SRDS 8th grade student, Alex Hollis, has had the opportunity for the past three years to assist graduate students at Hunter College in NYC and teach them how to use Minecraft. The class, Teaching Science in Elementary School, is offered during the summer and winter semesters for students in the Graduate School of Education and Technology. The goal of the course is for students to create a STEM-based science curriculum for use in the student teaching component of their graduate degree program. This allows students to both become familiar with the most popular online world-building simulation software in history, as well as examining every last detail necessary to build a well-appointed, flexible, dynamic, and creative classroom. All of the students exist in the same virtual universe; the universe can be wandered through and explored by everyone in the class from any computer in the world.
Alex has been called in to act as a Minecraft "expert." He supplements Professor Chris Jung's class and gives the student perspective as teachers practice innovative ways to teach science and integrate technology into their lessons. With Alex's help, graduate students have built simulations on Mars or the Moon using the Minecraft platform. After reading various novels, they must work together to build entire communities with food, transportation and sanitation systems as well as housing, community centers and more using the blocks in Minecraft, an immersive, digital environment. This year, the graduate students were using the Minecraft online gaming/simulation software to work communally to create well-appointed virtual science labs, equipped to realize their real world curricular goals. In short, everything needed to execute their curricular vision needs to be created in the online world.
Most of the teachers had never seen Minecraft before, let alone use it in the classroom. Alex was present to help these newly minted teachers to learn the language of online simulation environments (Minecraft) to both improve their creative building process and problem solving abilities, as well as keep them current with youth culture. He enjoyed demonstrating not only how to use the platform as well as Minecraft tricks and tips, but also gave insight as to how students approach the game and how that could be used when planning the curriculum.