and how students often surprise teachers with their creativity when given the opportunity. “When it comes to Minecraft, teachers don’t have to be the experts because their students most likely already are,” Leitner said.
“Minecraft is a powerful tool for teachers to have in their toolbox,” said Lisa Milenkovic, Supervisor for STEM and Computer Science for Broward County Public Schools. “You always want to have your toolbox filled with as many tools as possible.”
Broward County has found success with M:EE, and you can, too!
Broward County has been successful in implementing Minecraft in its classrooms by offering M:EE trainings to teachers, leveraging the momentum of a core group of educators who are passionate about its use in the classroom, feeling empowered by a guiding initiative from administrators, and providing ongoing support through Yammer groups with helpful tips and resources,
Are you inspired to follow in Broward County’s footsteps? If so, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about our Minecraft in-person and virtual training offerings. Through June 2020, all teachers and students who have an Office 365 account can login to Minecraft: Education Edition without any licensing restrictions as part of an effort to support Remote Learning. Download the app on any Windows, Mac, or iPad device at aka.ms/download.