A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Matt Toder and I visited a second-grade class that is being taught - mostly during school hours - how to play Minecraft. We'd heard about it and read about it. We had to see it.
It's real. And the kids, well, they're learning in ways we sure wish we could have when we were young.
You may have heard about the class before, possibly from us or even at Levin's popular Minecraft Teacher blog. We're happy to be the first people to show you what actually happens in the Minecraft classroom.
Minecraft Class is happening at the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on the Upper West Side of New York City. It's really just computer class for the school's second-graders. And the so-called Minecraft Teacher is the unassuming Joel Levin, who cooked up the wild idea of taking the open-ended game and turning it into a learning space for his students. I'd seen Civilization being taught in classrooms before. That was fine. It teaches civics, sort of. But this was more like giving kids a three-dimensional canvas that they could turn into a shared world, one they had to learn how to live in happily together.
On the Wednesday that we attended, Levin taught two groups of second-graders, about a dozen kids per class and then an after-school session that included fourth-graders and an eighth-grader who served as an assistant teacher. They play on a server set up by Levin, one whose world he's tweaked for the kids: no monsters (one little girl in the class cheered about that), perpetual daytime. He let his kids explore structures he'd made and, later during our visit, began teaching them to build.
In the video, you'll mostly see the second-grade classes, who are mostly led through the lessons. You'll also briefly see some footage of a mansion being built. That's what the fourth-graders and other after school kids made in no time flat, after voting on what to build together (technically they mashed up two ideas: mansion and water park).
It's amazing, Levin told us, how much more a fourth-grader can do than a second-grader. It's also amazing that kids get to do this in school these days. Lucky them.
Thank you to Levin, all of his students and their parents for letting us visit.