Jon Cassie is an educator, writer, podcaster and game designer based in Southern California. See his work at Game Level LearnIlinx and SchoolNEXT.

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MINECRAFT

Minecraft is one of those game experiences that die-hards totally get (and are rabidly committed to) but which non-players struggle to understand. I’ve been asked “what’s the point?” by more parents/friends/family than I could probably count at this point. The simple answer is this - Minecraft gives young people an opportunity to build something (digital building, I know, but don’t denigrate that) that they can come back to over and over again to rebuild, augment or transform. Building in the physical environment can be quite restrictive in terms of space; anyone who has built with blocks knows this. Anyone who has built a sandcastle knows that building in the “real world” can be a fleeting experience. Minecraft is one of the great “open platforms.” Not really a game, more like a toy, but a powerful stimulant to creativity and flow. Here’s a neat story on just how big the Minecraft environment is.

SOCRATIC SMACKDOWN

Ooh…now this is something I could get behind. One teacher’s approach to gamified instruction is this creative discussion-based game that gives students an opportunity to develop their speaking skills in a rich, content-centered context.

SUPER MARIO BROTHERS

Level design is a fundamental component of contemporary game design. It’s also, on a very real level, what we do in teaching and curriculum development. No teacher starts with the final exam as the first experience! Great lessons build subtly, inevitably, towards that “boss-level” goal. Just the same as Super Mario Brothers. Here’s a fascinating story about the design of the very first Mario game.

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