Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Note from the Minecraft Underground- Expertise, Mining and Music

  by  Andrew Beeston 
We had the TechEDGE 12 conference on campus two weeks ago. Rick Marlatt presented about Minecraft. He was excited about the presentation but I was secretly worried that very few will come to his presentation. Most of the participants teach or plan to teach in Elementary schools and I was not sure they will be excited about minecraft. Well I was utterly wrong. The session was full of faculty current and future teachers.

In conversations with my students afterwards I got the gist. For example M said "students talk about Minecraft all the time I have to at least find out what it is. They take turns reading the few Minecraft books we have".

Ann Brown called young students universal novices, at the same time we all strive for competency usually stemming from our areas of expertise be it football, brain science, or Harry Potter trivia. Minecraft provides a niche of expertise. Compared to most adults even fairly beginning Minecrafters have expertise. Minecraft has a rich vocabulary that includes complex words like bedrock, obsidian, and creepers to name a few. Jargon flies whenever students get together. And practice, practice, practice, hours of effort go into it.

This is very similar to what happens to students as they learn to play an instrument. They practice, get better, and with others get a sense of growing expertise. At the same time they watch others play with new eyes and new understanding. Slowly they learn new vocabulary and can communicate in ways that others not privee to this domain will not understand. Finally they get the experience of "being in the orchestra" a sense of collborating and sharing with your peers sensing a whole greater than the sum.

The worlds with their unique construction and opportunities allow students to become experts and learn not just about skill and  citizenship but also about what it feels like being an expert.

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