Minecraft 07 Some Finished Grade 8 Ancient Greece Projects

Our grade 8 classes have wrapped up their first minecraft project recreating a scale version of an Ancient Greek structure. Accompanying the project were some calculations, and a video tour of their structure while describing the historical importance and architectural details.

Part of our challenge was getting the students to balance research and writing time with time throwing bricks in Minecraft. We learned that while there is certainly a creative element to the project, we wanted to see evidence of connections to the past - to represent their learning, not simply their creativity.

When I told the students we were moving on the the middle ages, they wanted to start making castles right away. I'm appreciating their enthusiasm and this next time, with our initial experience as our guide, we'll spend more time up front in inquiry and exploration at the library and online. It is important for each group to have a shared vision of the end product, and their own contributions to make in Minecraft so all are participating and valued. We'll work together constructing the criteria - what are the elements of a medieval community and what purposes did each serve - then co-construct a rubric for assessment.



  1. Denise says:

    I like how you have used Minecraft in your curriculum. It seems the students enjoyed it, and they are looking forward to making castles. I think that is always a challenge to have them do the research well first and then represent it in the final product. Sometimes students are satisfied with a very shallow understanding. I'm always looking for ways not only to deepen their understanding, but also their engagement and enthusiasm in going deeper.

    Can you tell me how they used Minecraft in class? Did they bring their own iPads or iPods? Or do you these devices in school? We are considered getting some iPads for junior high, so I'm always curious about how that's going to work. I would appreciate any suggestions!


    • milesmac says:

      Denise - thanks for the note. You're right, depth of engagement is always a challenge and having students think before producing can be a struggle. I wonder (and it just occurred to me) if ctrl-Z undo makes it easier to jump in to a project and then revise and edit as they go. Out thinking was conditioned with pencil and paper where edits were more challenging and more thought was given before committing to paper. The evidence, I guess would be how willing they are to revisit a piece of work to add depth, detail, and demonstrations of understanding.
      Presenting their Minecraft projects is done with video. They record a tour of their project with narration identifying the learning embedded in the project. It isn't hard to see, and for students themselves to recognize from one project to the next, depth of understanding. Some, of course focus more on esthetics and "value added" items like secret passages, or neat red stone tricks. I liken this to video projects where students took mo time to produce the blooper reel than the project itself.
      Still, when I watch groups working on their projects and listen to the conversations, there is a great deal of negotiating, creative thought and math reasoning going on.
      As for the hardware, we have a handful of old donated laptops that stand alone - no access to our network or the Internet (sadly) so the larger collaborative piece is not available to us. Students that have their own devices are encouraged to bring and use them. I set up a classroom wifi router (also not online) that allows their devices to connect and they can collaborate in the same virtual space on their own devices. Mostly they are iPod touch, iPhones and I have my own iPad. Once we get through this next project I'm planning on assembling some product and student reflection / self assessment pieces and proposing the school division purchase MinecraftEDU and set up server space for us to use.muntil then, we're taking what we have and getting on with it.
      Go for the iPads. So much you can do with them.

  2. Denise says:

    Thanks for the comments back. It sounds exciting what your students have done and are doing in your class!

    Since my last comment, we've decided to get laptops instead of iPads. I'm excited about that too. I was just looking at MinecraftEDU; I'll have to check into it for some of our laptops. I'm guessing there would be lots of applications in science and social studies.


    • milesmac says:

      For sure, there are a videos on YouTube with demonstrations of science and engineering applications. lots of inspiration and possibilities!

  3. Terri Reh says:

    This looks a little expensive. You need to pay $335 for 25 licenses AND $41 for unlimited classrooms? This doesn't make sense and is steep for most of us. Am I missing something?

    • milesmac says:

      Terri - $335 is for the game itself. One license for each computer. This lets students appear as individuals in the shared virtual world.
      $41 is for a management system teachers can use to moderate and manage how participants engage wi the game.
      While I haven't yet deployed the minecraft on a network, we ran stand-alone computers with one license. These are one-time costs. It is a fair chunk of cash, but there is so much you can do with Minecraft. Good value for the investment.

  4. Terri Reh says:

    OK, Miles,

    I did it. I bought Minecraft.edu and the school upgrade. All because I fell in love with the lesson you posted here. We teach the same topic so maybe we could emulate your lesson.
    I know very little about Minecraft other than my 14 year old boy meets with his robotics team
    to have a hugh group gaming night.

    Do you think it would be hard to create a collaborative project? Knowing what you know about the game?

    • milesmac says:

      Terri - super, I'm sure you'll find lots of application for it. I have yet to deploy it online with my students though we did experiment with a local area network in the class.
      Check http://massivelyminecraft.org/ for resources and projects with kids.
      For teacher created stuff for use with kids, check http://minecraftteacher.net/
      I didn't know much about it ever, but I could see the potential. Kids are the app experts and they teach me, but I really throw very few blocks.

  5. Greg Perry says:

    This looks fantastic and has inspired me to dip my toe into Minecraft in the curriulum. I have an after-school coding club using minetest.net and was looking for ways to cross over into the school day. I also teach Geography, so I think there are obvious things I could try.

    Any advice for when the students know *way* more about Minecraft than the teacher though? 🙂

    • milesmac says:

      At EdCampMSP this last weekend we had a chance to connect with Seann Dikkers who is investigating/researching virtual world gaming in education. He shared how a geography teacher was using minecraft to generate a virtual world, then had students identify land forms and bodies of water. Could probably go on to identify good locations for settlements, logical borders between regions, examine resource distribution etc.

      As far as students knowing more than me about the game? They do. I rarely play, and then, only just enough to understand the potential. I talk a lot with the students (and my 9 year old son) about the game. There are also plenty of YouTube videos showing possibilities.

  6. [...] locations, buildings, statues and artifacts. It would be a brilliant tool for this purpose. Click here to visit a teachers example of how he used it in an Ancient Greece unit (see photos of the [...]

  7. Brendon Usher says:

    it is expensive how did you get the funds and how did you get the prinsable to agree when/if you get in to inventing try making the inventions work like tele graph use pistons to tap on ground conected to a button if you need minecraft help i will be happy to try to explain

    • milesmac says:

      Brendon - the principal at my school is very supportive in that way. If a technology will help students learn, we can usually find the money to get what we need.
      I am excited about the inventing possibilities. Red stone, pressure plates and the rest add an interesting dimension to Minecraft. What kind of things have you invented? Thanks for offering your help!

  8. christina m says:

    Can you share your learning objectives and grading rubric?

    • milesmac says:

      Sent them to your e-mail address, Christina. Need to explore more issues of assessment and evaluation when using Minecraft for curriculum-based work. Keep in touch!

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