As you may have seen last week, we are exploring the usability of Minecraft as an assessment tool in CEP 813. Last week, I played with it for the first time, and this week I was tasked with creating an assessment that would utilize the strengths of Minecraft for assessment and create an exemplar for that assignment.
One of the aspects of ancient history that students tend to like the most is the architecture of the various civilizations that we explore. Minecraft is particularly well suited to this area of interest, since it is designed to build things. I decided that my assessment would use this student fascination and this strength of Minecraft to create my assignment.
Students are to choose any of the civilizations that are covered in first semester (Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and Indus). They would the pick one architectural marvel that the civilization is known for, such as the Great Bath or ziggurats. The students will then research the dimensions of the building as well as the purpose of the building. Once they have this information, they will build a too scale replica in Minecraft using the tools innate in the program. Finally, they will put up informational signs that people can look at to learn about the purpose, use, and creation of that architectural marvel by the civilization that was selected.
One of the issues that I have had with projects in the past is that the audience is too small for the amount of work that is put into the assignment. To combat this, we will be creating screencasts of the vreations to share with parents and with interested people via Twitter.
Advantages of Minecraft
Minecraft is particularly advantageous when it comes to leveling the playing field in terms of resources. Some parents spend inordicnate amounts of money for their children to make masterpiece projects. Other parents give their children empty cardboard boxes, tape, and a marker. Minecraft levels that by allowing all students equal access to the resources.
Additionally, Minecraft simplifies things by having one medium that all students are interacting with. This will allow for ease of presentation and ease of use on my end.
Finally, Minecraft provides a platform that demands problem solving. Students have to figure out for themselves the best way to create their building with the resources in place. The simplistic interface requires ingenuity in creation and presentation of the projects.
The area of my Rubric 4.0 that is most clearly seen in this particular assignment is Student Choice. Students get to choose the civilization they will look at. They get to choose the piece of architecture from that civilization that they are most interested in studying and recreating. They also get to choose where they build the structure and what decorations that they add, as well as color selection. The options are virtually endless.
The area that I need to strengthen is the need to take into consideration the needs of all learners. While I have tried to address the financial element, I still need to address access to the program. I also need to make accommodations for students that do not express themselves well in written expression. Additionally, I need to think out how students that have verbal challenges can present their projects effectively.
Minecraft can definitely be used as an assessment platform. While architecture feels like the most obvious avenue to take, Minecraft could be used for any subject if you allow the students to be creative and problem solve for themselves. They could make mazes where right answers get you to safety as one other option. You should check it out and see how you could use it effectively in your classroom.
Below you can see a Screencast explaining all of this verbally.