09 Feb Let The Kids Play: Minecraft For Powerful Literacy Learning
If you’re constantly struggling to get your children off Minecraft or other virtual worlds like I am, rest assured that while they play, they’re actually developing 21st Century literacy skills.
Minecraft is a game that can be described as a digital Lego set where players choose items such as glass, bricks, flowers and chests from a toolbox to construct and shape a virtual landscape. The game’s appeal lies within its endless construction possibilities and the opportunity to collaborate with other online gamers.
As kids play, they draw on ever-growing digital literacy skills to communicate with peers about where to find particular resources in order to build their desired landscape.
Literacy is broadly defined as social communications and interactions between people, in various forms, in different contexts, and for different purposes. Digital and online games as social tools for communication are integral to new literacies. As a result, computer games can be seen as social tools, and an integral part of literacy teaching that’s recognised in the Australian curriculum. In teaching terms, designing Minecraft landscapes, virtual characters representative of themselves and manoeuvring around virtual settings, corresponds to developing settings, characters and plots in traditional narratives.
Peer-to-peer interaction in a game like Minecraft generates ongoing analysis of the ways characterisation, settings and events are combined in narratives, which links directly to the Australian Curriculum’s literature strand. If your child (like mine) creates YouTube clips and Instagram posts of their games, they’re using a range of software to confidently create, edit and publish written and multimedia texts , and by actively constructing content and sharing it with an online audience, kids are building their understanding of audience and purpose, often utilising music and audio elements.
Before you ban your child from playing computer games like Minecraft, consider that allowing them to play helps them develop valuable literacy skills in an ever-changing technological environment.
Nerissa Marcon is the mother of Jordan and Chiara and a Head of English at a secondary school in Melbourne.
Words by Nerissa Marcon