Minecraft: an accidental pedagogical breakthrough

Minecraft: an accidental pedagogical breakthrough

Minecraft: an accidental pedagogical breakthrough

“MoMA to exhibit videogames, from Pong to Minecraft” (Wired, November 2012). When I came across this article, I became a bit more confident about a gut feeling I had regarding Minecraft (I have been driving my colleagues crazy about its pedagogical potential). Minecraft [is one of the] leading examples of games and services that enrich people’s lives through collaboration and collective action (Amy Jo Kim).

The first time I came across Minecraft, I was surprised! The excitement of kids happily playing together for hours, exchanging ideas, building strategies, and all I could see on the screen were very simple Lego-type forms. No prizes. No applause. No competition. Just thrill and enjoyment about creating together!

What is Minecraft?

Minecraft provides a space where by placing blocks you build anything you wish. The game involves players creating and destroying various types of three-dimensional environments.  The player takes part as an avatar that can interact with his or other players’ “worlds.” The game, also, allows for group “servers,” generated by the players themselves, where a common environment is created through collaboration on building, destroying, advancing and supporting each one’s avatars against unexpected “dangers.”

Strengthening Social Skills

Kids can personalize the environment so as to provide them with a sense of security to exercise their skills with determination in order to face and overcome physical and social challenges. Games that allow for cooperative interaction bolster the initiative of kids to reach out for others and at the same time help them understand how their actions affect others. Such environments enforce collaborative problem solving, where kids learn about each other’s skills and individual paces, strengthening and fostering group actions.

Yes I Can

Minecraft intelligently allows for freedom and creativity, features that could “inhibit” less confident players, by offering structures that can be destroyed at the pace at which the player feels ready to act upon the environment. Anyone presented with a blank paper could feel uneasy and even threatened, while if presented with something that can be changed according to one’s will, a feeling of “Yes I Can” is awakened.


Minecraft boosts a world of skills such as exploration, gathering resources, crafting, maintenance, decision making, etc., also provided by similar games where the player has to choose or construct different combinations of objects in order to survive, having to manage food, health, shelter and other basic resources. These skills are exercised in a virtual world, bringing kids to start to understand each one’s role and responsibility about the ecosystem they are a part of.


This open-ended game attracts a wide range of kids since they can adapt the environment according to their liking and abilities.

Let’s Play   

Notch, Minecraft’s creator, is still astonished by the impact of the game, which he says he did not develop with much thought besides the one of creating a game he would have fun playing with.

In Education

An adaptation of the game for the classroom, MinecraftEdu, has been developed by teachers for teachers:

An example of the use of Minecraft in educational settings can be found in the blog and videos of Elfie, a secondary school teacher in Australia.


By: Cecilia waismann