Challenges & Successes of Minecraft in #fsl Thus Far



In moving forward with our project one of the challenges we knew we would meet as a team was which type of Minecraft we were going to use with our students.  We wanted to address this up front for those who may be new to Minecraft and so you can better understand where we are coming from and why we may meet some of the challenges that we do.


We are fortunate to work for a school board who greatly supports integration of technology into the classroom.  All of our grade 7 & 8 students are 1-to-1 iPads and next year we will be 1-to-1 from grades 7 through 9.  The devices throughout the rest of our schools vary, sometimes teachers have access to 5-10 iPads just for their classroom, or some schools have carts of 10-30 iPads that can be signed out by teachers as needed.  We also have access to Chromebooks, Laptops and desktops, but again how they are distributed varies by school.   


Minecraft Edu


Having said that, the first option for Minecraft is Minecraft Education Version.  From what I understand of it (and that is not a great deal because I don’t have a lot of experience with this version),  this is available to be installed on computers (desktops or laptops) and runs a license cost (from what I have seen online) of approximately $6.00 per student per year.  For us, because it is no longer a reality to get access to a class set of computers, for this particular project purchasing licenses of Minecraft Edu is just not a possibility.   




Because we have wider access of iPads, we decided to purchase Minecraft Pocket Edition (PE) for the iPads.  This app currently costs $9.99 per device and there is unfortunately no special education pricing or volume purchasing pricing.  


Moving forward, the successes and challenges that we address will be directly related to our experiences with Minecraft PE (Not Minecraft Education).  While we understand that many of the challenges that we encounter with PE might be resolved if we used Minecraft Education, again, it is not a realistic option for us so we are doing the best with what we have available to us and problem solving as we go (often with our students 🙂 )


It is our goal to share the successes and the frustrations and how we addressed the challenges so others in similar situations might be able to relate and potentially find workable solutions.  


What we have seen thus far:


Challenges Solutions
Getting Minecraft onto all of our classroom devices
(because we are all at different schools and our board is in the process of rolling over how it manages devices – when and how we were able to get apps onto devices was different in every case)
-we worked closely with our IT department from the beginning – by keeping them informed of what it was that we wanted to do, we were able to problem-solve before meeting challenges.  For example, originally we thought it would be easiest to purchase redemption codes for each license of Minecraft that we needed and send the redemption code to the different devices, however after meeting with IT, we realized that in order to better manage the licenses it would be best for each school to purchase the licenses through their Volume Purchasing Program and then our IT Department was able to push the apps to each individual device.  This was much more efficient than the alternative way.  It also avoided a lot of headaches in the end.  

-Our biggest advice get your IT department involved and  start asking the questions to get to the root of these things and to prevent potential problems in the future

Once apps were pushed to devices, we had to download them from our app catalogue – this had to be done individually on each device.  Sometimes when we clicked ‘install’ the app wouldn’t actually install. We talked to IT again, they came out to have a look at it and determined that it would finally install if you clicked the ‘install’ button about 20 times.  IT also got in contact with Apple to try to find a better solution to this issue.  In the meantime, we couldn’t wait to get it on, so we persisted!   It’s part of the learning journey and we trudged forward because we know that it will be worth it in the end.  Every school was different with how they proceeded with this.  Some enlisted the help of some intermediate students to install it on every device, others did it themselves before school.  Either way, once we knew what the problem was and how to solve it, we were able to get the app onto our devices rather quickly.
Because devices sometimes had different iOS updates on them, the current version of Minecraft would crash spontaneously and unpredictably on devices.  Sometimes students were not losing what they had already built, but it made it quite frustrating for everyone if they couldn’t get a continuous block of time to work within their world.   Unfortunately sometimes we do everything right but things still don’t work. Sometimes an iOS update isn’t compatible with the current version of the app, or an update to the app is needed.  Or sometimes it’s just a glitch. We are learning to take these opportunities to teach our students to problem-solve, persevere and be flexible.  
Other practical solutions:

  • With younger students we ensured that the task they were completing within Minecraft was a ‘one-class’ task – it had to be completed the same day
  • On some versions of Minecraft students MUST hit ‘Save and Quit’ in order for the world to save properly for the next class
  • Helping students see the bigger picture – Setting a good example – empathizing with students that lose their work, modeling flexibility and problem-solving to students because technology does always work 100% of the time
  • Reminding students that Minecraft is about the journey, not the destination.  
In some cases there were some parents that were concerned with students using Minecraft in class.  For example, around internet safety and how it is being used in support the curriculum. We found the best way to deal with this was to inform students and families about Minecraft and how it can be used as an educational tool.  This looked different for different teachers.  Some spoke to parents on the phone, some sent letters home.  Here is an example of a letter that could be used.
We are currently working through how we will share the student work.  Ideally, we would like to capture videos with audio attached. Possible Solutions:

  • Having one student presenting their work in Minecraft while another student video tapes ‘over that students shoulder’.
  • Connecting student iPad to a MacBook in order to capture the screen of the iPad while they talk about it.
  • Exploring using Air Server to capture a ‘video tour’
  • Using screen shots of the students work in Minecraft and having them share their thinking by using an app like iMovie, Adobe Spark, Shadow Puppet or Explain Everything
Students getting carried away with wanting to build and it overshadowing the purpose of the project – the Language piece
  • Students do not go on Minecraft until we are almost experts at the expected target language (heavy front-end loading of oral language concepts)
  • Breaking project into smaller, more attainable chunks (i.e.  not three weeks to build a community, instead you have 1 class to build your house)
  • Really thinking about pre-planning – How will Minecraft be used as a tool to support this? – It should be a language project, not a Minecraft project
  • Set strict deadlines – Students finish incomplete work on their own time
  • 1 goal per class
Students blowing up buildings within one another’s world or within their own community Depending on how Minecraft is being used with students in class, this can or might not be an issue.  Some key points:

  • Establish the expectation from the beginning (before using) – Minecraft is being used as an educational tool not as a toy (We need to change the student mindset as they are used to ‘playing’ with it)
  • If students are not working on a shared world, turn off multi-player (i.e. if what you are asking of them does not require them to join one another’s worlds)
  • If students are needing to join and work in a shared world, and someone that isn’t supposed to work in that world joins – everyone exits the world so it kicks the ‘intruder’ out
    • Minecraft PE maxes out players in a shared world at 5 devices.  So when possible have students work in groups of 5 students.  
    • If for whatever reason there are 4 people working in a shared world and ‘intruders’ joining each other’s worlds is an issue, if there is an extra device in the classroom (i.e. ipad, phone, etc) students can create a ‘Ghost-player’ with that device to max out the number of players in their world at 5 to prevent anyone else from being able to join.



French Immersion – students are talking spontaneously with one another in French when using Minecraft – it is authentic to them and they are choosing to use the Target language.

Students are problem solving technological issues more independently. They are not getting mad, they are finding solutions and collaborating with others.

Core Students – Great engagement – students are participating more in oral activities in able to earn the Minecraft time.  Including students who normally might be disengaged or less interested in learning French as a Second Language.  They are excited about it. Because they know they get to build if they have participated properly during oral communication activities, we have definitely seen students on task during spoken tasks and activities that help students gain more independence with oral proficiency.
Problem solving – students are learning how to work through technical issues by communicating and collaborating with others.  They are becoming resourceful in finding solutions to their problems.


One Response

  1. […] The second issue with this is the app doesn’t update on its own and needs to be manually updated using the board’s web application. Updates need to be a priority as the app crashed a lot on old updates and different versions of the updates wouldn’t allow users to connect and work together in one world. One other issue is that all users working together in a world need to be on the same network. In our classrooms school computers are hooked to the main network and personal devices are hooked into the guest network. We had a few minor issues with students destroying other students’ work but I quickly reminded them that the project is about the conversations we are having with one another, more than the final buildings we produce. (See our previous reflections on challenges and possible solutions here.) […]

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