Game-Based Learning

Not Into Video Games? Here's How to Let Students Lead on Teaching with Minecraft: Education Edition

Minecraft Student Ambassador Programs have proven successful at letting gaming-experienced students practice their leadership skills and at getting even the most reluctant teachers on board with using Minecraft: Education Edition in classrooms, resulting in dramatically more engaged learners, access to coding skills across every subject where Minecraft is used, and better learning outcomes, said Atlanta Public Schools’ Felisa Ford, who created the first-ever Minecraft Student Ambassador Program in her district two years ago.

The student ambassador groups are locally selected and managed within each school or district; the educators serving as sponsors connect the student ambassadors with networking and training opportunities specifically created by Microsoft for Minecraft student ambassadors, primarily to teach the students how to coach other students and teachers as they dip their toe into Minecraft: Education Edition, or how to give presentations to their classmates, and so forth. The program, Ford explained, teaches students who are already experienced Minecraft players how to be leaders and help others in their school grow more comfortable with the instructional version of the game.

Any educator can sponsor a Student Ambassador program — even an educator who does not like video games or has never played Minecraft.

As Allison Matthews, Head of Minecraft: Education Edition at Microsoft, told THE Journal: “The first step for teachers who want to dip their toe into Minecraft is to give yourself a break!” she said. “Realize that as an educator bringing Minecraft into the classroom, you are never going to understand the game as much as the students in your classroom. You get to be the learner in this scenario, you don't have to be the expert — and it doesn't matter how much training we offer for educators, those 8-year-olds, those 12-year-olds, they are always going to be the experts at video games.”

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There are no prerequisites or costs for an educator to participate in Microsoft’s sponsor training and start a Minecraft Student Ambassador Program at their own school, other than having a Microsoft Education account; sponsors don’t need to have student ambassadors already signed up, either, according to Microsoft.

The Minecraft Student Ambassador Sponsor program is open to classroom teachers, instructional technology coaches, school or district leaders, and “anyone who is interested in starting a Minecraft Student Ambassador program in their class or school.” The sponsor training program is guided by and aligned with standards-based instruction, according to Microsoft, integrating “key experiences highlighted in the ISTE Standards for Students, IB Learner Profile, and the 21st Century Framework.”

Educators interested in starting a student ambassador program in their school can choose either a self-guided, 10-unit “Start a Minecraft Student Ambassador Program” learning path on the Microsoft website, or they can apply to participate in a live, virtual sponsor program for educators that just completed its first cohort in late spring. The second cohort of the live, virtual sponsor training kicks off on Sept. 7, 2022. There is no cost to participate in either program.

Applications for the September cohort are being accepted now; the program requires participation in three live, virtual sessions (each offered at two different times) on Sept. 7, Sept. 21, and Oct. 7, followed by a two-hour live, virtual “bootcamp” event for the sponsors and their new student ambassadors on Nov. 9.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].