January 29, 2021 1:19:05 am
For Namya Joshi, school is no work, all “play”.
The 13-year-old from Ludhiana received the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar on Monday for using popular video game Minecraft to reshape curriculum and turning classrooms into educational gaming sessions.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that she “has achieved international status in the field of multimedia due to her talent”.
“I was grinning ear from the ear when I got a chance to interact with our Prime Minister,” Namya tells The Indian Express. “Although I couldn’t get to talk to him, he took my name — ‘Punjab ki beti Namya Joshi’ — and just seeing him speaking live was a dream. We will get a chance to meet him when all the prize winners go to Delhi once the Covid situation improves.”
Namya was among 32 children awarded this year. Other winners include 16-year-old Jyoti Kumari (16) who carried her ailing father for 1,200 kilometres from Haryana to Bihar’s Darbhanga on a cycle during the lockdown last year, Sonit Sisolekar, a 14-year-old volcanologist and 13-year-old Kamya Karthikeyan, the youngest person to conquer Mount Aconcagua and the youngest to ski from Mount Elbrus’s summit.
Since its release in 2009, Minecraft has become a cultural phenomenon. It is the highest-selling video game of all time, with over 200 million copies shipped, and the most-watched title on YouTube with 201 billion views last year alone. Players mine, and craft, 3D building blocks in a generated world, collect resources, shape tools, alter landscapes, build structures or even put together a functional computer inside the game. It is the open-world, block-building, sandbox nature of Minecraft that has made it increasingly valued as an educational tool.
Namya is a Class 7 student at Sat Paul Mittal School where her mother Monica is the IT head. In 2018, when Monica signed up to become a global Minecraft mentor, she remembers struggling with the game when her daughter asked for the laptop.
“I was surprised that she already knew about it. And here I was, looking for someone to guide me through the thing,” laughs Monica. For Namya, the first assignment was to recreate a Manali vacation in the game. Then, she turned to textbooks.
First, came a rendition of the Egyptian civilisation, with traders, Pyramids, the Nile. Then, every complex chapter, every tough subject her schoolmates stumbled over was reshaped as Minecraft guides.
“I used to see that children in class didn’t want to study because of rote-learning or book-reading. I personally also find it boring when I see whatever I’ve written in a notebook,” says Namya. “I didn’t look at Minecraft as just a game. I realised that it can teach the teachers. Create lessons that they can use in the classroom to educate students. I saw the change instantly with these lessons, children were more engaged and trying to understand concepts easily.”
Namya regularly conducts classes over Skype demonstrating the innovation in education. Her students? Senior teachers and principals from countries such as Russia, Hungary, Vietnam. In November 2019, she travelled to Jyvaskyla, Finland and did a five-day tour of schools, organising workshops and interactive classrooms.
Last February, she met Satya Nadella in Bengaluru, and the Microsoft CEO concluded his keynote by saying, “I was energised to meet so many young innovators in India this week, including Namya Joshi who is training teachers around the world on how to use Minecraft as a learning tool.”
The pandemic hasn’t slowed her down, either. Namya sticks to her checklist and planner, and is simultaneously working on a book, a podcast and possibly a YouTube channel for normal Minecraft gameplay. “I am basically an educational gamer. But when I have time, I create normal houses and designs in Minecraft. My brother has a YouTube channel and we’re going to do a collaboration, like a survival gaming series,” she laughs. Namya also realises that she is fighting for fellow female gamers, often considered a minority in the gaming sphere, more so in India. “That’s been my belief for a long time. People never say boy gamer, why do they say girl gamer? Gaming is for everyone.”
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