A couple of years ago, gaming fans in Lithuania decided to reach out to Tesla in a unique way – by constructing a huge virtual factory on Minecraft. It not only won recognition around the world, but also brought innovations to the country’s schools, according to a press release.
“We wanted to draw Tesla’s attention to Lithuania as a good place for their new factory, so we built a replica on the Minecraft gaming platform,” says Vytautas Butkus, one of the founders of the company Trys Kubai.
“Tesla itself also liked the idea, tweeting that Lithuania knew the way to their heart.”
The virtual construction work took 36 hours, while the process was available to see real time online.
Now, the company Trys Kubai is looking to use their experience to bring classroom innovations to Lithuanian schools.
“The kids who did it asked us a lot of questions – and not only about Minecraft or Tesla, but also about electric vehicles, green energy and the Kruonis [hydroelectric] power plant,” Butkus recalls.
That, he says, is when his team realised that by using this game they were reaching out to children and could interest them even in highly complex topics.
“It went to show that children are curious by nature. We understood that providing kids with information in a form they like solves many everyday learning challenges. It’s easier to get their interest,” Butkus says.
He also notes that the learning process becomes more effective when, together with theoretical information, children are also given an opportunity to engage.
“Minecraft is a sandbox type game – sort of like Lego, but moved to the digital world. In it, you can not only create activities for classes, but also give kids a space so they themselves can be creators,” he says.
Plans to expand the scheme abroad
A hundred groups of Lithuanian first-graders have already tried classes with Minecraft – and that number is set to grow, since the social enterprise intends to expand its activities.
“We plan to develop a special educational platform and offer it to primary school groups all over Lithuania. One thing that will help is the 20,000-euro prize sponsored by Tele2 that we won in the Reach for Change organisation’s competition this spring,” he says.
“If the product does well in Lithuania, we hope to also offer it to schools in other countries.”
According to Butkus, one of the company’s goals is to contribute to the United Nations Agenda goals of quality education and reduction of inequality, which are highly relevant in Lithuania as well.
From perimeters to a food pyramid
As Vytautas Butkus puts it, Minecraft can be put to use in any subject area – kids can calculate the perimeter and area of a house during mathematics, work through a labyrinth of words in Lithuanian classes, or gather food products from a digital market while learning about the food pyramid during social studies.
“A publisher of exercises and textbooks is helping to develop activities for our platform, so the new tools are integrated into the approved school programmes. Minecraft is just an additional learning method,” he says.
Butkus adds that he has not yet come upon a class where the game cannot be used – everything depends on the creativity of the developers and the pupils.
“We hope the product that we’ve built will create conditions for adults and children to talk about having a healthy and productive relationship with technologies. The world is advancing rapidly, so technologies will only multiply – we, for our part, are offering a useful product for the time that parents, teachers and children do decide to spend at the screen,” Butkus explains.