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#1 of 16 Old 09-22-2013, 12:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a ten year old son ergo minecraft exists in our house. He's heard of it and played it a few times in the last few weeks. It seems to be a bit of a primary way of interacting among geeky boys his age, which, lets face it, he is.  

 

My concern is actually a fairly straightforward one. The horror tales I hear are of kids neglecting basic human needs-interaction, exercise, food etc - in order to play this devilishly addictive game (to be fair, it does seem quite compelling). OTOH, I grew up with computers and programming them and I remember a similar moral panic over things like SuperMario and Donkey Kong which, looking back, seems misplaced. The kids who grew up playing Nintendo generally I think are not still playing Nintendo. 

 

I don't have too many qualms over whether its educational. I'm sure it has an educational value, and that's cool, but a bonus really. Educationally, I'm happy with the amount he gets up to. Regardless, a kid needs downtime and I'm ok with that being on a computer. The issue I have is that it is primarily solitary (in terms of face to face interaction) and sedentary. These are kind of the reasons my kids aren't in school so I'm not keen to replicate them by handing them an addictive computer game-if that's what Minecraft is! 

 

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#2 of 16 Old 09-22-2013, 10:01 AM
 
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We haven't found anything about Minecraft to be particularly insidious or addictive here. I think that for a lot of young kids that game is a first experience with a really compelling computer well-crafted computer game, and maybe a lot of parents are blindsided by the allure it holds for their kids. But for my kids who had been dabbling in a variety of computer-based games, hobbies and ways of interacting with the digital world, Minecraft was no different from any other new discovery: they immersed themselves in it for a while until the novelty wore off, and then they moved on. 

 

Sure, some kids have difficulty self-regulating when it comes to a new passion. My ds has great difficulty transitioning from one activity to another and needed a lot of help learning to regulate his own computer use. But Minecraft was certainly not any worse in that respect than any of the other digital obsessions he's had. My other kids have played Minecraft in fits and starts. It's fun, it's open-ended and creative. And it has been a tool for social connection within the more mainstream world. Every kid from 7 to 16 knows Minecraft.

 

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#3 of 16 Old 09-22-2013, 07:27 PM
 
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I think the sort of behaviours you are talking about are not the function of the game itself. Addictive behaviours, ignoring social interactions, self-care, etc to play something for hours and hours on end such that quality of life is impaired....that comes from within. There's an issue there with self-regulation or whatever. It's not the fault of a game for being so good that it is easy for such people/kids to get sucked into it.

 

Minecraft is an amazingly creative game. I am continually astounded by what kids can do with this platform. DDs latest thing is to use blank landscapes to create towering pixel art - one block in width - she's building them pixel by pixel (block by block) and creating some really lovely art. 


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#4 of 16 Old 10-06-2013, 02:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Update, I guess. Minecraft is an odd one, where I am it seems to be absolutely huge in the HS community, but much less big outside. Dr Who and to some extent Star Trek/Star Wars seems to be the "currency" media among, say, Scouts or the kids at the library/community centre where ds hangs out and does various classes. I mean I expect kids who are actually cool probably have other things; that's really not an issue for us right now :rotflmao (it does make me laugh how geeky kids seem to be able to just locate each other). I suspect its big among HSers because HS kids tend to be part of a global, online community.

 

Ds seems to play the game socially, say when he's around others who play. And beyond that he's got very interested in the art and in creating tutorials, but hardly in the gaming. We don't seem to be able to get him onto a server with the computers we have, which is fine with me - either way its fine, tbh I don't mind him being on a server either. 

 

So my big worry-which was that it would result in a sharp increase in sedentary activity and a focus on online interaction over rl interaction-just hasn't materialised. He's playing the game mainly socially, as in with real live other kids in the room, and when they are not around, so far he has mainly been doing minecraft inspired stuff. He could be playing it a lot more and me not get worried about it.

 

I have to say. This is highly personal and I don't have any problem with my kids doing things of zero educational value-I mean, I don't need to justify their time in educational terms, for it to be fun is enough, I think learning to be an adult is more global than any specific experience...but...I'm not convinced by the educational value of minecraft, from what I've seen. I think its an awful lot of fun. I think it can lead to kids getting into basic programming. Ds has had a great three days making endless bead minecraft figures (its like perler/hama beads were made for minecraft! ). But from what I see, I would not tend to see it as necessarily an educational tool. That works absolutely fine in my philosophy. I spent a fair bit of time as a kid programming, writing text adventures etc, as did dp and I don't see those as especially educational, tbh. (also being able to write a text adventure on a ZX Spectrum probably ranks among the most esoteric skills in the universe), I think it CAN lead to better things...but I think I really will not want my kids playing minecraft for hours, because of how sedentary an activity that is. I think if that starts to look like it might happen, a conversation will need to take place. The issue isn't, for me, whether or not its educational. Its just the missed opportunities to do other things that I kind of think might be better, OTOH if he's using it in a room with others, taking turns, etc, I don't mind that....Anyway, we will see.


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#5 of 16 Old 10-06-2013, 05:30 AM
 
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Interesting .... thanks for the update.  we haven't got this game but dd has played when visiting others.  i tend to worry about addictive games but then the computer itself can be addictive and dd hasn't had too much trouble with that, and recognizes herself when she has been spending too much time with it.  so on that count I suppose I should not refrain from getting this game.  but guess what - so far i haven't bought  a single video game.  so it is strange to think of buying one.   i don't think of screen related activity as something we proactively aim to do, but something amusing / relaxing that sort of fills in our downtime. 

 

I agree that it need not be educational to justify getting it, but it is interesting to hear your assessment of it, as I have heard people claim that it is educational.  And yes, I have also noticed that it seems to be popular among hs'ers ....


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#6 of 16 Old 10-06-2013, 06:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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hi rumi. Yeah, I'd say it seems to be much, much bigger among HSers. What maybe is happening is that mainstream geeky kids like it, but nearly all HSers seem to play it. Also, HSers seem to play it far more, use servers, get far more into it whereas most mainstream users among ds's friends seem to just use it like a game and not be using a server at their age (he's 10). 

 

My feeling is that it probably can have an educational side. I mean, nearly anything can, really. I just think that it is certainly not automatically used that way-some kids do seem to use it like any other game. I also think that some of the stuff listed as "educational"...well I don't really see it as that awesome. Stuff like using very basic DOS -type commands (if I've got that right). I mean that's something that isn't hard at all to learn, and its not something I'd see as something kids need to play a game to get into. Ditto the CAD type stuff. I'm personally not seeing anything that makes me think "wow, we need Minecraft for its educational value". OTOH I don't think that about many things so...I'm not into trying to see everything in educational terms. I'm totally fine with my kids using it recreationally, btw. 

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that to my mind its a screen, and some comes under the category of needing to be balanced with a level of physical activity, at least for my kids. It doesn't get any kind of free pass for educational reasons. OTOH if my kids were solving quadratic equations on Khan Academy, I'd also see them as needing to balance their computer time,so perhaps there's a wider principle there.


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#7 of 16 Old 10-07-2013, 05:26 AM
 
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I think this edu claim got a boost after the game was introduced into schools in Sweden.   at least, that is what brought it to my attention. 


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#8 of 16 Old 10-07-2013, 08:18 AM
 
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Where I live the game seems to be at least as big outside of home-ed circles as within it. Perhaps because our home-ed community has a strong Waldorf flavour, and those families tend to be more anti-technology than the mainstream public school ones. So perhaps it's a regional thing.

 

I think the game is educational in that it is far more open-ended than a typical computer game for this age-group. That open-endedness tends to lead to in-game creativity and also the sort of extended creative activities your ds is engaged in, Fillyjonk. It is educational in the same sense that dress-up play is educational for youngsters, or that drawing is educational for anyone: it engages the creative impulse and gives one a set of tools that can be turned to whatever is on one's mind, on one's developmental horizon, and expanded on in other areas. I'm of the belief that engaging plus open-ended equals educational, and Minecraft fits the bill. Or it did here, anyway, when my kids were engaged by it. (They got into it when it was in alpha-development and being coded by one individual, with weekly releases to a small community for alpha testing, feedback and discussion. For my ds it was an amazing and transparent window into game development process.)

 

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#9 of 16 Old 10-07-2013, 03:21 PM
 
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I think minecraft has a ton of possibilities within it, and therefore has the potential to be very educational, but it's kindof like lego-- just because it CAN be really educational doesn't mean that the way everyone uses it is going to leap out as being educational. 

 

Something that my kids have done that seemed pretty awesome to me was designing contraptions within minecraft using redstone. 

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#10 of 16 Old 10-07-2013, 06:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post
 

 

My feeling is that it probably can have an educational side. I mean, nearly anything can, really. I just think that it is certainly not automatically used that way-some kids do seem to use it like any other game.

 

I think this is very true. My son has learned a lot from Minecraft (and had a great deal of fun.) He's made his own servers, built mini-games, is working on his own mod-- he's learned a lot about game development, learned a fair bit of java, lots of general computer skills (all of this he could have learned in other ways, of course, but it's been picked up very naturally through Minecraft-related activities). He has learned to type (which is awesome, as he doesn't like writing by hand and was never keen on learn-to-type programs) and learned to spell from in-game chat and from searching for how-to info on line, and his writing has improved hugely. He just wrote the back story for an adventure map he was building, and I was actually pretty impressed by the language use. It's also been great as social currency and a way to connect with other kids. I do share the concern about hours of sedentary activity-- though as an avid reader, I have always found it hard to drag myself away from books to get exercise. I guess we all have to find ways to get balance in our lives. 

 

I wonder if it isn't the game itself that is educational, but more that having a passion for something- and happily spending a great deal of time on it-- inevitably leads to learning...


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#11 of 16 Old 10-08-2013, 06:50 AM
 
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I think the game is educational in that it is far more open-ended than a typical computer game for this age-group. That open-endedness tends to lead to in-game creativity and also the sort of extended creative activities your ds is engaged in, Fillyjonk. It is educational in the same sense that dress-up play is educational for youngsters, or that drawing is educational for anyone: it engages the creative impulse and gives one a set of tools that can be turned to whatever is on one's mind, on one's developmental horizon, and expanded on in other areas. I'm of the belief that engaging plus open-ended equals educational, and Minecraft fits the bill. Or it did here, anyway, when my kids were engaged by it. (They got into it when it was in alpha-development and being coded by one individual, with weekly releases to a small community for alpha testing, feedback and discussion. For my ds it was an amazing and transparent window into game development process.)

 

Miranda

 

 

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I think this is very true. My son has learned a lot from Minecraft (and had a great deal of fun.) He's made his own servers, built mini-games, is working on his own mod-- he's learned a lot about game development, learned a fair bit of java, lots of general computer skills (all of this he could have learned in other ways, of course, but it's been picked up very naturally through Minecraft-related activities). He has learned to type (which is awesome, as he doesn't like writing by hand and was never keen on learn-to-type programs) and learned to spell from in-game chat and from searching for how-to info on line, and his writing has improved hugely. He just wrote the back story for an adventure map he was building, and I was actually pretty impressed by the language use. It's also been great as social currency and a way to connect with other kids. I do share the concern about hours of sedentary activity-- though as an avid reader, I have always found it hard to drag myself away from books to get exercise. I guess we all have to find ways to get balance in our lives. 

 

I wonder if it isn't the game itself that is educational, but more that having a passion for something- and happily spending a great deal of time on it-- inevitably leads to learning...

Yes, someone might be disappointed if they are expecting their kids to spontaneously learn programming from playing Minecraft. But there is a lot of other learning that might be taking place. Not that it must be educational to be worthwhile. I remember talking with my son about zoning issues because he was annoyed that his cousin built a big (and ugly by his assessment) house right next to his. Kids might think about city planning issues. My son has opened shops and thought about commerce, how much should he charge to make potions for others while turning a modest profit. He loves the mods with the circuitry. Even if it doesn't follow the real world exactly, it's consistent to itself and promotes logical thinking. My son was also interested in beekeeping and breeding. The game has resulted in his thinking about statistics and other math. It's encouraging him to type and spell better. I'm sure it's educational in a great many other non-programming ways that I'm not really terribly aware of since I'm not sitting watching over his shoulder trying to figure out what "subject" he is doing.


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#12 of 16 Old 10-08-2013, 07:40 AM
 
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OTOH, I grew up with computers and programming them and I remember a similar moral panic over things like SuperMario and Donkey Kong which, looking back, seems misplaced. The kids who grew up playing Nintendo generally I think are not still playing Nintendo. 

My husband collects original Nintendo stuff. lol We both enjoy the old games and do crack out the old NES on occasion....however, we're both well rounded adults. We also play Minecraft.

I think video games are an easy target for most people's fears, but in reality I'm just as sedentary an anti-social when I'm into a good book. In fact MORE anti-social...I might call someone over to see what I've built in Minecraft, but not to see what I'm reading.
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#13 of 16 Old 10-08-2013, 08:04 AM
 
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You know, the more I think about it, I'm kind of blown away by the amount of learning that has come from Minecraft here. Specific things-- like digital circuits and logic gates- AND/OR/XNOR etc-- but more importantly, things like troubleshooting, seeking information to help solve a problem, persistence, tolerance for frustration, resolving conflicts... Lots of good stuff. 

 

I'm curious: How do others help their kids create balance and find enjoyable forms of physical activity-- especially with introverted kids whose passions tend towards sedentary activities (gaming, books etc)? 


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#14 of 16 Old 10-09-2013, 11:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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:) guys if Minecraft works for you and feels right, then that's awesome and that's great. 

 

Like I say, my issue is mainly with high computer use. And the reason I have an issue with that is that I don't think its physically healthy. I think kids-we all- need balance. If Minecraft were a Wii game (using the balance board, say), then I'd be a lot more comfortable with kids using it for long stretches. Its balance, for me. I heard of kids (ones I know), using Minecraft for upwards of 15 hours a day and my issue with that is not that they have a passion that they are doing to the exclusion of all else but that they are not getting physical exercise and not interacting much with the wider world outside their family. Take the same kid, add in a daily run and a trip to the local hackerspace or minecraft club and I think that's an entirely different situation, you probably have a healthy and happy kid who has been able to follow their interests and that will serve them well whether they end up a computer scientist or an architect or a social worker. 

 

I have a separate concern with certain computer games, which is that I'm not sure how I feel about a kid spending ages in a corporate created world. But Minecraft totally subverts that one so that's not my problem here. Also-really not scared of comptuers and technology. I'm married to a computer science Phd and I've been programming since I was four. Technology is really not the problem. Its a bit more subtle. Computer geeks can still have concerns about their kids computer use.

 

I feel Minecraft has a lot to offer. I have a real issue with a lot of computer games because they are someone else's manufactured world. When my partner was my son's age, he was writing programs and selling them. And that wasn't breathtakingly unusual either. Now, that would be quite unusual. I like Minecraft in that it gives back that control. 

 

I think also I'm a bit underwhelmed by it. I think (sorry, but) it is so hyped among homeschoolers as a great educational tool and I think its...ok. Its a lot of fun. I'm unconvinced that its need as an educational addition for any kid with an interest in computers. I'm not sure what I think about minecraft "curriculum"-but then I have always been uncomfortable with that. Take something that is imaginatively your kid's and reduce it to an opportunity for "math facts". Ick. However, I can see that if your approach was, maybe, more project based homeschooling, then you could get a lot out of it using some of the educational resources available.

 

I can see how, if you take a fairly narrow definition of "education" being as "learning stuff that gets you a job" then yes, minecraft could do that well.

 

And it depends too on your definition of education. Ack, I really should not have mentioned education, I'm never sure what it means anyway, for something to be "educational". Its the process of engagement that I appreciate in my kids, not really what they are learning. You can pick up almost anything later, IME. I really do not ever ask myself whether my kids are having some kind of an educational experience nowadays. I think education is such a global thing, you can't pinpoint when it happens and when it doesn't. Its not a binary state. "Does this vaguely contribute towards my kids becoming happy and fulfilled adults", would be a better way of looking at it for me, though that's a pretty tough question to answer. And the answer for me would be, yes probably, because it makes them happy and they are learning stuff they want to learn. The only things I would see as not contributing to that really are things that seem to me detrimental to their physical wellbeing, and I'd see that as things like not having enough exercise when young. My educational philosophy is really about keeping options open, letting them remain engaged and interested in general stuff without mental blocks, and supporting them when they need it. I don't see the primary purpose of childhood as being to learn stuff.


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#15 of 16 Old 10-10-2013, 09:25 AM
 
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My feeling is that if a kid is spending 15 hours a day on the computer, that's not really about minecraft-- there's other stuff going on there. 

 

I agree that balance is important, but in my house, while my kids will occasionally need help finding balance, most of the time they will pull away from an interest that's becoming obsessive because it stops feeling good to them. My kid who was most excited about minecraft hasn't touched it in weeks because he was ready for a break. 

 

Generally when my kids do need help finding balance, there's something else happening that is encouraging the lack of balance/retreat into a digital world. Generally it's that they aren't being offered other attractive activities. 

 

As for learning goals and the purpose of childhood, I think there are stages in childhood, and my kids have seemed to want different things at different points. As my kids get older, they do seem to want to be able to demonstrate competence, and that often requires knowledge, not just knowing how to learn, but having some learning under your belt so you're ready to go. Seeing this has made me less dismissive of the value of learning specific stuff. 

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#16 of 16 Old 11-17-2013, 06:51 AM
 
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After reading this I'm going to buy Minecraft and let all three lose on it. Thanks for all your input and stories.
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