Minecraft: the classroom edition

Here's a great profile of The Minecraft Teacher, AKA Joel Levin, who teaches a computer class at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in Manhattan where he makes extensive use of Minecraft. He assigns complex team-tasks in Minecraft that blend open-ended exploration with problem-solving and cooperation. It's a really clever way of using games as a teaching tool:

"From day one, the kids are all playing together in a single world," explained Levin. "They must share resources, take turns, work together, and, frankly, be nice to each other. This is usually the first time these kids have had to think about these concepts in a game, but it goes hand in hand with the big picture stuff they are learning in their homerooms. It's amazing to see how many real world issues get played out in the microcosm of the game. Kids have territorial disputes over where they are building. Kids have said mean things to each other within the game or have been destructive with each other's creations."

Levin actually views these negative behaviors as a positive aspect of the lesson, and will often stop the game to address these concerns. He sees it as a way to help shape the way his students behave in an online environment, showing them the importance of acting in a responsible and considerate manner.

"Hopefully they will remember some of these lessons when they finally get Facebook accounts a few years down the road," he told Ars.

Educational building blocks: how Minecraft is used in classrooms