While most people are familiar with Minecraft, a video game where players build and create 3-dimensional worlds, I’d love to tell you more about its lesser-known and distant relative, WriteReader.
WriteReader is a Danish (neighbour to the Swedes, who invented Minecraft) online literacy tool that helps students to read by experimenting with the written language and creating books from an early age.
WriteReader has an intentional design with carefully selected and simplified functions needed for young students to create multimodal books (text, voice, and images) while at the same time increasing written language acquisition. The tool seeks to engage students by focusing on the inherent qualities of writing and creating something unique and allowing them to share and make their voices heard.
Can second be best?
One of the biggest compliments that WriteReader has received was from a boy in 1st grade. He raised his hand after class and said:
Sometimes it’s fine being second and especially in this case, because WriteReader IS NOT a game.
WriteReader has deliberately chosen to omit all gamification elements and focused on the joy and power of being a creative storyteller, book creator, and publisher. At least for that boy, it seems like WriteReader has succeeded in turning writing into a fun, engaging experience–without containing any gamification elements. How can that be?
Open-ended creation tools
One of the reasons could be that building stories and creating books might contain some of the same kinds of elements and hooks as building a world in an artificial and pixelated world. In Minecraft, you have a range of tools and building elements that makes it possible to create almost everything.
WriteReader is likewise an open-ended tool, where students can use and combine images, audio and letters in infinite ways to create something to be proud of. Letters are bricks to create words to create sentences as a prerequisite for the written language that can be combined in numerous ways and tell any story. It’s hard to imagine anything more fascinating. WriteReader can from an early age open the student’s eyes to what the written language can accomplish and why it’s important to learn how to read and write.
Minecraft as a lever for writing
Students can also use their interest in Minecraft (or any other topic) as motivation to become better at writing. Supported by 16 integrated Minecraft images, students can easily create a book and share their knowledge about their favorite game with other students. It can be a guidebook with tips and tricks about the game or a fictional story about Steve and how he becomes friends with a creeper.
With WriteReader’s integrated image search feature (with +1.5 million rights-free images) and a camera feature, students can create books no matter their interests and what’s important and interesting to them.
Not surprisingly, Minecraft is the most popular topic among WriteReader’s young writers, as evidenced by the recent inventory of the illustrations students use in their books.
If you take the beginning of the name WriteReader and the end of the word Minecraft, you get a new term that very well answers the title and question of this blog post.
By combining students’ interest in one of the world’s most popular video games with one of the most motivating learning tools, very good conditions are created for developing one of the most important skills in today’s society: “writecraft”.
Read Zak’s book by clicking on the cover image above.