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Learning with video games: When the student overtakes the teacher

In this text, Louis-Philippe Duchesne, 5th year teacher at the École de l'Envol (CSS des Navigateurs), shares how, with his colleague Guillaume Prairie, he set out to discover Minecraft with students during the last school year. What started out as a simple extracurricular lunchtime activity took on unimaginable proportions as students became mentors to teachers.

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By Louis-Philippe Duchesne, 5th year teacher
École de l'Envol - Navigators School Service Center

Video games are taking more and more place in the lives of our students. What if I found a place for them in my class? Where to start? There are so many platforms and options… How will I start my project? Am I going to find there a pedagogical significance? Too often we let ourselves be carried away by doubt and give up. 

What if I let my students take control?

Last year, with the bubble classes, motivation was at its lowest for some students. With my colleague Guillaume Prairie, we had the idea of embarking on a fairly simple project: a lunchtime game using the Minecraft Education Edition platform. Nothing complicated, only the game. We thought we had two or three registrations and put our hands on the keys a little. What was our surprise when 98 % of our students registered for our lunchtime activity! The interest was immense. After two activities, we had to take a step back. The students are really good. Could we also integrate this game into our practice?

Online self-study to get a head start

Quickly, we signed up to self-training online Minecraft: Education Edition. We completed the different levels at our own pace. Then, we contacted pedagogical advisors at our school service center and scoured the web for simple activities to help us achieve success. We felt ready, we started.

As the year progressed, Guillaume and I added strings to our bows. We have set up a self-study system for the students that we have paired with our classroom management system. 

We then created our first social projects, where the students had to present the Quebec society of 1820 to us using Minecraft and even explore the world of chemistry in science. At each of our stages, we never ceased to be impressed by the motivation of the students, by their investment in the tasks and, above all, by their creativity. But a problem remained. For a few of them, it was all too simple. They got through the tasks without challenge. So we quickly adjusted.

Using the skills of our students to learn

We therefore resumed our lunchtime activities, but this time with only four students who showed interest and an impressive level of mastery. We sat down to play with them, but also to learn from them. It was then that we had an idea. What if they helped us build a math challenge for the other students? Within minutes, we had a chat about what we wanted to accomplish and they had created a world from scratch with us. They gave us advice, presented us with possibilities.

This year, eight students are part of what is now called our Minecraft Squad. With them, we create worlds in mathematics (fractions, count, percentage, etc.) and in science (visit to a dam and scale reproduction). We build them, we test them, we prepare answers and video capsules. These Grade 6 students are now mentors for our new Grade 5 students. But above all, they are a source of motivation, challenges and learning for us. 

If, like us, you want to embark on a similar project, here is our website to inspire you. We have included descriptions of the worlds and mathematical concepts we use. These worlds are available and downloadable for free. 

Do you also organize Minecraft activities with your students? Share your ideas and your successes with us!

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