We learn very early on as teachers that not every student is the same; they do not learn the same way, and they might not be able to convey their learning in the same way. I have had many students whose first language was not English or who found it difficult to write their final assessments because of learning disabilities. Differentiating for students generally means giving them different avenues to explore content, understand content, process that content, and create content.
Technology has always been a major factor in providing students those different avenues: video and audio platforms as instructional tools, animations and digital comic strips as tools to create content, and Google Apps as a way to organize learning.
Minecraft has been used to differentiate in a number of ways. You will see a lot of examples in this book about how it could work with the wide array of different learners in your class. You can create immersive worlds as a visual, interactive, and informational field trip so students can attain more than just words on a page. Students can create worlds to present their learning on a subject matter that they might not have been able to reproduce on paper. some fifth grade students in my school last year created hydroelectric dams and solar panels within Minecraft as a way to demonstrate their learning on energy. The student that created the dam was not a native English speaker, but from looking at the intricate working parts on the dam, I could instantly see what he had learned.
As differentiation is such a widely discussed and important aspect of education, it is worth noting that Minecraft might not be the best tool for every aspect of differentiating for a student. We cannot dismiss it, though, because it’s another powerful tool you can use to help students.