“I am aware that the title of this blog post might be slightly provocative,” writes designer and blogger Anna Stam. “Good. That’s the point.” While hers is a bold claim, given the educational potential of Minecraft, I really don’t find it all that surprising.
In her blog post, Stam explains that her son has Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder which can present difficulties in social interaction and in educational environments. However, she says, Minecraft has given him new ways of both learning and of interacting with people, improving his language skills, encouraging him to research and giving him a chance to co-operate with other players.
“During the game, I can use the chat feature to write brief instructions
to my son where I encourage him to do certain tasks,” explains Stam. “He reads my chat
and gives response by writing his own commands to me.” Through the game, her son has not just improved his literacy skills, he’s also taken an interest in translating English to Swedish, is now using both Google and Wikipedia research tools and he has even started to publish his own YouTube videos. The sandbox environment that Minecraft offers him with is much easier for him to experiment in and this has provided enormous benefits.
“In the game world he is confident, he dares to try things and, above
all, he feels good,” Stam says. “He makes new friends in the game, he
gets to practice his social skills.” It’s a great story to hear and, of course, it certainly isn’t the first time someone’s talked about the educational value of Minecraft. I doubt it’s going to be the last, either.