App Review

Minecraft - Pocket Edition

World-building, resource-gathering game almost as good as PC version

  • Squaring off against a zombie.

  • Checking out build requirements in the crafting screen.

  • Finishing off cobble stone renovations.

  • A crafter’s castle is his or her home.

Review
Pros: Open sandbox gameplay puts users in charge of what kind of learning gets layered on top of the game.
Cons: Smaller everything (as compared to the PC version) can cause frustrations with controls, resources, and supervision.
Bottom Line: An excellent collaborative, creative, and critical-thinking resource for classrooms using mobile devices, but doesn't offer all the learning opportunities of the PC version.
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Can be adapted to a wide range of learning objectives, and a great investment for promoting collaboration, creativity, and critical-thinking. The PC version offers more opportunities for more complex and sophisticated engagement, though.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Lots of opportunity for imaginative creation here -- especially for builder/tinkerer types. Also great for layering on top of in- or out-of-school learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Recipes for creating in-game items are built into its crafting interface. Creative mode is relatively anxiety-free, but surviving the first night of survival mode can be challenging for novice players.

Our Review
What's It Like?

Minecraft Pocket Edition is the mobile version of the popular PC building game Minecraft. Kids gather basic resources (in cube form, dirt, stone, water, and trees) to assemble more complex tools, materials, and structures. Up to five kids can work together over local Wi-Fi, making collaboration an option. Two gameplay modes accommodate distinct experiences: creative (think abundance and peace) and survival (think scarcity and monsters).

At startup, kids can begin a new game (which is visible to others as a Wi-Fi game) or join an existing Wi-Fi game. Then kids choose between creative and survival modes. Minecraft Pocket Edition builds a unique world for each game. Players can also input "seeds" –- special codes found online –- to generate specific worlds. Kids use a virtual thumbstick to control navigation, and swipe, tap, and hold to interact with the game world. In survival mode, kids collect basic resources to build more complex products and structures. They'll also need to withstand the monster-infested nights. Creative mode fills kids' inventories with an infinite supply of all the materials and tools available in the game and turns off the night.

 

Is It Good For Learning?

Though smaller in scope than its PC predecessor, Minecraft PE preserves wonder and delight in exploration, discovery, and making. As kids explore the game's unique worlds, new possibilities for creativity and strategy meet them at every turn. Deciding what and and where to build lets kids set goals and shape gameplay, and it's crazy fun to boot. You can suggest more specific goals and guidelines to address a diverse range of classroom objectives. Unfortunately, the limitations of Minecraft PE are the very things that allow for mobile access; the game's limited resources, small world size, short viewing distance, and sticky, thumbed controls suffer in comparison to the PC game's scope and user interface.

How Can Teachers Use It?

The best part of Minecraft PE is in its sandbox gameplay, where kids have have hands-on ability to create living worlds from natural resources. Looking at the app as a series of worlds to manipulate, each with different needs and challenges, gives you and your students the chance to use the game for studying geology, geography, math, and storytelling. For example, you might ask kids to build different geometric solids and calculate the surface area and volume of each. Or kids could compare and contrast Minecraft's biomes and geological strata with those of Earth.

This review of Minecraft - Pocket Edition was written by

Field Notes
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Patrick B. Coachella Valley High School Thermal, CA
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