Colin's Sandbox

Goal Two: Human Development

Human Development in the 21st Century

There has been much talk of the “net generation”, and of “digital natives”, and of “digital immigrants”.  Today’s students who have grown up with technology expect to have opportunities for displaying creativity, expect to be connected to the Internet as the greatest source of information, and these trends are “forcing a change in the model of pedagogy, from a teacher-focused approach based on instruction to a student-focused model based on collaboration” (Tapscott, 2009).

Meeting the Education Needs of the Net Generation Through Gaming

Thankfully, the same technologies that students are familiar with can often be used in the educational setting to meet the “net generation” on their own familiar ground.   Rather than turning to movies, TV, and books, students frequently engage in gaming in their free time as their outlet.  McGonigal estimates that students will have spent, on average, over 10,000 hours playing online games by the age of 21.  Educators can leverage this compelling form of media in their own classroom as well as employ gameplay mechanics in different ways to motivate their students.

Along these lines, in my own graduate school work in the Education Technology program I have been involved in using Minecraft (and MinecraftEdu) in a few different ventures.  I initially ran across Minecraft at the ASTE conference when I was taken aback by the buzz that was circling a session covering the topic.  I immediately made the connection between Minecraft and the Legos of my youth, and recognized the ability within the game to define your own rules (“game within a game”) and allow for infinite expression of individual and group creativity to solve problems in an environment that a large amount of students were already familiar with.  After returning to Juneau, I started using the game immediately with the #diffiMOOC class and working with a teacher in incorporating the game in a High School class to provide building challenges to learners with special needs.  As part of this we generated a wiki for others to learn from our experience in the class.

Minecraft #diffimooc Wiki

Another middle school class I was involved with generated engineering solutions to the “Monster Lobe” problem with the use of Minecraft.  I generated a topography roughly matching an area along the “haul road” from Fairbanks to the North Slope where a frozen debris field is thawing out and approaching the road and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  I was working with Chip McMillan, Assistant Professor of Education at University of Alaska Southeast, who developed this quick video showing some of the students work:

Informally, the results were very positive.  From my observations, using Minecraft within the classroom allowed students who normally didn’t have a “voice” in the classroom to demonstrate their abilities in a positive light and they were turned to by others to help answer questions concerning gameplay and questions concerning building.

Goals and Standards

University of Alaska Southeast School of Education Standards, Education Technology, Goal 2

a. identify ways students’ developmental levels affect their thinking processes and learning (K)
b. accommodate differences in how students learn based on knowledge of individual’s social, emotional, and intellectual maturation. (S)
c. demonstrate an appreciate of unique thinking processes of learners during different stages of development. (D)

ISTE Standards for Coaches (2011)

2a. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences addressing content standards and student technology standards
2b. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using a variety of research-based, learner-centered assessment tools to address the diverse needs and interests of all students instructional strategies


Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world.  Kindle Edition: McGraw Hill.

McGonigal, J. (2010).  Gaming can make a better world [Video file].  Retrieved on February 19, 2014 from

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