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Games in the Classroom Increase Engagement – And Attendance, Too

February 24, 2016

In an age where computer graphics look almost as good as real life, it might be hard to believe that a blocky, pixelated game like Minecraft could ever be popular. But Minecraft has taken the world by storm with over 20 million players, many of whom are teachers and students putting the game’s lessons into action. The game’s focus on creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving has made it a hit in the classroom – and for Alaska teacher Cindy Duncan, it’s even improving attendance.

Duncan teaches second grade in the remote island town of Sitka, where she’s already seen the impact of technology to keep her students engaged and connected. “In my classroom, learning is driven by curiosities and interests. My students are 21st century students,” she writes. So when Duncan began engaging her students with Minecraft, which many of her second-graders already loved, it was a perfect fit. But Duncan noticed something else, too: the promise of playing Minecraft was getting more students to come to school on time. Could she use the game to encourage her class to have better attendance?

After a month of careful research, Duncan created Morning Craft. For thirty minutes at the beginning of the day, her students would play Minecraft to warm up and get motivated – as Duncan put it, the game “got their brains thinking right away.” The catch? Late-comers missed out, and Morning Craft didn’t happen every day. The results? With Minecraft in the morning, unexcused tardies and absences dropped by half.

Since Duncan’s success, other classrooms in Sitka – and beyond – have started giving Morning Craft a try. Duncan is thrilled at the results and the potential of the game to make a difference in the classroom. “I feel like I have unlocked a treasure chest with Minecraft,” she says. “As an educator it’s my job to share the wealth, and I hope educators find success like I have.”