Using Minecraft: Education Edition as a tool to demonstrate the solution in a problem-based learning activity

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Recently I had the privilege of attending at the amazing Microsoft Educator
Exchange (E2) Africa Forum as a #MIEExpert Educator. The E2 had the theme of #Makewhatsnext and it was held at Microsoft’s
headquarters in Johannesburg.  I was excited about the emphasis that would be placed on using Minecraft: Education Edition in our classrooms. Stephen Reid, the Minecraft ‘Guru’ from Immersive Minds in Scotland gave an amazing keynote on problem-based learning and took us through how to use Minecraft. The #MIEExpert Educators and the other invited
guests then completed a problem-based learning activity in groups using Minecraft:
Education Edition as a tool to demonstrate how we would solve the problem we had identified. This was a
great learning experience which I often think back on, and, in this post, I want to write
about it and explain how we went about using Minecraft: Education Edition in
our group project.  

Problem-based learning is a
great way for everybody in the group to learn together. 
It facilitates active learning, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. Dr Preetha Ram says “Problem-based learning enables
students to embrace complexity and joy in their learning, and enhance their
capacity to make creative contributions to real-world problems.”

So, let me start at the beginning… As soon as we registered at the Forum we
were given our seating arrangements and I was placed in Group 6 with four other
members. This always works well at an event like this as you get to know and
work with a new group of friends.  Quite
a bit of the two day Forum was devoted to seeing how Minecraft: Education
Edition can challenge and develop critical thinking in a classroom setting. Our
sessions,as mentioned,  were facilitated by the awesome Minecraft: Education Edition Guru,
Stephen Reid from Scotland who was an entertaining and knowledgeable presenter.  He was aided by our own Dominique Cave from
South Africa, the only Minecraft: Education Edition Global Mentor in Africa.

Our group – group 6

This problem-based learning activity we were set was in
the form of a competition – the winning group would win devices! Group 6 was determined
to win…in other words our competitive edge was stirred! We were very fortunate
in our group to have a Minecraft: Education Edition Expert as part of our group
– Matthew Hains from Crawford College. He’s a really techie kind of guy with
the type of skills every group member longs to have. He was a great asset with helping
us all work together to build our Minecraft model. We also had a project-based
learning expert in Charmaine Roynon from Wynberg Girls’ Junior School.

Matthew sorting out a Minecraft query

So, how did we go about our project-based
learning experience?

This was our task: “Come up with a problem you have observed
in South Africa and demonstrate how you will solve this, using Minecraft:
Education Edition. Present your solution on a Sway or as an Office Mix


We decided to use:

a) A shared online OneNote notebook to work on. OneNote is very suited to
problem-based learning as you can share content, images, videos etc very easily
if you have a good Internet connection. 

b) Then there was Minecraft: Education
Edition which we would use to demonstrate our solution. A Minecraft world had
already been created for us by Steven Reid.

c) The final product was to be presented on a Sway or an Office Mix. 

: Identifying the issue

As a group we brainstormed problems in South Africa. Of course there were many!
We then narrowed it down to three and eventually voted for one. Since we were
all teachers it was probably natural to vote for the issue of many
under-resourced schools in the country.

2: Create the driving  question

The next step was to create the driving question related to our enquiry. A driving question is one that captures the heart of the project by providing the purpose of the enquiry and by using clear and compelling language. The question should drives the participants to discuss, inquire, and investigate the topic. Here is a useful post from Edutopia on how to create driving questions. What do you think of ours? “How can we address the problem of under-resourced schools in our country in a sustainable way?’

 Step 3:

This step involved brainstorming what we would include in our under-resourced school to provide the needed
resources. Here are some of the ideas we came up with.  We discussed these at length.

4: Use Minecraft to demonstrate the solution

Now it  came
to the part of building using Minecraft; Education Edition to demonstrate our

Steven had taught us some of the basics so
that we knew how to move around our Minecraft world.

We each appeared as little characters in
the Minecraft world and we could see what each one in the group was doing at
any stage.

We divided up the solutions we had thought of, and each one in the group built theirs (with loads of help from Matthew.) We had to take screenshots of
the different objects that we built as proof of our solutions, and Matthew captured
these for us and labelled them on the final PowerPoint.

Here is Matthew  capturing and labelling the screenshots for our

We (actually Matthew again) then created a video of what we had done
using Minecraft: Education Edition and we embedded this video into our PowerPoint. Here is our video.

5: Present your solution

The important thing when you present
solutions is to have some relevant role players present – the people who could
make this solution happen as we present. These people could even be invited in
via Skype.

Step 6: Give the project a title
decided on the title of ‘A self-sustaining school.’

When it came to presenting our solutions
using Sway or Office Mix, we decided on Office Mix. But, alas,  ours just wouldn’t
upload. I am sure it had something to do with our embedded video. So we had to
make a snap decision with only two minutes to go to hand in our PowerPoint as it was. There was no time to make a Sway instead. 

In the classroom setting there would be a
rubric involved for assessment purposes, but for our session the judges were going to choose the best one. (Charmaine in our group provided us with a great rubric
to take back to our classes for assessing problem-based learning activities.)


No! It wasn’t our group!  Here is the winning
team below – they will each get sent a device as a gift from Microsoft.  There wasn’t time for us to see their
presentation, unfortunately.  This is a great image of the winning team along with Sonja Delafosse from Microsoft USA and Stephen
Reid from Immersive Minds in Scotland.

This problem-based learning activity was a great learning experience. I really felt like I was starting to understand Minecraft: Education Edition and its
many possibilities in the context of education.

final presentation

Here is our final presentation. I have embedded our PowerPoint from OneDrive.


at the end

This screenshot of Sonja’s final challenge really got me
thinking.  Coding and computational
thinking has to become part of our thinking as teachers in South Africa. 

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