The inexorable spread of MinecraftEdu continues. More than 3000 schools are now using TeacherGaming’s adapted block-rocking game in the classroom, and 200 of them are teaching children using Minecraft in the UK.
Evidently, some of their parents are journalists - BBC Breakfast broadcast a special report on the game’s use in a Barnsley school this morning. It was a bit frustrating, frankly.
“School games lessons are taking on a very different meaning,” he punningly tells viewers - describing Minecraft as “highly addictive” on more than one occasion during the feature’s three-minute running time.
The lessons he’s investigating see primary-age children play Minecraft and then write down their experiences the very moment they log out of the game. Designed to help boys in particular engage with creative writing, it’s a celebration of emergent gaming in the classroom. It’s genuinely wonderful stuff to witness.
“Some games you have to stick to boundaries,” says one enamoured young boy. “But in Minecraft you can go wherever you want.”
That’s an expression of pure freedom. Is there any better advert for the medium? But here it’s framed as a cause for worry - immediately followed by a question about Minecraft’s addictive qualities.
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Asked whether MinecraftEdu are enabling an addiction, TeacherGaming CEO Santeri Koivisto was unambiguous: “No.”
“We are encouraging teachers to use what kids are already doing at home for their advantage at school,” he went on. “They can use their natural motivation that comes from games at school, for their learning.”
They’re doing something right: TeacherGaming worked with Google on qCraft, a Minecraft mod pack designed to teach quantum physics. And they’ve since expanded their reach to include KerbalEdu - a space program for schools.
It’s clear BBC Breakfast take Minecraft seriously: they followed the feature with a chat on the studio sofa opposite Dr Esther MacCallum-Stewart, senior lecturer of digital media arts at the University of Surrey.
Scary but fun! Talked Minecraft on BBC Breakfast this morning. Managed two 'digging holes' but not 'made by a single maaaan'
— Esther M-S (@neveahfs) June 20, 2014
But the report’s relentless angling is wearing. The implication is that Minecraft’s taking up valuable brain space otherwise reserved for essential skills like, er, handwriting. But the teachers are steadfast in their conviction that the game provides a conduit between children with short attention spans and their latent creative abilities.
To condemn that under a veil of objectivity seems a deeply sad thing to us. What do you think?