Should Adult Educators Use Online Games for Learning in the Classroom?

Technology and Learning Colleagues,

The 9/29 EdSurge e-news has this piece of information about an education edition of the commercial online game, MINECRAFT:


A WHOLE NEW MINECRAFT WORLD: Minecraft's education edition is going on sale Nov. 1, and it comes with a Classroom mode and several new game features. Educators will have the ability to manage world settings, give student items or teleport them and chat with them. Teachers can still try out an early access version through Nov.1 before deciding to buy the full game.

You may not obsessed with Minecraft, but think it has a lot of potential for adult learning. If you think adult educators should consider making available in the adult basic skills classroom or computer lab games such as Minecraft, please tell us why you think so!

If you've already looked into this and believe it's a waste of time and money, let's hear from you!

If you are not necessarily an advocate for bringing online games into the classroom, but agree, for example, with the advice of Professor James Gee, author of  What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, that teachers have a great deal to learn from game designers about how to design instruction, please tell us why you think so!

David J. Rosen, Moderator

Technology and Learning CoP


I got Minecraft years ago when it just came out in Beta. I have played it with my children and with students for a number of years. I study and play almost every game I hear about looking for possible applications with learners I work with.

Although I can appreciate the control the education version of Minecraft may offer a teacher, I do not feel it justifies the extra expense and learning curve. Just within the plain Minecraft, without any of the hundreds of variations available, a teacher can offer learners many learning opportunities. I have found that by issuing challenges with finite deadlines, I did not have to worry about time management with learners. I do not feel that minecraft is for all learners and in fact suspect that less than half of the learners I currently work with would benefit from Minecraft experiences. However, for those students that Minecraft is a good fit for, there is much the learner can explore and do. 

I am a strong believer that we have many non-formal educational opportunities available with our learners and we are currently underutilizing those environments. Game play, both online and on table tops has so many teaching and learning moments wrapped up within the experience. Game designers are well aware of human motivations, fascinations and often are aware of ways individuals wish to creatively express themselves. Teachers can learn much from simply playing some of these games and reflecting on what felt successful, what did not and how did you respond to the lack of success. In games, failure is a tool that players use to learn from and improve. Sadly in more formal educational efforts, failure is to be avoided at all costs and there is rarely any opportunity to retry or adapt. You either "get it" or you don't because the class is moving on with or without you; sigh! If you have not experienced video games and how the failure cycle is used in games, Minecraft is a nice game to try out. Alternatively, you can watch thousands of hours of Minecraft videos on YouTube if you rather. There are many other aspects teachers can learn from game designers, but the usage of productive failure cycles, fail - reflect - revise - try again, stands out as the number one element that formal education is lacking but game environments almost always include. 

The education version prices out to $5 per user. I think that if you had 100 learners that you wanted to get into Minecraft, that price could be ok, but for just a handful of learners I think that just getting a handful of the commercial versions of the game is a better way to go. The education version does allow the teacher to control most everything in the game. Although the idea of control is a comfort to many educators, I worry that micromanaging play and exploration options can limit the discoveries that learners constantly shock me with. Giving students a variety of challenges within a game environment and having a finished product with a time constraint on completion has been much more effective in my experiences. The creative ways learners have worked within the challenge constraints have provided much positive discussion with students. 


I agree that games are great for learning. For one thing, they are powerfully motivating! Gamification can take any learning domain and make it fun. (There seem to be 2 uses for this term: either incorporating game dynamics like avatars and moving/shooting, or adding scoring, levels, or peer-rating components. Both are great!) The other thing about games is that they work so well as an exploratory mode. Instead of walking the user down a single corridor of learning, delivering content step-by-inflexible-step, games put learners in the middle of a carnival. 

I love games for the classroom. Specifically, there seems to be a great deal of benefit from games like Minecraft. The very design fo the game encourages critical thinking. Some believe this game can introduce learners to STEM careers and writing code. However, we know that for students to remain in an adult education classroom, they need to feel their learning goals are also being addressed. When using games in the classroom, there needs to be either an introductory lesson or final reflection at the ending of the game where the teacher ties the gaming experience together with intended learning objectives. This connection is often overlooked and is needed to make gaming in the classroom successful.

Kathy and others,

I wonder if you -- if anyone here -- has a good example of an introductory lesson or final reflection at the ending of a game, in which the teacher ties the gaming experience together with intended learning objectives.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

Technology and Learning CoP


Teachers and parents often ask me why people will sit there playing games like Minecraft or World of Warcraft for entire days if the people were allowed to do so? It is so hard to explain in one or two sentences or even a normal sized Ed post. Suffice to say there are important skills being learned and the recent Wall St events are a demonstration of what our gaming generation is capable of. 

It is very important for teachers and parents to really start studying these games, what is going on in these games and how to take advantage of all the skills gamers are becoming masters of. All this growth happening and yet many of us remain painfully ignorant of those worlds while lamenting that gamers are ignorant of the "real world". I suggest that gamers are much better equipped to learn about our real world than we are to learn about their digital worlds. 

I bring the recent Wall Street event into this conversation. A bunch of common, nobody, average citizens from all over the country quietly discussed and planned and eventually implemented something that few of us can understand. Many of this gaming generation not only figured out the rules of the financial games the rich play on Wall St, they figured out how to use their individual skills and their coordination as a team to manage to legally play the system with enormous effect and ramification.

In many of these online multi-player games, individuals from all over the world are working as coordinated teams to accomplish incredibly deep, complex and difficult tasks that take often more than 4 hours over multiple days to accomplish. Everyone has a role to play, everyone has to do their job over exhausting hours of high intensity action or the entire team of 16, 24, or even 32 or more players will all fail after days of progress.

Our "real world" just got a taste of "What the heck are these kids learning while wasting all their time playing these stupid games anyway?" Some of those coming out of this generation of gamers just took a stab at the existing power structures' rule set and it will be really interesting to see just how authoritarian those in power can retaliate without changing the rules of the game or as some may claim, resort to cheating. 

As always, anyone wanting to learn or experience what gaming these days looks like can always message me with questions or requests to see demonstrations, one of my major passions in life is what we can learn through game play together.

Has anyone else experienced demonstrations of what our young adult, gamer generation has been trying out in this game we call "real life"? 

Parents, teachers and anyone that loves the idea of board games. If you have a STEAM account (its a free online gaming service), there is a collection of over $140 of digital versions of board games available for just $10. STEAM does require that you have a computer or laptop that runs Windows 10 or Apple. Sadly phones and portable devices do not have the capabilities to keep up with most digital games available today. 

The game bundle is offered through another free service called Humble Bundle. Humble Bundle offers digital versions of books and games that are incredible deals. The money you pay, you get to decide how much goes to the original publishers, how much goes to the Humble Bundle service and even how much goes to your favorite charities! It is a wonderful service and I have used it many times to get digital games and a large library of digital books I use with learners...all for dirt cheap! Link to the Humble Bundle for the digital board game offer. NOTE: this offer is limited to only the next 11 days. Sometimes the offers come around again, but it is never a sure thing to wait to see if something you like comes back again later. 

The games are THE BEST to introduce your family and learners to modern board gaming. Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and Splendor are all included and are considered some ideal entry level games. Some advanced games that are internationally acclaimed like Terraforming Mars and Bloodrage are also included and both of those two games were in the top 5 games of the year in the years they came out!

I would be willing to play these games with anyone that gets this game bundle (again, it's just $10) and could help you learn the rules of any of these games (although I do have to learn Bloodrage and the Lord of the rings games in that batch).

You may want to share this information with your learners and their families, especially those families that were used to doing things together with others and can't because of pandemic restrictions. 

With so many of us feeling isolated from others, sitting down to digitally play a great boardgame can be very rewarding!

I am always available to help anyone wanting to set up a STEAM account or learn how to purchase through Humble Bundle, ( 

Admins: there was another LINCS thread on board games and it may be appropriate to have this posted there as well but I could not figure out how to post to multiple threads. I thought that was a feature in the past?