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Cultural learning through Minecraft video game

Pupils and students will learn about Sami culture through the use of video games. UiA launches a test version in connection with the Sami National Day on Saturday 6 February.

Her er hvordan Sametinget ser ut i Minecraft. Elevene kan så bevege seg inn i bygningen gjennom spillet.

Sami flag outside the Samediggi - the Sami Parliament.

At the Teacher Education Unit at the University of Agder, a Minecraft project is now being developed that will help schoolchildren explore Sami culture, history, geography and language. The project is undertaken in collaboration with teachers from primary schools in Kristiansand and Tromsø, Gáisi Language Centre in Tromsø, Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kautokeino and Microsoft Education. Skogliv, who operates the largest minecraft-server in Norway, are also a partner in the project. A test version will be available on the Sami National Day.

Games engage learners

The video game Minecraft can be compared to a digital sandbox that allows players to build constructions in a three-dimensional world. The game can be used for learning as players can navigate and move through buildings, discover new things and meet other players.

“It can be motivating for some pupils to use games as a form of learning. The game engages them and is a good starting point for interaction, dialogue and reflection”, says Kari Midtsund Nordbø, teacher at Vigvoll lower secondary school.

She is employed in a 40 percent position at UiA to develop the project which is part of STALU (Student Active Learning in the Teacher Education)

This is what Samediggi - The Sami Parliament - look like in Minecraft. The pupils can navigate through parts of the building at the moment, later they will be able to explore the whole Samediggi building.

This is what Samediggi - The Sami Parliament - look like in Minecraft. The pupils can navigate through parts of the building at the moment, later they will be able to explore the whole Samediggi building.

Idea from New Zealand

Line Reichelt Føreland

Line Reichelt Føreland

“We got the idea at the London BETT show in January last year”, says Assistant Professor Line Reichelt Føreland.

Together with several colleagues, she attended a presentation on how Minecraft is used as a tool to explore and learn about the culture and language of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

“The goal is that the Minecraft world we develop in the project will create more interest in exploring the Sami language, culture and history in schools”, says Føreland.

“There is more emphasis on the Sami perspective in the new curriculum, and I have been eager to learn more about Sami history, language and culture. Approaching this through a game platform like Minecraft is both exciting and challenging”, says Midtsund Norbø.

Marks National Day

Kari Midtsund Nordbø

Kari Midtsund Nordbø

February 6 is the Sami National Day. This year it falls on a Saturday, and therefore the launch of UiA’s Minecraft project is planned for the following Monday, 8 February. Students in our teacher education as well as school pupils get to try their hand at the video game.

“Parts of the Sami Parliament, the outer building with a flagpole, the plenary hall and the library, will be completed in the game before the National Day. And it will be possible to navigate through the building”, says Føreland.

“We have chosen to create a learning programme where pupils can use Minecraft to explore the Sami Parliament, and we have added various elements they can take a closer look at. Pupils and students are then asked to find something inside the building they might be interested in finding out more about outside of the game. This is how we use exploration as a learning strategy”, says Føreland.

Pupils from Vigvoll and Karuss schools in Kristiansand and  Workinnmarka school in Tromsø will take part in the trial.

“The vast majority of my pupils already know Minecraft well. They express great enthusiasm about getting to use the video game in a school context. Minecraft offers opportunities for exploration and interaction, which aligns well with the new curriculum”, says Midtsund Norbø.

See how the students can enter the Sami Parliament via Minecraft: