Thursday, April 16, 2015

MinecraftEDU Take Three - 1.6.4 Fail

Yesterday was the final session with my Exploratory group. I was all set to have them explore this fabulous Escape from Everest map. I had 1.6.4(20) installed on all of the computers, ready to go. When I had students log in though, only half of them were able to launch the program.

Time for Plan B.

Luckily, I had wavered between using that map, and the Water Challenge map (which is in 1.7.10). I set it up, and we were off!

I required all students to do the farming tutorial at the beginning, which was beneficial because it really showed off who was reading instructions, and who was simply trying to bash their way through as quickly as possible.

Once most students were through the tutorial, I made sure they were all in their individual sections (by colour) and explained that the objective was to survive as a group.

This particular world has only one water source, and very limited food resources (note to self: turn off animal spawning next time around) Students are expected to use the knowledge they gained in the farming tutorial to grow enough wheat to sustain themselves. Within the first 15 minutes, nearly all of them had died of starvation at least once. I froze the group, and we had a quick debrief about what needed to happen in order to ensure that all members of their group survived (for example, we determined that searching for diamonds was not strictly necessary...) We created slightly larger groups, I reset the world, and they tried again. This time, they chose specific roles aimed at providing enough food for all 5 members of their group, and most of them survived for the 20 minutes or so that they were logged on.

What I learned from this experience:
1. Always have a Plan B!
2. When students are in teams, arrange it so that they are also sitting near one another. I wanted to ensure a good mixture of students the first time around, so I assigned their groups starting at one end of the row and alternating between the three colours. The second time, when we regrouped, I assigned the colours in chunks so that students could communicate more effectively with the other members of their groups.
3. It's alright to reset the world in the middle of a session in order to redirect the activity and refocus the students on their objective.

My computer was struggling yesterday, so I wasn't able to grab video of our time in the world, which was alright as students were divided into three separate, fairly large areas so it would have been difficult to capture much of visual interest. Next time, I will set up teacher-only teleport stations so that I can quickly move between the areas.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

MinecraftEDU - A World of Creation

I had my second session with my MinecraftEDU Exploratory group yesterday afternoon. We fiddled around in the Tutorial World for a little while, but it quickly became clear that students wanted to free-build. So I started up a flat world, set them on creative, and let them at it.

The first thing we discovered was that the world was only 4 blocks deep... I'll have to look at the settings, and see what that's about, as students wanted to include underground elements in their buildings.

Next, we paused for a reminder that school Minecraft is different from home Minecraft, and that the use of guns would not be appropriate. We compromised on bow & arrow and crossbows, as one student wanted to build a target shooting game.

As students built, I flew around and commented on their buildings. One student built a secret tunnel, another a giant person, and another a trap using redstone and pistons.

For the last 15 minutes of the session, we toured each student's creation, even though they weren't quite finished! Students briefly explained their build, and they were all very complimentary about what they saw.

Next week, we will continue to free-build for a while, and then I plan to have them complete a challenge in small groups. I haven't quite decided which challenge to set them, but I want it to be something they can accomplish in about 45 minutes, so nothing too complex.

As a teacher, I think it is important to "read the room" in order to switch up activities that aren't working. Although I really wanted students to explore the Campground in the Tutorial World, they just weren't that into it. Good teaching isn't confined to a traditional classroom setting - change gears when it's not working!

Here is a video of the tour at the end of the session. I need to find a way to have students' voices be more audible on the recording...

Exploratory Session - Touring Students' Creations