For some time now I've used Minecraft as an example of the sort of gaming experience that I believe has application for education. Minecraft is essentially a computerised version of lego on steroids, allowing players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. There's no pre-determined script or objective – just a mass of construction materials and opportunity to develop whatever you want.
The video above, from PBS Idea Channel, provides a persuasive argument for Minecraft as an educational tool – based largely on the premise that it's so customisabe. I have a son who began using Minecraft soon after its early release in 2010, and have watched with interest how this game has engaged him during the years since. Using this game he has built entire cities, complete with electricity generation and reticulation (which meant he had to solve how to generate the electricity, how to construct circuits etc. and how to solve the storage issue). He has worked with friends to build their own server and manage an installation of the game, and he and his friends have also taught themselves how to program and upload new objects into the Minecraft environment.
From my perspective it's a pretty compelling 'tool' for learning – and it seems that a number of educators from around the world think likewise. The resource Minecraft – a mountain of marvelous learning ideas – has been created as a Google Doc for people to add their own ideas and links to resources to support the use of minecraft in education. already there are several pages of ideas an links there that illustrate how Minecraft can be and is being used to support learning.
Of course, there's always the risk that when a tool or resource such as Minecraft is assimilated into the formal education environment it will end up killing interest and creativity, as highlighted in a recent article in edudemic which looks at the pros and cons of Minecraft in education, but I do believe there's a lot we, as educators, can learn from the phenomena that is Minecraft, and we'd do well to consider how we might embrace the principles upon which the game is based in our formal education system.