My goal for this project is to create a map as a tool for children to learn spatial skills. I started to ask myself why children need spatial skills.
Temple University’s Dr. Nora Newcombe argues, “spatial thinking is arguably one of the most important ways of thinking for a child to develop as he or she grows…A student who has acquired robust spatial thinking skills is at an advantage in our increasingly global and technical society.”
Maps support spatial thinking by helping children visualize where objects, places, cities and countries are in relation to one another. In the digital age, video games are a great new tool for education. For example, one of the most popular games, Minecraft, has an “Educational Edition” that teaches children spatial skills, building, design and math. More specifically, Minecraft can improve visual-spatial skills because children can work with the objects in the space to build structures.
Minecraft is a 3D “sandbox game,” meaning the player has very few limitations when it comes to creating their own virtual world. Using the blocks, the player can build whatever they can imagine. They can create anything they want. For example, they can construct buildings, design boats to sail over oceans, and build railroads to ride roller coasters.
I was curious about whether or not the game could truly help with learning spatial skills. My initial thought was that it could indeed be helpful specifically because children are focused on the game aspect of Minecraft and not the educational part. Learning through games is a great approach for teaching children because they tend to get lost in the fun of playing them.
I downloaded and played the game to try and understand what it could really offer as a learning tool. Everything on the screen is pixelated, making it a little uncomfortable to play. It is dizzying, and confusing to play without the use of a map.
The first time I played, I built a space and destroyed the blocks. I then searched and found a few maps for Minecraft. One of these maps was a minimap that shows where the player is, but it required the installation of another program.
Image 2 shows one of the mini maps. The mini-map is too simple, and it looks unfinished. The purpose of the mini map is to give the basic minimal information that the players need, without actually playing. Additionally, one cannot control the mini map in terms of zooming in or out to understand the number on the bottom of the map that looks like coordinates. The symbols used to show the different building tools are somewhat unclear, especially for a beginner, and the map would make more sense if it including a few simple words.
Every time the user creates a new Minecraft world, it will be assigned a random value known as a “seed.” A “seed” is a type of location where the user can play. Many players share seeds they have found, which allows users to play in specific locations. If the user is searching for a rare item, he or she can enter the specific place as opposed to entering a randomized place.
Image 3 looks like a real world map, but it isn’t. This interactive map shows more information than the mini map. On the top left, there is a seed number. If the user clicks that area, the seed number changes. Then the user can copy and paste the number and enter the area they chose. On the bottom right, there is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) button that helps users find places they would like to play in. However, Image 3 is tiring to the eyes because the shapes on the map are unclear and the colors make it hard to distinguish borderlines between continents.
Image 5 shows a Minecraft map that charts the elevation, land cover and orthography data taken from USGS, 3d buildings from Google Earth, and street mapping data from Google’s open street map.
Image 5 shows a map that is great for experiencing real street maps while playing the game. This is a mapped game scene in France. If the user wants to view it in the real world, they can simply press ‘k’ on their keyboard.
Image 6, it is also easy to find the location of the game scene by copying the latitude and longitude in the URL. This is a great map for teaching children many things because using Google Map’s coordinates, they can recreate the city by themselves and then compare it to the photograph. By doing so, children can better understand the relationship between spaces- gaining spatial skills, geolocation knowledge, and map reading.
I created a pixelated seed map for Minecraft because I want to make a map to be easy to read. I changed the colors and shapes. I also put the information on the spot.