Crafting civic voice in the middle years: Minecraft virtual worlds as sites of student expression

Year: 2016

Author: King, William, Lynch, Julianne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores how the Minecraft game platform can support middle years’ students to develop their civic voice, where civic voice is conceptualised as the ability to contribute to decisions made in the community. The ‘Crafting the Community’ project brought together a group of upper primary and lower secondary school students to transform public spaces in the regional city of Warrnambool using Minecraft. The project design was informed by developmentally responsive learning principles, thus seeking to position students as active participants and decision makers in the learning process (Teague, Anfara, Wilson, Gaines, & Beavers 2012); to build generic skills and attributes, while also recognising the need to differentiate learning to address a broad range of abilities (Manning, 1993); and, to engage the interests and expertise of children of this age (Prosser, 2010). Project data suggests that the transformation of public spaces by re-building them in Minecraft allowed students to communicate their views on community issues in a manner that is highly relevant to them, positioned them as active stakeholders in their local community, and promoted skills in problem solving and collaboration. The paper draws on excerpts of video data to examine how students were able to use the notion of ‘building’ to establish and fashion both an individual and a collective voice. By focusing on civic voice, the paper aims to build on the work of Bers and Chau (2006) and Raphael, Bachen, Lynn, Baldwin, Philippi and McKee (2010) who have also examined digital game spaces as a means for students to express their views on civic issues. It also contributes to knowledge about how middle years’ students might be productively engaged with the civics curriculum, in ways that affirm and embolden both their individual and collective interests and expertise. Minecraft offers a new and novel means for students to investigate and engage with issues within their own communities while at the same time re-defining what it means to communicate their views on these issues.