Many educators would love to tap into the power of Minecraft to engage students in classroom content. With MinecraftEdu, a special version of Minecraft designed specifically for teachers to use in their classrooms, they can.
MinecraftEdu offers a simple way to set up a classroom server and provide mods with features and capabilities not available at Minecraft.net. These mods make it easier for students to navigate, and they allow educators more control over how students use the game. Here are my top five most useful MinecraftEdu mods and a little about what each of them does.
CustomNPCs This mod allows you to script the behaviors of the computer-controlled characters (NPCs) that kids encounter in the Minecraft world. You could create a magician who gives quests to the students to go out and explore or create curators in a museum who explain about each exhibit.
Rei’s MiniMap This is a mod that automatically displays a top-down view of the world so students can find their way more easily. It also provides the locations of other players, or waypoints, that you can set up. I found that this made it much easier for my students to feel they were part of a community of other players.
BiblioCraft BiblioCraft allows you to customize the appearance and behavior of books in the Minecraft world. Shane Asselstine (@HikariKishi), an elementary teacher, has his students create journal reflections in virtual Minecraft books and they “turn them in” by placing them on bookshelves in the Minecraft Library building. They can also export books to Word documents. This is a fun way to encourage kids to write while they are still inside the game.
ComputerCraftEdu This amazing mod allows you to teach students the basics of coding and programming, all within the Minecraft world. Students can program little robots, or turtles, by giving them sets of instructions. They can automate common tasks such as collecting wood or excavating terrain. It’s a great introduction to coding for kids.
QCraft This unique Minecraft mod, developed with Google and CalTech, teaches the basics of quantum physics through interactions with a modified set of rules that affect how the familiar Minecraft world behaves. Students can play around with seemingly paradoxical and counterintuitive situations in Minecraft that are analogous to how quantum entities are believed to interact. The website has a complete curriculum guide with lessons and videos available.
Douglas Kiang is an Apple Distinguished Educator with over 20 years of teaching experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He teaches computer science at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii, and holds a master’s degree in technology, innovation and education from Harvard.