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.