How the Department of Education is using Minecraft to problem solve the future
The concept of learning through play is nothing new. And in a world where kids are growing up with technology at their fingertips, it’s only natural that play extends to game-based learning. Minecraft, the best-selling video game of all time, has long embraced this, and enables many exciting possibilities in the educational sphere, even offering its own Minecraft: Education Edition.
As a platform that promotes creativity, collaboration and problem solving, it’s no wonder the Department of Education and Training (DET) in Victoria, Australia, reached for this innovative tool to advance its design and technologies curriculum. Together with the Metro Tunnel Education Programme, they created the Mini Melbourne world. Its purpose: to teach students about Melbourne and Victoria’s past, present and future, through the lens of Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel construction.
Using Minecraft: Education Edition, they rendered the city of Melbourne in exquisite detail. While not the first city to be recreated in Minecraft, what sets Mini Melbourne apart is that it’s the only city built primarily as an educational resource. Students from grade 5 to year 8 are invited to take part in a range of classroom activities designed around the construction of the new Metro Tunnel project. The first lesson plan, Archaeology Adventure, even allows them to dig up sites in Melbourne and find virtual versions of artefacts found in those areas in real life during construction.
With art imitating life in the context of a gamified educational experience, we jumped at the chance to help develop the next phase of the program: Mini Melbourne 2.0. The new release features even more immersive detail and includes Minecraft renditions of the new metro stations currently under construction in the real Melbourne. Students (and the public) will be first to virtually preview and tour the future Town Hall station, set to open in 2025, in a Minecraft mission dubbed Station Ideation.
Along the journey, they’ll meet-up with Metro Tunnel design team characters and be assigned their mission: to transform the station by designing solutions to meet the future needs of passengers. As students explore, they’ll meet with virtual passengers, identify concerns and conceptualise design solutions that will improve their chosen user’s experience. In other words, they’ll develop creative problem-solving skills through the gamification of basic design thinking.
To support the launch of the new Station Ideation mission, we were tasked with executing a 360° immersive experience at EduTech, a national B2B trade show and conference for educators and technology providers. Not only did we need to make heads turn, but our solution had to also seamlessly integrate with a greater stand that celebrated 150 years of public education.
Our solution? An experience inspired by the game’s signature 3D pixel aesthetic – a giant Minecraft cube. Featuring 3.5m x 3.5m panels, it comprised four walls onto which we projected different parts of a single video file, all seamlessly synced to give a 360°-surround view. Check it out below.
Educators could step inside and go on a 5-minute rollercoaster journey where Freddie, Head Designer from the Metro Tunnel Project, gave them an exclusive tour of the future Town Hall station. To extend the experience and make it mobile, attendees also received VR goggles. Mimicking the same 360° view as our cube, it allowed them to share the experience with their colleagues.
We just love how this project and its launch creatively use technology to educate, engage, and captivate through an immersive experience. It not only allowed for people to preview this major infrastructure project in a whole new way, but also to actively and collaboratively take part in the kind of problem solving and design thinking future generations (and cities) require.