Tallinn University of Technology

Distance learning has sharply increased the share of digital tools in learning, and the readiness and interest of schools and teachers to use these new tools is high. Today, some schools already use the international platform BetterGeo, which means a novel way of learning natural science subjects with the help of Minecraft.

Loodusained Minecraftiga

According to Rutt Hints, a researcher at the Department of Geology of Tallinn University of Technology, the application of Minecraft, one of the most popular games in the world, for teaching and learning natural sciences has gained popularity in several countries. “The idea born at the Geological Survey of Sweden has now grown into an international platform, and we want to introduce this new tool to as many Estonian schools as possible in order to make the teaching and learning of natural science subjects more exciting,” says Hints.

The Minecraft game consists of blocks, and in this world you need to collect a variety of materials, such as wood, stone, and metal, in order to construct buildings or prepare tools. According to Hints, BetterGeo is a playful learning material based on the principles of Minecraft to facilitate learning about minerals, the circular economy and sustainability. “The new interactive learning tool is an extension to Minecraft that changes the course of the game and gives it new features. BetterGeo adds realistic geology to Minecraft – new rocks, minerals and metals, as well as real ways to search for them. In the Estonian version, we have added our own rocks and minerals, such as gneiss, limestone, garnet and others. At the same time, students will receive a real set of rocks for conducting research, in which case the task is to determine the real rocks using the notes made in the game,” she added.

“Many children are already familiar with the game beforehand, and if not, the logic of the game is very easy to learn,” Hints listed the benefits of using the game as a learning material, adding that teachers’ initial feedback on the platform has been positive as well.

The study game is particularly suitable for students aged 8–11. The size of the learning group depends on the students’ experience with Minecraft. There are a number of tasks with different durations and preparation times included in the BetterGeo study materials. “According to specific needs and wishes, the teacher can choose whether to include a short exercise to verify that the topic has been successfully learned or to take on longer tasks and projects covering the whole topic,” Hints gave examples of the flexible possibilities of using the material.

The BetterGeo extension and materials are free, but require a pre-installed original version of Minecraft. If interested, teachers can contact by sending an e-mail to karin.kaar@taltech.ee.

The TalTech Department of Geology belongs to the School of Science of Tallinn University of Technology, combines natural sciences and engineering studies and trains specialists in the mining industry. The researchers of the department are also researching what raw materials Estonia needs in the future and what are the best technologies for extracting them.

Additional information: TalTech Department of Geology +372 512 1131, geo@taltech.ee