That time my daughter built a shopping mall in her after-school program

Yesterday, my 9-year-old got home from school, slung off her backpack, and got together with her friends to put the finishing touches on a beautiful, modern fantasy hotel with expansive jade-colored tile floors, inviting wooden booths scattered throughout the lobby, and an under-water themed restaurant with a seasonal menu in the back. She and her friends spent hours crafting the hotel and restaurant to match their vision. And when they were done, they invited their neighbors to drop by and enjoy their handiwork.

All was going well until a new customer came in, looked around, and started breaking things — so they escorted him out, called for help, and discovered that he’s a known troublemaker. So they banned him from their space, and continued along happily, playing and decorating their make-believe clubhouse.

Oh yeah — did I mention that all of this is happening on a Minecraft server run by a bunch of educators?

You’re probably aware of Minecraft — that huge worldwide gaming hit that sold to Microsoft for $ 2.5B.  If you have kids, you may have seen them playing Minecraft for hours at a time. This game can be puzzling – it LOOKS like they’re building with Legos —but it’s a digital multi-player game. So is Minecraft time like Lego-building time? Or is it more like gaming-screen time?

It turns out that it’s a bit of both.

Minecraft is an endlessly malleable sandbox game that can be played in many ways – and spun into different experiences with custom servers. In our podcast this week we interview Mimi Ito – an educator turned startup founder who runs Connected Camps, an organization that offers summer camps, after-school programs, and coding classes for kids that take place totally on custom Minecraft servers.

If you’ve ever wondered what Minecraft is all about – and how all that gaming time could actually be educational – listen in and find out how a collection of tech-savvy educators and anthropologists are shaping the future of progressive education.