How Play Promotes Learning
Why Should Students be Playing while Learning?
Play is a child’s way of understanding the world at large. Free play is required and needed for healthy developmental growth. All children need to play! Recent school closures have isolated countless children into an environment that is void of playtime. Students thrive in a learning environment supported and encouraged by their playmates and peers (Zhou & Brown, 2015). What is the remedy?
The solution is fun and simple, but there is a further question at stake with the entire structure of education being rearranged and flipped. How can students still maintain a collaborative learning environment embracing “play” which is needed for a child’s healthy psychological development? (Navidi, 2016, p.39). Collaborative project-based learning using Minecraft is a much-needed solution. What is Minecraft? Minecraft is a popular game that middle school students play often. It has now become transformed into an educational tool. Minecraft offers collaborative project-based learning using 21st Century Thinking Skills by teaching cross-curricular lessons (Minecraft: Education Edition, 2019).
An Educator’s Observation and Perspective
In the classroom, I have noticed how engaged and excited my students become when we play a game. Gamification of lessons is a new movement in education. Particularly, digital gamification is popular with students. Low achieving students gain confidence and build collaborative social skills within the game (Minecraft: Education Edition, 2019, 2:40). Students can practice their reading and writing skills within the game by themselves, with the help of a live teacher or collaboratively with peers. They can read, reflect, and write a living book that can be placed within the game or uploaded on any digital platform (Brand & Kinash, 2013).
Reading in a game is fun and creates a fresh digital platform of seeing text outside of the typical textbook. Students can learn new content and text easily because it is necessary to play the game versus thinking it is study. Instead of work, learning becomes play! As a result, Minecraft’s collaborative learning shows us how a “play ethos” can become effortless learning (Navidi, 2016, p.39).