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DYN Minecraft Research Project

Exploring the feasibility of minecraft as a platform for computational learning


The DYN Minecraft Research Project seeks to utilize Minecraft’s almost unparalleled success and popularity with children to find ways of increasing accessibility to computationally relevant content. However, it has been difficult for educators to adopt Minecraft as a teaching platform. This is because there is a gap between the students, in many cases content experts, and teachers, who don’t have the knowledge or tools to use Minecraft’s for learning purposes.

Thus this project seeks to understand:
  • How design affects student engagement in the virtual world.
  • What tools are needed for educators to be able to lead Minecraft centric learning events.
  • What are the technological constraints that prevent successful and engaging events.
  • How to determine if kids are learning through play.
  • What are the necessary elements to successfully support blended learning environments through Minecraft’s multiplayer experience.

Current projects

Indefinite Hold

Because DYN is moving to Northwestern this summer, current and future work is on an indefinite hold. We are seeking organizations and individuals who are interested in working with Minecraft to work together to create interesting and educational content for children.

If you are interested please reach out to Dom Amato at damato@digitalyouthnetwork.org

Past Projects

2017 Bronzeville Fusion Network

The Digital Youth Network at DePaul University (DYN) and Little Black Pearl (LBP), in collaboration with CPS’s Office of Leadership and Learning have launched the Bronzeville Fusion Network (BFN), a living lab designed to deepen our collective understanding as to how to strengthen the STEAM learning ecosystem for youth and families of Chicago’s Bronzeville community. Specifically, the BFN seeks to bring together schools in Bronzeville, local informal learning organizations, and families to understand and address the barriers limiting Bronzeville’s youth participation in STEAM learning experiences both in and out of school.

Summer 2016 Mobile Vans

The Summer of 2016 saw the project back in the Digital Youth Network’s mobile van outreach program. Trained mentors traveled the city to parks, libraries, and other locations in order to host minecraft related activities with youth.

Spring 2016: Minecraft with the Digital Divas and Connected Camps

In the Spring of 2016 we partnered with Connected Camps and the Digital Youth Network’s Digital DIVAS program to observe the interactions that occured between students and mentors in a blended environment. Connected Camps joined the DIVAS in the game and over a Google Hangout while in person mentors facilitated the activity.

Fall 2015-Spring 2016: Minecraft Saturdays

During the period starting in the fall of 2015 and continuing into the spring of 2016 we play tested worlds with students to discover and refine the tools necessary for mentors to engage and control classrooms in minecraft. The playtests also gave us design insights into world and curriculums based on observations by the researchers and feedback from the students.

Summer 2015: What are kids motivations in minecraft

The initial stage of the DYN Minecraft project was a part of the initial Digitial Youth Network’s Mobile Van Initiative. The study spent four weeks in a Chicago Public School working with students in Minecraft and MinecraftEDU. The findings from this study were integral for identifying initial needs for using minecraft in an educational space and the common issues that arose when kids were all a part of the same virtual environment. The findings from this study lead to the creation of our own city server.


Current Members


Ugochi Jones

Dr. Ugochi Jones is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN) at DePaul University. She is particularly interested in promoting digital equality through innovative educational interventions. She is also interested in the design of learning environments, pedagogy, and assessments that further support students’ development of technical expertise.


Dom Amato

Originally from Milwaukee, he earned his masters in Human Computer Interaction from DePaul University. As an undergraduate, he studied Art and Technology at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. He thinks technology has the power to change people's lives and he wants to contribute to people's well being through it.


Leslie Smith

Leslie Smith is a recent graduate from DePaul University with her M.S in Human Computer Interaction. She also has a B.A. in Applied Mathematics. She believes the UX design process and research principles have the power to harness technology in a way that can empower students to learn more effectively.

Past Members


Jet Traverso

Jet Traverso is from Chicago and earned a degree in Interaction Design from Columbia College Chicago. She has worked in Computer Science education since 2015, and before that founded and ran a supplemental instruction Computer Science club for her peers at her college. She believes in creating a world where Computer Science is accessible to anyone.


Isaac Valadez

Isaac Valadez is a graduate student at DePaul University pursuing a masters in Human-Computer Interaction. He wants to help create tools that empower people. He is studying in Chicago thanks to a grant he received from the Fulbright organization.


Jessa Dickinson

Jessa Dickinson is a PhD candidate in the human-centered design program at DePaul University. She holds an MS in human-computer interaction. She has worked in the UX field since 2015 and has filled the roles of researcher, information architect, and interaction designer. At Digital Youth Network she conducts qualitative research on the factors that affect the accessibility of informal STEM programs for youth (particularly girls) in low-income communities. Her PhD research explores if and how low-income communities are engaged in governance of technology and data in their neighborhoods and what role technology and data can play in developing equitable and environmentally sustainable urban communities.


Joshua Engel

Joshua is now a web developer and tech educator. He still works with Minecraft in camps through other organizations in the city of Chicago.


Erin Walker

Earned her Bachelor of Science in video game programming at Columbia College Chicago. She is now a software engineer at Echo Global Logistics.

For more information regarding the DYN Minecraft Research Project, you can contact Dom Amato at damato@digitalyouthnetwork.org

Funding and Partners

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