Good Learning Is Always Messy – Minecraft Project – Day One Reflections

pickaxeSo, just a quick post reflecting on Day One of our Minecraft project.

First off, from a technical standpoint, the program and the server worked perfectly.  We didn’t have any issues and the server practically yawned with boredom as we connected our 20 elementary and three teacher accounts.

Initially, I prepped the students with a brief introduction telling them they were literally pioneers and some of the first students in the world to ever do what we were doing.  It’s awesome to observe their facial expressions as they consider that.  Our students’ first experiences with Minecraft consisted of them logging into the world and learning the fundamental mechanics of the game (movement, breaking and placing blocks).  They were also introduced the chat system and we quickly discussed some basic limits on how much information we should share about ourselves.

A few more observations:

  • The students were abuzz with excitement when they came into the lab.  One particularly inquisitive student had spent quite a bit of time researching Minecraft on Youtube prior to Friday (See where they go to learn?).
  • Our 45 minutes flew by entirely too quickly and the kids realized it, too.
  • I think our administrators, who were there to observe, would agree that the speed at which the kids adapted to the controls was amazing.
  • Engagement was through the roof.
  • Students were very willing and eager to share what they were learning with their classmates.
  • In most cases, I refused to give them direct instruction about how to deal with the first problems they encountered, the most common of which was, “I’ve dug myself into a hole… How do I get out?”
  • I only used admin commands once to get a student who’d fallen into a deep and lightless cavern out because the glare of florescent lights on the screen made it nearly impossible to orient himself.
  • Adding the “shipwrecked explorers” element to the story helped provide a context for their overall challenge of cooperatively building a town.
  • One of the first thing that many of the students did was try to hit other players in the game.  My advice to them was “Go ahead and get it out of your system and see that it’s a waste of time so we can get on with our real challenge.”  This is normal gaming behavior.  You test the boundaries, limits, and rules of the game world.  That’s probably really important in sandbox games, where those limits are not well-defined.  I did, however, inform them that we won’t be harassing or destroying another student’s work and if they insisted on engaging in behavior like that, we could easily find a replacement.  …I don’t anticipate any issues there. :)
  • Especially due to our short time frame, a little more up-front guidance is going to be required if we are to achieve our end goals.  This has caused my anticipated direction for the second class to shift slightly, so, I’ll be headed to the store this weekend to pick up some graph paper and small composition notebooks.
  • Communication between schools will be a  challenge if we limit it to in-world chat.  We may integrate Skype in the coming weeks.
  • Feedback at the close from students was positive all around the room and they were reluctant to leave.

I felt really good about our initial outcomes.  When you try something new like this, it’s difficult to guess what it will look like.  You have to be flexible.  Having other educators on board can help you capture some of the “amazing” that’s going on around you that you might overlook.  My best advice, assume it will be messy.  Good learning always is.

-Lucas

11 Responses to “Good Learning Is Always Messy – Minecraft Project – Day One Reflections”

  1. liamodonnell says:

    Congrats Lucas on what sounds like a fun and productive session. I’m not surprised about the speed at which they adapted to the controls. Aside from punching a tree and the first crafting experiences, the building of stuff is quite intuitive – with a little scaffolding. Happy you let them whack each other and see what happens. I think letting them play the game their way is a better approach than tunneling them toward a teacher’s view of the “correct” way to play.

  2. zgilbert says:

    Great information Lucas. I am using your work to help support gaming in my district.

    Thanks,
    zgilbert

  3. Owen Long says:

    How old are the kids in this project?

  4. Lucas says:

    We’re working with approximately 23 fifth graders at two different schools (one server, though!).

  5. Molly says:

    Thanks for taking this on – our schools are so fortunate to have this opportunity! Your description to Day 1 made me feel like I was there – wish I would have been!

  6. Lisa Dawley says:

    I should have known you’d be in Minecraft! I was recently introduced to it by my 14 year old son. I really appreciate the underlying tension created by the storyline of zombies/creepers, etc. coming out at night. As a content creation virtual world, I think these types of storylines promote engagement with the game (especially for younger students) in a way that open content creation worlds can’t match!

  7. Diana says:

    Lucas, thanks for a great reflection. My “Minecraft mentor” Liam directed us here – my students are super-eager to begin our Minecraft Club but I want to make sure everything works just fine before launching it. I know there will have to be kids I turn away from the club (not enough accounts to go around), which is too bad, but it’s good to know there are people who have “been there, done that” that are around to give support. Thanks! @MzMollyTL

  8. Brandon Yoo (Student and gamer in California in the U.S., specifically Southern section of CA) says:

    It seems that Minecraft is doing well as a program for educational use. Although I do have a few questions to ask. My first question would be where are schools that are using Minecraft for education? (Note: Basically I’m asking because I might want to visit/tour/spectate a MinecraftEdu program session on how it specifically is used as an educational tool. As a student in California in the U.S., I am also a gamer and a fan of Minecraft. I guess you can call me a Minecraft “gamer geek”, or “GG”. My question would be does the educational version of Minecraft used in school receive the normal game updates that all original Minecraft game programs receive on a force update? Why i am asking this is because in the recent updates of Minecraft, there has been several things added not considered as “monsters” (zombies, skeletons, spiders, creepers, endermen, slimes, etc.). They are called utility mobs and there are two which are “snow golems” and “iron golems”. Noting this, I ask the question of if the education version gets updates because the iron golems that were recently added a month or two before this post I am making are hostile in a “violent” way if the player (such as students) attacks one or a villager from an NPC village that an iron golem is guarding. If possible, if you want to give the fun element of building snow golems and iron golems (they are constructible by the player or can spawn naturally) to your students, you could find a way to disable the “hostile” mode of the iron golems in the class servers. I personally if I was a teacher using MinecraftEdu, I would try to do just that and let the students try it out. It’s an appealing and fun thing to play with in the world of Minecraft. I will be posting more soon, but as for now, I’m kind of finishing up my school year till summer. If any of the teachers using MinecraftEdu want to know more about what I am telling about, please feel free to reply to my post or reply to me through email. I will try to check this page and other pages and my email as frequently as possible. (Email contact IP address: brandonyoo101@gmail.com)

  9. Lucas says:

    Like other modified versions of the game, it’s my understanding that updates come at some point after the official updates.

  10. Brandon Yoo (Student and gamer in California) says:

    Just wondering, are the students going to utilize the new “book and quill” coming out soon in the next update? It would be a good addition for a in-game diary/journal/writing book for students to use in the MinecraftEdu program.

  11. Lucas says:

    That’ll be awesome!

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