Team ISTE
Maker-Minecraft mashup brings social studies to life

Making allows students to learn by doing and solve problems by tinkering, trial and error. Minecraft is a 3D sandbox game, which has made its way into classrooms because it engages students across a range of subjects. Imagine the learning that happens when these two popular education movements are combined.

The outcome is a powerhouse of student engagement, says Mike Washburn, head of computer science at Richmond Hill Montessori & Elementary Private School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  In his mind, games shouldn't be relegated to the fringes in classrooms. Educators should leverage them to engage students and drive new ways of thinking.

And when it comes to teaching social studies, a subject that often gets a bad rap when supported by only worksheets and textbook reading, incorporating Minecraft can create an explosion of learning. Game playing takes the " "boring" " right out of it and can be a highly successful way to teach social studies, Washburn argues.

Following social studies lessons about the Middle Ages, for instance, students can be tasked with creating a castle in Minecraft where they can include significant detail both inside and outside to show what they've learned.

" "I focus on the idea that this is a culminating activity that many teachers have actually done before. Now, we're just taking that same old activity and turning it into an opportunity for students to show their passion and creativity in a way they love," " Washburn says.

Washburn will present his ideas during his BYOD session, The Minecraft Makerspace, at ISTE 2015. If you sign up for this preregistration event, bring your virtual diamond pick ax and get ready to complete a K-8 social studies assignment the Minecraft way. 

You'll get a social studies assignment that involves creating a structure or community that reflects a specific culture and asked to create it within a Minecraft multiplayer server.

Along the way, you'll learn about the pedagogy and theory behind the approach and why students and teachers alike should be playing games in class.

" "You'll come away smiling because you played video games at an education conference and left inspired by the possibilities," " Washburn predicts. " "Most of all, I hope people leave knowing the opportunities for video games in education are endless." "

Want to find out more about maker movement sessions at ISTE 2015? Sign up for Preview ISTE 2015 and get a sneak peek at the session Smash, Mash and Hack Your Way to Your Own Dynamic Makerspace. Preview ISTE is free, so what are you waiting for? Sign up today.