Teaching with Sandbox Games: Minecraft, Game-Based Learning, and 21st Century Competencies


  • Cristyne Hébert University of Regina
  • Jennifer Jenson University of British Columbia




digital game-based learning, 21st century competencies, pedagogy, Minecraft


In this paper, we present the findings of a research study, working with 12 educators in a large urban school board in Ontario using Minecraft for 21st century competency development. We identify a number of pedagogical moves teachers made to support 21st century learning through communication and collaboration, both in the classroom and in the game world, and three approaches to play, directed/guided, scaffolded, and open, that represented a three tiers of critical thinking and creativity/innovation. We argue that while an open, exploratory sandbox game such as Minecraft can meaningfully aid students in the development of 21st century competencies, it is in fact teachers’ decisions around how the game will be used in the classroom that determine whether or not 21st century competency development is supported.  

Author Biographies

Cristyne Hébert, University of Regina

Cristyne Hébert is Assistant Professor of Assessment and Evaluation in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina. Her research focuses on digital literacies and alternative forms of assessment in K-12 and teacher education.

Jennifer Jenson , University of British Columbia

Jennifer Jenson is Professor of Digital Languages, Literacies, and Cultures in the Department of Languages and Literacies, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia. Her work examines the intersections of learning, play, gender and the cultures of making and playing video games.


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