Friday, September 09, 2016

Learning with Minetest Part 3: Impact on the Students

This blog post is part of a series of posts exploring the concept of using the Minetest game as a learning platform in a primary school. Click below to access the other posts:

Learning with Minetest Part 1: Rolling out Minetest in Pre-Primary
Learning with Minetest Part 2: Activities and Aims
Learning with Minetest Part 3: Impact on the Students

Our Minetest experiment has ended for the moment. During the last month my Pre-Primary and Junior Primary students have been exploring the game Minetest in their IT time. This post will discuss the impact that Minetest had on the students.

Spatial awareness:
Students have had to learn how to use both the keyboard and mouse independently. Minetest has been an enormous motivator for children to become comfortable with manipulating the controls with both hands working independently of each other. I have been surprised by how quickly the reluctant children became able to move around the game world. Every child that played was able to complete the basic movement training within half an hour, even those who had never played Minecraft.

Social and emotional development:

Many discussions were had about in-game appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Children asked permission when working in another person’s building space, collaborated together on activities and also dealt with situations that were not positive. Every class used a ruleset which emphasised appropriate behaviour and we used that as a framework to structure how we played the game. Multiplayer games are extremely common in this age range and much as we model correct choices and behaviour in the classroom, Minetest was a great space to model appropriate choices and behaviour in an online space.

Opportunities for social modelling and development.
Problem solving and logical thinking:

Students navigated a 3D world space and created structures in it. They had to design what they wanted to build, gather resources for it, work out the different properties and mechanics of the game world and adjust their plans based on other builders. Some children began to investigate deeper mechanics such as creating tools to increase complexity of what could be built.

Digital skills (online safety):

All students discussed the difference between playing on the internet at home and playing Minetest in a school environment. We talked about safety when playing on the internet and the differences in the rules due to Minetest being played with a teacher. Much of the online safety discussion intersected with the social and emotional development aspects, as we talked about our behaviour in a game-space and how we could work together in a positive way. The Grade 3 classes talked about ‘trolling’ and ‘griefing’ (destructive/abusive behaviour) in online games and what we could do about it.


Even though we have only ran Minetest as a pilot for 1 or 2 sessions per class, I the students developed a lot of key skills. Some of these were deliberate aims, such as digital skills and online safety, but many developed that I hadn’t considered before running the game:

Areas of the JP Technology Skills Checklist 2016 (Grade 3) that were developed using Minetest:
  • Interface
    • Mouse - 
      • Left, right and double click
      • Scrolling
      • Using hand/wrist to move mouse instead of entire arm
    • Keyboard - 
      • Functions of enter key and spacebar
      • Improving typing and keyboard fluency
  • Internet and research
    • Collaboration using technology
  • Digital skills (online safety)
    • Safe browsing: inappropriate websites, advert and pop-up navigation
    • Personal information safety, nicknames and login names - who needs to know?
    • Collaborating productively in an online space, how to handle conflict in a shared space
    • Cyber-bullying, appropriate behaviour online
Minetest is a highly engaging platform for student learning.
Minetest is a learning tool that is highly motivating for children because it mimics many gameplay elements of the popular Minecraft game. Minetest is appealing as a teacher because much of the uncertainty of online play has been removed, we only run our game within the computer lab. Because of this, it allows Minetest to be available to use to pursue learning goals. A 3D world space where the students can create their own structures makes it an ideal place to explore perimeter and area. The cube-shaped blocks allow for construction challenges or counting games. Schools around the world have used Minecraft in all areas of their curriculum and Minetest can work in a similar role.

If Minetest was used again in the computer labs I think that I would see it’s value as a learning tool increase now that most children that I teach are comfortable with the basics of playing the game.

I hope that you enjoyed this series on using Minetest. Please feel free to contact me on Twitter (@moniquefranzsen) to chat about using games for learning.

Previous - Learning with Minetest Part 2: Activities and Aims

No comments:

Post a Comment