An Original Minecraft Game in Six Weeks

Posted Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 14:11
When online, is it safe or dangerous asks the signage in the simulated library created by 5th graders. Screenshot from "Digital Citizenship in Minecraft" game

Valerie Hill’s students can make a polished puppet show in minutes with an iPad app. When they’re finished, they say “Now what?” In the past, students might have spent an entire day making the actual puppets and performing the show. During her presentation at “Information Literacy and Gamification Using Minecraft,” Hill, a librarian for the Lewisville (Tex.) Independent School District, stressed the need for a balance of tradition and innovation. Games like Minecraft, which allow students to create embedded experiences, achieve this balance, she said.

Hill’s interest in virtual worlds and the changing scope of information literacy led to her and some of her 5th-grade students creating an original videogame within Minecraft. The game is a 3D library maze that challenges players to answer questions about digital citizenship. Those who complete the challenges will have demonstrated an understanding of basic digital citizenship and cyber safety. The students primarily used the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (PDF file) to write the questions.

Hill wanted a project that would use gamification to embed information literacy, let students lead a problem-based learning project, and get them excited about learning. It was the students who chose to have the embedded challenges focus on digital citizenship. Hill was thrilled with their choice, noting that we now live in a culture where people begin accumulating a digital footprint the minute their parents post pictures of them.

A small group of students met with Hill after school once a week for the project. Her role as librarian was to keep them on task and document progress. The project made use of MinecraftEDU, which is distinct from the Minecraft game that an individual would buy and download. MinecraftEDU allowed Hill to create a secure server for the project.

The final project is available on YouTube (7:01), and Hill is currently working with a second group of students on another MinecraftEDU project.

The session was sponsored by the ALA Virtual Communities in Libraries Membership Initiative Group.

T. J. SZAFRANSKI is the virtual services librarian at Lake Villa (Ill.) District Library. He tumbles @ANotionDeepInside where he shares some library thoughts and a lot of Bruce Springsteen thoughts.


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