To some adults it may just seem like video games, but an award winning social studies teacher has obtained a grant for using Minecraft to teach government and economics.
Erich Utrie will use the $17,500 grant at Jefferson Middle School to stimulate innovation among his students who are interested in real world economics, government, and societies.
The Entertainment Software Association awarded the grant to fund Utrie’s proposed project, “Minecraft: Government and Economics.”
Among the purchases the grant money will cover are software and hardware, including a mobile laptop cart complete with 30 brand-new laptop computers.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Minecraft is similar to Legos, except the building occurs virtually rather than physically.
The format is an open-ended “sandbox” where players can build their world and interact with each other. Numerous modifications can be created, and the Minecraft.edu platform being used in the school allows for the administrator (Utrie) to set up specific limitations regarding use and content.
One of the relatively recent trends in education has been research around utilizing “games” as learning tools, and the results are showing much promise for improved student learning.
“The primary purpose for this proposed project is to provide a flexible and creative learning tool for students to learn the foundational concepts of government and economics, Utrie explained. “The beauty of Minecraft is that it has existing credibility with teenagers as a fun and engaging endeavor.
Utie added that it also provides the flexibility teachers need to meet students’ ever-changing needs.
“A textbook or a map on the wall is a static resource that students may not identify with,” he said. “The ‘sandbox’ nature of Minecraft meshes perfectly with the constructivist teaching philosophy that can provide unique and novel teaching moments on a daily basis.
The teacher said that by utilizing this structure, students will be able to build a society from the ground up and wrestle with some of the same fundamental challenges grappled with by the Founding Fathers.