Online learning: CBE students use Minecraft to design new public spaces
Calgary School Board students had the opportunity to upgrade their city this fall.
Students participated in the Level Up Calgary design challenge using Minecraft.
Minecraft is a popular online game that allows players to build structures using virtual blocks. Materials are mined, items are created, and then blocks can be replaced as part of the game.
Students will visit a virtual city center in the game. They are able to create their own designs for a virtual public space.
âOur students will not only submit their virtual designs to a panel of experts from the City of Calgary, but the selected designs will become a physical reality in downtown Calgary,â said Joanne Pitman, Superintendent of School Improvement at the City of Calgary. Calgary Board of Education.
All students from CBE schools had the opportunity to participate in the challenge. Individuals up to entire classes could participate depending on how schools decided to use Minecraft Education Edition in the classroom.
Each school had a facilitator to take on the challenge, said Mike Nelson, education director for the Calgary Board of Education.
âWe have schools that embrace this and we think almost the whole school will participate in the project,â Nelson said.
The City of Calgary has not unveiled a location where the winners will see their creations come true.
Using Minecraft in the classroom, not just for fun
Given the popularity of Minecraft around the world, using it in the classroom can be seen as a cheat code to get kids involved in learning.
âThis opportunity is enhanced by the fact that so many of our students have actually used Minecraft,â said Nelson.
The high level of knowledge on how to play Minecraft also presented other opportunities in the classroom. Nelson acknowledged that while many teachers are passionate and knowledgeable about the game, not all teachers are.
âWe will also have teachers who will participate in this type of project, and maybe they are a little nervous, and the students will help them guide them on this journey,â he said.
Level Up Calgary has complemented the already existing Kindergarten to Grade 12 program. For the younger ones, it included links to courses on citizenship and engagement, culture and the environment. Minecraft could be used in career and tech studies and science lessons for older students.
âWe wanted to give our students the opportunity to be creative, looking at how they can impact their community and make connections to the real world within their learning,â said Pittman.
First use of its kind in Canada
Using Minecraft in this way was a first for any Canadian school board.
Minecraft Education Edition has been used in 115 countries according to Elka Walsh, National Learning and Skills Manager for Microsoft Canada.
She said what CBE is doing with the challenge is different from how other countries have used the game.
âWhat’s so unique about what CBE is doing here is really creating something very, very rooted in the community, and giving students the opportunity to develop more civic skills, to bond with their neighbors and with each other, as well as a sense of belonging within their city, âshe said.
Non-player characters have been placed in the virtual downtown area to teach Calgary to the students. These include Mayor Naheed Nenshi at Calgary City Hall, the Famous Five at Olympic Plaza and Calgary Public Library NPCs with their new blue vest design in front of the Central Library.
Details on the transformation from virtual to reality to come
The City said it is currently forming a panel to accept bids.
Jason Cameron, program manager for the city of Calgary’s resilience and infrastructure resilience strategy, said many people in the city are interested in joining the panel.
The City of Calgary has yet to reserve a space where the winning designs will be transformed into physical art.
“To be honest, it’s a legendary block, we don’t have anything in mind yet,” he said.
âI think a lot of it will depend on what kind of designs we see. “
Cameron said the City will work with downtown partners such as the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture and Planning and the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) to find the best space to exhibit the art created.
âWe just don’t know what it’s going to look like yet because we don’t know what the designs will look like and how best to incorporate them into our upcoming projects in 2022,â he said.
The winning designs could be rendered as a mural or as a physical three-dimensional work of art.