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Noelene Callaghan

My Blog

My Blog

How to engage students with gaming

Posted on 12 April, 2015 at 1:45

In recent years, there has been much debate as to whether games should be introduced into classrooms or not. Opinions regarding how the validity and academic credibility of the games are often divided and deemed as controversial. This is perhaps due to the manner in which they are used within our own home. We typically think of games in the sense of the Xbox, the wii or downloadable apps for our mobile devices.


Further, games aimed at school age children are often considered to be violent, uninformative and without great purpose. However, games at any capacity have been proven to increase literacy levels, gross motor skills as well as increase an individuals ability to think and act critically and creatively (which is inline with the National Curriculum capabilities).


In recent years, more and more teachers are introducing traditional and online games to engage students as well as to teach and develop new content. They use competitive exercises, either pitting the students against each other or getting them to challenge themselves in order to motivate them to learn better. Further, games often have a fantasy element that engages players in a learning activity through a storyline. Games can also be used to facilitate student centered learning environments as well as flipped classrooms.


This is supported by much research that advocates that gaming is increasing student results as well as their ICT skills. A survey by Games and Learning Publishing Council quotes Din Heiman from BrainPOP in their findings that;


“We’ve learned that if you provide teachers a place to find quality learning games, games that engage and challenge students, tie directly into their curriculum, and play on the prevailing classroom devices within the boundaries of their lesson period – you will be literally overwhelmed with the response”.



Two gaming programs that I use with my students are Kahoot.It and Minecraft. I use these two games for different purposes as well as sparingly so that all students learning needs are met throughout the course (there are many students who do enjoy Minecraft but are not overly passionate on using it daily, so blended learning environment is offered to them. This allows them to succeed using different digital tools). is a great game to test the pre-knowledge and post-knowledge of students. This game requires the teacher to create a quiz or survey before the class and allows the students to select their answer. In this game, there are no right or wrong answers which is great as an engagement tool at the beginning of the lesson as it can be used to prompt conversation and debate.This game requires all students to have their own device as well as for the teacher to be able to project the questions to the class. If your teaching device has Mouse Mischief downloaded onto it, you can also use it to enhance the effectiveness of the game.




Minecraft is more than a game for boys. It is a virtual setting that enables its users to strategically build architecture and more using a grid. This means that everything built on a large scale resembles images that look pixelated. At Rooty Hill High School, Minecraft began as a ‘club’ that a small number of students participated in during lunchtimes and after school. This began as part of a Microsoft Transformation Project that allowed this and 4 other schools from Australia and New Zealand to participate in a collaborative learning environment using “Mineclass*” (it should be noted that a wifi modem was purchased and used in order to reach the external server). Minecraft gave these participating students an opportunity to extend their already mastered skills and complete new challenges that they have never attempted to complete before. This group of students documented their progress which can be found at


Once both the supervising teacher and the students developed their Minecraft skills, an investment was made to purchase a Minecraft Edu server and licence so students could access it whilst at school via the NSW DEC internet gateway.


Minecraft Edu

Minecraft Edu is extremely similar to Minecraft. Although students are reserved at first when using it, they soon discover that few differences exist and that they can do the same things as using Minecraft. This also gives students who do not have personal Minecraft accounts an opportunity to play the game in a safe setting. At Rooty Hill High School, Minecraft Edu is being introduced into teaching and learning programs to support project based learning. Currently it is being used in Year 9 IST to build a setting for their robotic video. In Year 7 TAS (Multimedia), it is being used to create student’s ‘ideal home’ that they originally designed in Google Sketchup. This simply gives students an additional tool that they can use to complete their projects.


What is observed is that students are much more engaged, focused and determined to complete their work. Students are even asking if they can ‘stay in the classroom during lunch’ to work on their Minecraft builds. Our experience using Minecraft Edu is blogged at



*If your school is interested in participating in Mineclass, please go to for more information


Categories: 2015, Education, Minecraft