A parent may look at this image and see the eyes of their children glazing over, their fingers clicking mindlessly against the mouse and the monotonous tap tap tap of the keyboard. They can hear their children losing brain cells. Thoughts tumble about their minds, threatening to engulf the librarian:
“Why in the world is the library letting kids play a videogame? Isn’t this a place for books? The world is surely turning to rot.”
Minecraft is not your average shoot ’em up video game. It is a phenomenon with over 23 million users and has the potential to hone communication skills, math and science skills and promote literacy. It is a blank canvas where the gamer can birth pink sheep from eggs in a glass castle by a molten lava sea. There is no end to its creativity and there is no right or wrong way to play. This type of freedom in a game gives players the space they need to problem solve and collaborate with each other. According to Bebbington, “some studies have shown that video games provide opportunities for learning by letting players think, talk and read; all key cognitive competencies that underpin information literacy skills” (2015). Minecraft creates a virtual community of learners and builders – players can create a space in which their story begins to be written. Minecraft fuels analytical thinking and social currency. Players are invited to chat during game play, they are encouraged to join discussion boards and are allowed to make commands – all of which require reading and writing skills.
There is an endless amount of research supporting the educational value that Minecraft offers. Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, have partnered with TeacherGaming to bring about MinecraftEdu to use in the classroom or in this case, the public library. It is intended to give the teacher or facilitator “full control over the experience” (Levin, 2016). Joel Levin, the creator of TeacherGaming and the Tumblr The Minecraft Teacher, a blog dedicated solely to using Minecraft for educational purposes, argues that “with Minecraft you explore historical worlds, set up science experiments, write stories, or learn to program a computer” (2016). The public library is not a classroom, however, it is an affinity space for ideas, information and excitement. I believe that Minecraft programming falls into those three categories. It gives children and teens the space to thrive, connect, read, laugh and learn without the expectations placed upon them at school. Librarians do not need to become expert gamers, but people who are open to a new kind of literacy learning activity and willing to engage children and teens in the language they already speak.
Learn more about how to use Minecraft in your public library with MinecraftEdu.
If you want to take a peek at the endless creativity that Minecraft fosters, take a look at this amazing youtube video here by Watchmojo.com of the top 10 Minecraft creations.