Brick by Brick

What if you could visit the international space station with your students to show them what a module looks like, how science is done in space, and have them create a prototype of a new module of their own? What if you could walk through the streets of your town as it was when it experienced a major flooding event, then go back and create a design to help prevent that flood. And what if your students could join with thousands of other students from all over the world to create a 1-1 replica of their own town or important landmark and add it to a globally accessible file to share with anyone who wants to visit? All of this is possible, with Minecraft.

ISTE standard 1.7.d states that students should “explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.” (ISTE, 2016). This standard has vexed me for some time, as I primarily work with students ages 5 – 12. Finding interesting connections to global and local issues, where the issues are relatable and about topics that are approachable by my students, and where they can interact with these problems on their own levels, is very challenging! Since “virtual worlds can motivate children to learn specific concepts through immersion and play” (Mørch, 2021), using Minecraft helps students to make more broad connections to content than merely reading or watching a video about a topic. They become active participants in the learning and are co-creating solutions to challenges. Additionally, students react positively when they hear they are going to play Minecraft in class. Minecraft in the classroom is not new, Minecraft has been around for over a decade now and their Education arm was released in 2016 (Wikimedia, 2023), however it continues to be a hit with students and teacher alike and it continues to add more resources often.

When considering any new technology tool, I like to look at it with two lenses. I consider the TPaCK match (Koehler, 2012), and the SAMR scale (SAMR model, n.d.). If I were to evaluate the use of a Minecraft Education experience with my students I would consider if I asking students to demonstrate their learning in a way that was more than just substitution, for example, not just make a model of the setting from a story, which could be done in a drawing or a diorama, but to also create a video acting out a specific scene, which incorporates more understanding on their part, but also more features available in this medium (Mørch, 2019). I could also consider if the specific task was a good match for the content being studied and by whom: asking a 5th grader to create a model of an important local landmark and sending it to the Build the Earth Project is a nice way to incorporate local history and global awareness for that grade level, meeting some awesome TPaCK targets.

Rivercraft, a Minecraft Education activity.

Advice for Educators

If you plan on using Minecraft in the classroom, here are a few tips to make it more Educational than just Minecraft.

  • Level the playing field for your students by giving them a tutorial. This is desirable when introducing any new tool, but especially where students may be coming in with different levels of experience this is a big challenge. It’s worth the time to make sure that everyone knows how to move, break and add blocks, and access their inventory. Fortunately, there are a bunch of pre-built tutorials for these skills already in Minecraft Education. Also, if you are unfamiliar with Minecraft, you should do the tutorials too!
  • Remember to review the TPaCK and SAMR levels of the specific task and demonstration. Not all Minecraft activities will reach the same levels of rigor, nor should they!
  • Balance the task with the time you are willing to spend. Mørch found that time vs rigor was a big challenge! (2019)

Some cool projects that really meet ISTE standard 1.7.d that I’m looking forward to trying with students are referenced below. Of note, a new project coming out of Illinois which uses Minecraft, CodingCraft (a mod that allows students to program a Turtle, or robot,), and big real world challenges. Also of note, the Build the Earth challenge, which would be super fun to do with a series of classes where each class recreates a local landmark and researches why it’s important to the area.


Mørch, L. Mifsud, & Siv Eie. (2019). Developing a Model of Collaborative Learning with Minecraft for Social Studies Classrooms Using Role-play Theory and Practice. DOI: 10.22318/cscl2019.272

CBC Kids News. (2020, November 19). Building the Earth in minecraft | CBC kids news. [Video] YouTube. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from

Challenges. (2022). Retrieved March 5, 2023, from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE standard: students. ISTE.

Koehler, M. (2012, Sept 24). TPACK explained.

Lane, H. C. (2021). Cultivating creativity to integrate computation and science problem solving in informal learning. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from

Lessons. (2022). Retrieved March 5, 2023, from

Microsoft. (2022). Turning the tide – a new minecraft world is inspiring children to tackle flooding and climate change. Microsoft News Centre UK. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from

Samr Model. (n.d.). Hippasus. Retrieved 2023, from

Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, March 5). Minecraft. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2023, from,-Minecraft%20Education%20(known&text=An%20initial%20beta%20test%20was,MacOS%20on%201%20November%202016.

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