Apr 13 2021

Q&A: Felisa Ford on ‘Good Trouble: Lessons in Social Justice’ for Minecraft Education

Ford, the lessons' co-creator, remarks on creating a powerful world and the benefits of game-based learning for K–12 education.

Minecraft: Education Edition’s “Good Trouble: Lessons in Social Justice” brings the discussion of equality to students by introducing them to the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis. The lesson, which has more than 2 million downloads since its release last November, helps educators explore the ideas of social injustice with their students. Other lessons in the series will cover identity, diversity and inclusion.

Lewis, a noted civil rights activist first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986, often spoke about what he famously referred to as “good trouble.” In “Lessons in Good Trouble,” students learn about Lewis’s life and the history of the civil rights movement, both past and present. Students can also explore other significant social justice movements around the world. Leaders like Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela, among others, are featured for their impact on millions of lives and their approaches to “good trouble.”

As a digital learning specialist at Atlanta Public Schools, Felisa Ford’s connection to Congressman Lewis’s story is personal. Atlanta was his congressional district, and Ford took students to Selma, Ala., each year on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge behind Lewis. In his remarks made during his final march across the bridge, Lewis told listeners, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

Ford, a co-creator of Minecraft’s “Good Trouble,” spoke with EdTech on the goals, importance and impact of the series.

EDTECH: Where did the idea to build these lessons on social justice originate?

FORD: It started at the height of the social justice movement and the unrest that took place in the spring and summer of 2020. The Minecraft team reached out to me to collaborate on creating a lesson around social justice movements and Black Lives Matter. We wanted to bring it into a space where students could understand and relate to the movement using an environment they’re used to, while making the content relevant for them.

I knew that the context of the conversation was so huge and so important, and I wanted to make sure it was done right. I reached out to Natasha Rachell, one of my coworkers at Atlanta Public Schools, and Ken Shelton, who does a lot of equity and inclusion work.

EDTECH: What are the educational goals of the “Good Trouble” series?

FORD: We wanted to make a space where students of color and disenfranchised groups can see the value of their contributions and see what has been done on behalf of others in society. We were intentional about touching on people who had gotten into good trouble across the globe and who have been catalysts for change for others.

Felisa Ford photo
We wanted to make a space where students of color and disenfranchised groups can see the value of their contributions.”

Felisa Ford Co-creator of Minecraft’s “Good Trouble”

Students have been able to make connections to their local communities and see how local people have been catalysts for change and gotten into good trouble. We had no idea what it would become. We were hopeful that people would see the value in it, but we didn’t realize the impact that it would make.

Last week, Natasha and I co-taught a “Good Trouble” lesson with classrooms in Canada. They were so engaged, and they were able to make the connections and wanted to know more about the activists who were in the world. There was one student who said, “I am so happy that you have Malala in this world. My parents are from Pakistan, and I want to learn more.”

EDTECH: What is your hope for the future of the “Good Trouble” world and the students who are experiencing it?

FORD: My hope is that students can take what they’ve seen in the world — and what these activists have done — and understand that these were just ordinary people who took a chance and did extraordinary things. Hopefully students can see that they can begin to impact change wherever they are or stand up when they see something that’s not right.

I’m also hoping there is an extension beyond the people we identified, because we know that our list was by no means exhaustive. There are so many people that have done so many great things. Hopefully students and teachers can continue the conversation and dig deeper into the positive things that people have done from the beginning of time.

LEARN MORE: How schools can work toward digital equity in K–12 education.

EDTECH: Why are Minecraft and similar platforms effective tools to teach students, particularly K–12 students, about topics like social justice?

FORD: It’s about game-based learning. Students love that platform because it’s different from what you normally see in a classroom; it’s not just lectures and note taking. They’re able to have an immersive experience with the content.

It promotes critical thinking and creativity so students can express themselves. The lessons are age-appropriate but also let students express and build and create. We also created these lessons in a way that, after students are finished with the content, there are components of the message outside of Minecraft so they can continue the conversations.

MORE ON EDTECH: Here are 3 ways to set students up for success in the digital age.

For teachers who are not comfortable with Minecraft, I would just encourage them to expose their students to it. Nine times out of 10, the students already have experience with Minecraft. If teachers will just allow them that opportunity, the students can take it from there. And if the teachers have an open mind, they can learn from the students.

EDTECH: How does the implementation of these lessons shape where K–12 education is going?

FORD: I think this is just the beginning of how we can use these various tools to have crucial conversations in K–12 classrooms. It demonstrates that teachers and students are ready for this type of content. You can bring this type of content into a gaming environment for students to be able to understand and relate to these lessons. I can only imagine what others will create going forward.

WATCH: Ford shares more on being a teacher and co-creator of Minecraft's “Good Trouble.”

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