Minecraft has been touted as a powerful tool in classrooms by hundreds of teachers in dozens of countries, and it isn't hard to see why. Incredibly adaptable, strong for hands-on examples and learning, and more directly engaging than simply committing dry facts and figures to memory, Minecraft is rapidly gaining traction in education in lesson plans around the world. However, one educational adviser in London believes the game may be actively harmful to learning.
Tom Bennett, described as an "adviser to ministers about classroom behavior," said: “I am not a fan of Minecraft in lessons. This smacks to me of another gimmick which will get in the way of children actually learning. Removing these gimmicky aspects of education is one of the biggest tasks facing us as teachers. We need to drain the swamp of gimmicks.” He went on to present more traditional media, such as books, as more efficacious for learning.
The interesting thing about his presentation is what discussions haven't been had about Minecraft in classrooms on a larger scale: what, objectively, are the pros and cons of using a game as an educational tool? Plenty of opinions exist on the topic (which can be found nearly anywhere, including right here), but how much empirical data exists detailing the actual effects of doing so? At present, very few (if any) hard studies seem to exist on the subject, leaving it to open speculation, rife with often heated (and subjective) debate. Until such studies surface, we are left with anecdotal accounts on the matter. Whether or not readers agree with Mr. Bennett's opinion, he makes an unavoidable point that hard proof is painfully scarce in supporting or condemning how useful a tool games are in classrooms.
What experiences do you have with Minecraft in the classroom, as student or teacher? Do you think it helps, or hurts?