At the beginning of this year, I heard my students buzzing about the game Minecraft, which allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D generated world. This was an opportunity to infuse 21st century skills with technology in a relevant and meaningful way. Just as Thomas Edison was able to refine his ideas, making them more desirable, it was my intention to adapt a game that students were already highly interested in to make it thought-provoking and engaging.
I changed the premise and purpose of the Minecraft game, and combined it with a method of systems thinking known as DSRP; i.e. a theory and method of thinking, an acronym, standing for Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives. I challenged students to form teams and build a world from one specific perspective-one that uses algae as a fuel source. After some research on algae cultivation and biofuels, the students were able to build, virtually authentic, algae farms.
I was impressed with their ability to understand the relationships between the parts of their system [systems thinking]. This became evident when students decided to put their algae farms next to the power plant so carbon dioxide off-gases from the power plant could be used to promote accelerated algae growth, thereby keeping the off-gases from adversely affecting earth’s ozone layer.
Since this project, we have tackled problems such as disaster preparedness and the waste/trash epidemic, through similar studies. It was amazing to see middle school students attacking real-world problems. This technology has proven to be engaging and also an effective tool to facilitate skills necessary in the 21st century.
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Thomas Edison said … “The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking misses the greatest pleasure in life.
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