My kids love Minecraft. Have you played it at all? I put the "pocket edition" on my iPad, and now they fight over who gets to play it. You can download the free version (there are iOS and Android versions) to at least give it a whirl.
The best description I can give for the game is virtual Legos, generated in blocky, pixelated graphics, with zombies. (Who wouldn't want to play that??) The game can be played in two modes: "survival," in which the goal is...survival (the zombies are coming!), and "creative," which is all about creating your own unique world. The name comes from the two main tasks you undertake in the game: "mining" for picking up resources, and "crafting" structures and objects from those resources. The game has been around for a few years now--there are PC/Mac and Xbox versions too--and the folks who create the game are always adding updates. On the pocket edition my kids play it's a one-player game, but the other versions allow for multi-player interaction, and you should see some of the amazing things teams of players build!
A few screenshots from my kids' games, so you get the idea of what it's like:
|In creative mode, players can fly over their world to see it from many perspectives.|
|Out on the boardwalk...Notice the treehouse on the tiny island.|
|The in-game physics are a little interesting at times, but this only adds to their creativity!|
|Interior decor is a possibility.|
|Animals such as chickens, pigs, and cows are part of the game. Eating gives you energy!|
|Signs like this won't keep the zombies away!|
I'm a little torn, actually. Video games are clearly engaging for kids, including my own. I'm okay with video games in moderation, and I think there are actually some great learning opportunities that can come through gaming--depending on the game, of course. (Grand Theft Auto also teaches kids things, but not necessarily things I'd want them to learn...) I'd hate for hands-on learning experiences to completely give way to virtual (video game-based) ones, but I also see lots of creative possibilities from a game like Minecraft...so I'm torn.
My kids are makers. Most kids are, in some degree or another. In Kindergarten, they're all makers. By high school, some are saying things like, "I'm just not very creative." I'm not sure when kids start to lose their maker tendencies, but it seems to be around middle school, judging from my experience teaching there for so many years. Kids become more self-conscious, and perhaps feel like others are judging their creative work...and some stop trying, or at least keep their creative ideas to themselves.
I have heard of some schools using Minecraft as a way of engaging students. And you can learn a lot of things in the game--design principles, collaboration, even some programming skills, if you're interested. But I think the biggest benefit deals with creativity.
Will Minecraft transform education? I'm not sure about that. But does it have a place in school? I think it might. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that!