ABS Consulting Group, Inc.: Home | Blog | Resume | Speaking | Publications

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Building Minecraft in Planning, Design, Spatial Literacy and other Curricula

I read James Fee and Dale Lutz thoughts on how Minecraft, a computer game of building and defending areas of our earth, had made their sons both decent 3D designers and more savvy about sustainability.

Lutz wrote on the It's All About Data Blog:
I found this out first hand recently when, the night before doing a webinar on 3D, I asked my 15 year old son to whip me up a model of the Barseb├Ąck Nuclear Power Plant using Minecraft. In a matter of minutes, he had the model on the right for me.
Fee wrote on the Spatially Adjusted Blog:
It all came to me when Connor said he wished he hadn’t dug such a big hole because the sheep and pigs kept falling into it (that’s pretty funny out of context, but you’ll get over it). So while I was building my Fort out by the sea, he went back to restoring the hillside so it not only looked good, but could support trees, flowers and bushes. We talked about creating a rail line between our two forts and he wanted to make sure it was routed around area’s he wanted to protect.
These gentleman are very savvy geospatial professionals and so far as I can tell, great Dads, they are not explicitly educators. That said, I've learned quite a bit from both of them over the years. And, they are on to something with Minecraft, a game born in Stockholm.

It turns out that at least one school in Sweden requires students to work with the game. Or as The Local, the Swedish English language paper, puts is, "Swedish school makes Minecraft a must." The Viktor Rydberg school teaches lessons using the game to about 180 13 year olds. What do they learn? Per one teacher: “They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future.”

Many of the boys, it seems, know of the game already, but girls were not deterred and began building, too. Instructors compare it to shop or art class; it's about making things and reworking them to make them better. As Fee points out, this is very much the idea behind geodesign, the more spatially aware vision for thoughtful, iterative planning.

How did Minecraft get into this school? A nationwide "Future City" competition asked students how to make education better in Sweden and one suggestion was using Minecraft.

I wonder if STEM, geography and other educators are willing to set GIS aside for a moment to consider the role Minecraft might play. What standards could it address? What areas of critical thinking? What areas of spatial literacy? A quick search turned up a few scattered uses of Minecraft in geography education, but nothing too mature...yet.