10 Simple Ideas for Minecraft in the Classroom @ #EdCampDetroit

If you’re a parent with children of gaming age, or a teacher that hasn’t been hiding in a bubble of luddite ideals, Minecraft is huge! So much so that LEGO has gone on record as wishing they had built it and Microsoft bought it for a cool 2.5 billion dollars late last year; yes, that’s billion. It’s a juggernaut, and while I’ve played with it off and on for a few years alongside my daughter and DS106 folks, I haven’t really dipped into the Minecraft EDU waters; a special version of Minecraft made just for classrooms. For those that have explored Minecraft in the classroom already, these ideas may not be terribly new, innovative, or informative; it’s just a place for me to gather some good starting points as I begin to explore the world of Minecraft beyond  the playful building I’ve experienced.

If you want a quick idea of what Minecraft EDU is all about, the PBS Idea Channel did a great short piece with the Joel Levin, the man behind it!

Special thanks to Marnie Diem (@getteaching) for sharing the following thoughts, tips, and experiences she’s had this year with Minecraft in her classroom. I was fortunate to sit in on her session at EdCamp Detroit this weekend.

  • Have students mine various ores, minerals, and materials then sort them based on various classifications and properties
  • Recreate historical events and places with a collaborative class build
  • Challenge students to build their school (in scale) to talk about measurement, proportions, etc.
  • Help teach students how to code using the Minecraft mod, “Learn to Mod”
  • Practice cooperative learning by sharing devices and establishing student roles (navigator, builder, etc.)
  • Engage students in expository writing by having them write reflectively about their Minecraft building experiences
  • Students can explore economic concepts and develop entrepreneurial skills by creating their own businesses within Minecraft to sell services or goods
  • Introduce concepts of electricity and simple circuity through the use of redstone circuits
  • Rent your own Minecraft Realm or server for students to create a world online accessible at school and home
  • Play with science concepts like heredity through the breeding of animals

The growth of playful learning and virtual worlds that encourage exploration and discovery makes me jealous of my colleagues that are still in the classroom. I’m often asked if I wish I still had students, and the truth is that there are days when I’m tempted to leave my desk in the technology office to go back into the classroom; perhaps I can find a classroom to adopt me for next school year.


  1. Hi Ben, I’ve been showing Minecraft/MinecraftEdu to teachers over here for a few months. If you dont have a chance to look at MinecraftEdu this month feel free to commandeer my machine up at RITS.

    1. I’m actually contemplating getting a Minecraft server for my daughter and her friends so I have an excuse to play some more with it and see how it compares to MinecraftEDU. If you had enough students with individual accounts you could theoretically get a monthly server on the cheap.

      Thanks for the offer. I’m not a RITS member, so I can’t take you up on it, but I’m sure I can find a few people interested here in the district.

      1. My daughter is about halfway through the Learn-to-Mod modules and we both really like it. I paid for it before it came out in January, but educators can get it for free.

        There’s also an online Minecraft camp from the Institute of Play this summer. You can pay for access to their structure community, or get the resources for free and develop your own community. http://www.instituteofplay.org/2015/03/make-it-a-minecraft-summer-register-for-a-new-online-camp/

  2. Ben,
    Thank you so much for sharing this. My fifth grade students love Minecraft and I have always wondered if there was a way to incorporate it into my classroom. This post really helped me wrap my head around how to use this in an educational way and made me more familiar with the program.

  3. Ben,

    This is such an encouraging post. I am an elementary school teacher and I believe that it is so important to be able to engage our students and teach them to be 21st century learners and develop modern technology skills. My students have been very interested in Minecraft these last few years and I’ve wondered in the past how I could somehow incorporate it into our lessons. I must admit that I never thought about actually letting them play Minecraft at school…I just thought that talking about it would have to suffice, but your post shows all of the meaningful ways that you can incorporate the game. Especially if it was used as an on-going project throughout the year, this would be a wonderful way to incorporate technology, target the Common Core State Standards, integrate the different disciplines, inspire creativity, and keep students engaged. These are aspects that will create life-long learners. Thank you for all of your inspiring posts. I really like how you have technology suggestions that are separated by subject.

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