12 Sep 2018

Introducing the Minecraft Cybersecurity Education Project

The following is the first in a series of  guest posts by Chris Markman, Senior Librarian at Palo Alto City Library in conjunction with PLP’s recently awarded Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, “Cybersecurity for Youth Using Minecraft”. Interested in learning more or getting involved? Check the end of this post for upcoming events related to the project and contact information. This project is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library should be inferred.

Hello World!

Like a lot of people, I started playing Minecraft in the early 2010’s when the game still had that “new car” smell and you had no idea what was beyond the next cave entrance, but the idea for this project really began in 2016, following a series of security conference presentations by Jarred White which I documented in a guest post for the EDUCAUSE Security Matter blog. The premise was simple—use Minecraft gameplay to teach information security concepts—and for libraries this seemed like a perfect match between a very popular video game often seen in public computer labs, and the privacy and security minded ethos behind many of our new public outreach and education efforts amid a slew of high profile data breaches in recent years.

Over the next two years as my career transitioned from academic IT at a private university on the east coast to a public library on the west coast, and the idea stuck with me. Through the California State Library’s Pitch-an-Idea Program, we refined the idea into a scalable, year long research project involving multiple library systems and a focus on usability and measurable objectives and learning outcomes. You can read the full grant application and see other past LSTA grants awarded through this search interface.


It’s important to know this project is split into three phases which build off one another. Our kickoff event took place earlier this summer through an online survey sent to PLP member libraries. Data collected in this survey directly lead into focus groups and phone interviews with different librarians, library systems, and their associated teen advisor groups or boards. Phase 1, research and development, ends in December this year.

Phase 2, beginning in 2019, switches focus from creating to UX and usability testing, through the delivery of lesson plans and cybersecurity training for PLP librarians who wish to participate. I am then using this experience and feedback to create a toolkit for librarians in the final phase of the project, Phase 3. The final phase is also data driven, but designed to evaluate the effectiveness of Minecraft based cybersecurity education in public libraries through a pre and post survey process for both instructors and students who take the course.

My personal goal is to not only make a fun and interactive educational gaming experience that librarians find easy to use, but also something they want to use and expand on to fit the needs of their community. This takes time, and as they say, Minecraft wasn’t built in a day.

Upcoming Events & Contact Info

Want to learn more? Shoot me an email or tweet, or visit one of the following events—I’ll be there!

September 21st – Mountain View, CA – Intentional Play Summit @ The Computer History Museum
Follow this link for a reduced group rate for librarians! This is an all day conference and has a great lineup of speakers.

September 29th – Palo Alto, CA – MINECON Earth Party @ Stanford Shopping Center
This is a free event that is also being streamed online, however as an added bonus if you visit the Microsoft Store in person we have some time scheduled with Keri Chismar, their Community Development Specialist, who can tell you more about Minecraft Education Edition.

October 16-18th – Monterey, CA – Internet Librarian 2018
See me at session C103 on Day 1 for some behind-the-scenes research on this project. I promise it will be a lot of fun! Content from this event will also be posted online, but I would love to answer your questions and hear your feedback.