“Minecraft gives me the opportunity to create worlds and environments that make students go, ‘Wow!’” – Laurens Derks, Australia
Abbotsleigh School for Girls
Laurens Derks loves Minecraft, and he can offer up countless reasons why.
“Minecraft sparks conversations and creates learning moments that are priceless,” Derks tells us. “In a Special Education environment, I used it to promote social skills. In a year-four science class, I used it to examine building materials, their purpose and the production process. In a year-five history class, we explored the Victorian Gold Rush and simulated a day in the life of a gold miner. In a year-seven history class, we used it to experience the Silk Road trading routes, its riches and dangers.”
Of course, Minecraft is a natural fit for learning math. Derks is using it to help students master fractions in a Minecraft sculpture park he built, and his year-eight students are currently building human habitats on Mars.
“Minecraft gives me the opportunity to create worlds and environments that make students go, ‘Wow!’” Derks says.
Derks, whose first computer was a Commodore 64, has long understood the power of technology in the classroom, especially when it’s used creatively. He learned that lesson first-hand when he began teaching students with behavioral disorders and learning difficulties in 2006.
“I soon found that even the ‘bad’ kids — the ones other schools had rejected, the ones other teachers had given up on — engaged in meaningful learning when they were given the opportunity to be creative with technology,” Derks explains. “In other classes, they were given paper worksheets, and they would throw chairs out of the window. In my class, they designed computer games, composed digital music, edited videos and created digital artworks.”
When one of the most troubled students came to him one day to share the game he had been designing, Derks knew he was on to something. “It was so clear to me,” he says, “technology empowers young people!”
These days, Derks is also helping his fellow teachers discover the power of creative technology.
“I embed professional learning in projects that connect with the curriculum that teachers are building for their students,” he says. “Working collaboratively is critical to support teaching staff and bring their ideas to life in a meaningful way.”
About Laurens Derks
- Educational background: Primary Teacher, Special Education Teachers, Photography and Digital Media Teacher
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Minecraft & Office 365 as a whole.
- Website I check every day: Twitter
- Favorite childhood memory: Swimming in our backyard pool in the Adelaide Hills.
- Favorite book: Anything by Cassandra Claire
- Best advice you have ever received: Discover your boundaries!