Most schools block the video game Minecraft for recreational use, but some innovative educators have found ways to manipulate the game to fit curricula for educational use. Some teachers allow students to play the basic game independently, where they can exercise their creativity, planning skills and problem solving skills. Educators can also direct a child's play or modify the basic game to fit a particular lesson or area of study.
While video games are generally regarded as purely recreational, Minecraft is gaining a good reputation as a potential teaching tool. Opinions vary on whether free play or guided learning is more beneficial, but programs, such as MinecraftEdu, offer special versions of the game geared toward educators and offered at discounted prices for schools.
A biology teacher at a New York high school used Minecraft to create an interactive model of a cell to teach students about DNA. Students use Minecraft tools, with each renamed with a chemical name, to affect changes in the cell with the final goal of isolating DNA molecules from the cell. Each of the chemical tools is programmed to have the same effect on the virtual cell as would occur in a real world setting.
Some teachers use Minecraft modifications to transform the Minecraft world into ancient civilizations, such as ancient Rome or Egypt. While students can explore the city on their own, quest missions guide the students' exploration so they can learn the objectives of a history lesson. Unlike watching a video reenactment of a civilization, students can interact with the world, which helps cultivate a deeper understanding. Educational opportunities for playing Minecraft at school are likely to increase as more school systems discover the potential benefits.