Minecraft and Technology Integration Framework


Most of us have used a word processor, spreadsheets, or email at one time or another in our careers. Yet, the integration of these technologies can be a challenge for so many. Minecraft is no different, and I would argue that it is even more intimidating that the previously mentioned technologies as there is an even bigger chance that you have never used it!

Over the past several years I have had the honor of presenting on Minecraft, game based learning, and virtual learning environments to countless people from the UK to South America. They come to learn about the value, they see the work being done in my classes with students ranging from 3rd to 6th grade, and they ask questions. Many of them ask this one question, "How do I get started?" It is a deceptively simple question and with a much more complex answer, if only because we are all at different points. So I tell them, "You most definitely want to get in and start playing the game, but you also need to understand that we all started by punching that first tree or digging that first block of grass."

For one reason or another you have come here to read this post and that is a very good sign that you are ready to get started! One of the things that have helped me balance where I am in Minecraft and the effective integration of it in my classroom comes from frameworks like SAMR, Bloom's Taxonomy, and Rigor and Relevance. You can learn more about them from the links provided at the bottom of this page. For the rest of this post, I wanted to share with you how Minecraft could look within the different stages of a framework to build a successful integration.

Substitution / Quadrant A

This is probably going to be the first stop on your journey, it's not something to be ashamed of. I feel we all must start here to get a deeper understanding of what we are doing. The basic idea behind this is that you are taking a learning target and bringing it into Minecraft, with very little change to how you would do it in a traditional lesson. The learning target is probably simple, straightforward, and comes from a single subject area.

In the sample lesson, students will simply be demonstrating that they can add and subtract utilizing Minecraft materials. The goal here is to get in the game, and have your students teach you a thing or two, while still making the lesson far more engaging than many traditional methods. The settings for the maps below will help the lesson flow and provide opportunity for new players to get their feet wet. The activity easy and can be completed several times, providing time for you to visit each student.

  • Minecraft Map Settings
    • Singleplayer map
    • Gamemode: Creative
    • Difficulty: Peaceful
    • Cheats: Off
    • Always Day: On
    • World Type: Flat
  • Bloom's: Remembering
  • Subject areas: Math
  • Standard:
    • Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
  • Activity:
    • Each student is instructed to get a chest from the inventory and place it on the ground.
    • The teacher will call out a material and a number, students will find and collect it from the inventory.
    • The teacher can call out a number having the students practice adding or subtracting using the standard algorithm.
    • Students place the number of items into the chest for assessment.

Augmentation / Quadrant B

In your journey to integration of Minecraft, this is just another stop! You may find that often in future lessons, as you get familiar with Minecraft, this will become your starting point. To reach this type of integration, you are going to want to step it up from the previous one. You want to be taking students beyond recalling facts and basic concepts, towards explaining and using the information across multiple content areas.

The learning target may still be addition and subtraction, but you should be looking to change different aspects of the lesson. So in my example, I have added another math learning target as well as a social studies component. Taking this lesson into an area where you can start to see the thinking of the students change and encourages them to make connections. Notice that the map settings are also evolving, don't underestimate changes to the learning environment. First of all, student are being put into a multiplayer environment, working with a partner, and the world is now an "old" type survival, this provides students with the opportunity to collaborate and explore with more autonomy.

  • Minecraft Map Settings
    • Multiplayer map: Pairs
    • Gamemode: Survival
    • Difficulty: Peaceful
    • Cheats: Off
    • Always Day: On
    • World Type: Old
  • Bloom's: Understanding and applying
  • Subject areas: Math and Social Studies
  • Standard:
    • Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
    • Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted.
    • Describe the theories of early migrations from parts of Polynesia to Hawaii, including migration myths and legends
  • Activity:
    • Students will discuss the reasons and preparations made by cultures, such as the the ancient Polynesians, prior to large expeditions.
    • Student will be given time to determine the necessary supplies for an expedition in Minecraft that will last for 15 days.
    • Students will be given 2 Minecraft days to gather and categorize the supplies, giving a summary before they leave on the expedition.

Modification / Quadrant C

The journey continues with this stop and hopefully by this level you are starting to see things differently when you think about lessons in Minecraft.

The keys to reaching this level of integration include moving towards applying and analyzing. There are so many opportunities to bring in a wide range of learning targets and these lessons start to replicate real world situations! At this point there has definitely been significant changes to the lesson and learning targets.

Continuing with our lesson example, the learning target we started with is still there, but we have added to it. Let's add even more! Looking at this new lesson, we have added an aspect of science. The students will still be utilizing those math skills, learning from ancient civilizations, and now they will be gaining a deeper understanding of the food requirements, by running experiments. In life we are constantly analyzing and evaluating situations so that we can try to make the best decisions.

Again, the map settings have been adjusted from the previous example. We have changed the difficulty to easy, and turned off Always Day. Also there was an adjustment how students will work by changing from partners to small groups. This will provide students with an experience that provides ample opportunities to demonstrate critical thinking, problem solving, and citizenship.

  • Minecraft Map Settings
    • Multiplayer map: Small group
    • Gamemode: Survival
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Cheats: Off
    • Always Day: Off
    • World Type: Old
  • Bloom's: Applying, analyzing, and evaluating
  • Subject areas: Math, Science
  • Standard:
    • Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
    • Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted.
    • Describe the theories of early migrations from parts of Polynesia to Hawaii, including migration myths and legends
    • Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • Activity:
    • Students will discuss the reasons and preparations made by cultures, such as the the ancient Polynesians, prior to large expeditions.
    • Student will be given time to determine the necessary supplies for an expedition in Minecraft that will last for 15 days.
    • Students will be given 2 Minecraft days to gather and categorize the supplies, giving a summary before they leave on the expedition.
    • Students will design and test an experiment to help them determine the amount of food they will need for the expedition. They will then report on the analysis and evaluation of the estimated food they will require for the experiment.

Redefinition / Quadrant D

This "final" stop is where we hope to take our lessons with students. Before anything else is said, please know that although we strive to attain lessons that achieve redefinition or quadrant D, it is not expected that every single lesson be at this level. At this point you probably have noticed that lessons have become entirely new creations. Tasks at this level should be focused on evaluation and creation while providing students with real world unpredictable situations.

If you have stuck with me this long, just think back to our original lesson, and how far this journey has taken us. Look over the lesson at this level and see how we have provided students with a true learning experience that they will be able to share utilizing countless methods. We have added a writing component to this learning experience that provides students with a means to share and author pieces driven by the authentic experience they have gone through after a 15 day expedition with the class. No doubt there will have been arguments, compromise, and the full range of other emotions. Having learned about ancient civilizations and experiencing a similar adventure, they have gained a sense of empathy and understanding that could never have been reached with traditional methods. In this final version of the learning experience, we made some changes that will enable students to become completely immersed in the environment. We had the whole class work together and we changed the world to infinite. These changes provide an unprecedented level of rigor and give them ultimate control over the experience.

  • Minecraft Map Settings
    • Multiplayer map: Whole class
    • Gamemode: Survival
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Cheats: Off
    • Always Day: Off
    • World Type: Infinite
  • Bloom's: Evaluating and creating
  • Subject areas: Math, Social Studies, Science, and Language Arts
  • Standard:
    • Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
    • Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted.
    • Describe the theories of early migrations from parts of Polynesia to Hawaii, including migration myths and legends
    • Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
    • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • Activity:
    • Students will discuss the reasons and preparations made by cultures, such as the the ancient Polynesians, prior to large expeditions.
    • Student will be given time to determine the necessary supplies for an expedition in Minecraft that will last for 15 days.
    • Students will be given 2 Minecraft days to gather and categorize the supplies, giving a summary before they leave on the expedition.
    • Students will design and test an experiment to help them determine the amount of food they will need for the expedition. They will then report on the analysis and evaluation of the estimated food they will require for the experiment.
    • Students will go off on an expedition in Minecraft and at the end of the adventure, they will report back through a personal narrative that demonstrates a time where they overcame something unexpected.

So you may read this and wonder where to find the lesson plans or the worlds to run it, I cannot provide those to you as I came up with all of the ideas for the lessons as I was writing this post. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't writing about a learning experience I had not done for years, but rather...

...one that I might likely integrate into my curriculum now.

...one that had some rough edges that need to be smoothed and polished.

...one that any of you could have done right along with me, if you just started with a learning target.

My advice to you is this, start playing the game and talk to your students. Then, when you decide to start your own journey, feel free to contact me and let's talk.

Email: shane.asselstine@gmail.com

Twitter: @HikariKishi

Visit some of my other projects: Minecraft Projects

Mahalo for joining me on this journey.


Shane is the Technology Integration Specialist at Momilani Elementary School, HSTE Board Member, Minecraft Global Mentor, and the Code.org Facilitator for Hawaii. He has been integrating Minecraft  as part of his classes for several years with lessons ranging from economics to humanities. He is active in the Minecraft Community and as a Microsoft Minecraft Global Mentor focused on helping teachers integrate Minecraft into the classroom. Computer science has also been part of his curriculum providing students with a strong foundation through a variety of hands on and digital lessons. He has been presenting locally and internationally on the use of technology in education. Shane was awarded the ISTE Making It Happen Award in 2015 and is a PAEMST 2015 nominee.

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