Posts Tagged ‘Minecraft’

My MOOC officially ended well over a week ago but I’ve been busy working on an extra credit assignment. Well…not really, but it is part of my MOOC learning. Here’s what happened…

I enrolled in my second MOOC, Getting Started With MinecraftEdu, over a month ago in hopes of learning how Minecraft (and games in general) could be used in the classroom. Halfway through the course I ran into software problems that stalled my participation. Despite my many efforts, I wasn’t able to download the client version of MinecraftEdu that our instructor so kindly provided and consequently, I couldn’t try the Tutorial World and building assignment. I described my difficulties and plan B solution (buying the commercial version) in an earlier post and tagged my instructor to say thanks when I published it.

Who’d have thought he’d tweet back with this…

Jason's tweet

How cool is that? Now that’s a true teacher! After a few tweets back and forth I got my software issues resolved and a second shot at trying the MinecraftEdu Tutorial World!

The first part of the tutorial works through basic movement (forward, backward, jumping, climbing, swimming, navigating the environment and using levers to open doors.) The video below was spliced using Camtasia from about 20-30 minutes of play so real play is less choppy than this appears.

I had to go to the Minecraft Wiki to figure out how to use levers but I did eventually get out and through the maze on the other side. On to digging and building!

This second video shows the next part of the tutorial world where you learn to dig and build. This part of the tutorial takes you through a number of the shape building challenges that teach the player about the properties of different materials (gravel, sand, cobblestone, etc.) and how to manipulate them to build structures. The video below shows some of those challenges.

For me, the Tutorial World was a much easier way to learn the basics of the game than going it alone (as you saw in my earlier post above). If I were to implement MinecraftEdu into my classroom this would be the best way to get students started for a variety of reasons:

1) It would help level the playing field between students who have played before and those who hadn’t.

2) It would minimize the frustration of beginning players since it provides instructions on the basics (compared to starting out alone.)

3) It would alleviate concerns of inappropriate content in online tutorials.

4) It would ensure that all students got instruction on the same concepts.

On the flipside, students who are experienced Minecraft players might get bored with going through the basics they likely already know. It would be interesting if the Tutorial World could provide some way for players to challenge the tasks before having everyone set out at the beginning.

Though this wasn’t exactly the way my MOOC was supposed to unfold, I do feel like I have a much better grasp of Minecraft and of how it could be used in the classroom. It’s definitely a way to engage students though it would likely require more time to fully explore curriculum concepts in the Minecraft arena compared to other ways of learning.

Aside from the technology, I think the biggest factor for classroom success is the teacher’s comfort with the game, Minecraft or otherwise. Have you used MinecraftEdu or other digital games in your classrooms? How steep was the learning curve for you to begin and how did your students respond? Did it require extra classtime and if so, was it worth it in your estimation?

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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This semester I have been learning a lot about gamification in education and the pros and cons of using gaming in the classroom. Just to be clear…though I’ve played a few games in my time (as a kid and more recently with my young sons), I do not consider myself a gamer! Assuredly, my views in this post will amplify my ‘beginner’ lens for those of you who have occupied the gamer space for some time!

As a teacher, I’m interested in harnessing my students’ interest by tapping into their love of video games but admit I’m a bit of a skeptic. They get enough screen time already…do they really need more? I’ve seen and tempered enough ‘too-much-video-game’ storms from my own kids to believe the negative hype that’s out there. But is it just hype? (It sounds a little like the ‘Tv will rot your brain’ sentiments that prevailed when I was a kid!)

After watching some of Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talks and reading some of Marc Presley’s work, I retracted some of my reservations in my post Turns out Gaming is Good for You.

 

In Phillip Kollar’s article, Jane McGonigal on the good and bad of video game escapism in March 2013,

McGonigal cited studies showing that violent gameplay is okay, and co-op violent gameplay can be great, but competitive violent gameplay — especially against strangers — raises aggression.”

Here’s another article that presents both the positive and negative sides of the video game equation.

So, having established there’s good and bad in gaming…what about the culture that exists in the gaming world? The title of this post is purposefully provocative but after I wrote it I thought, to be fair I really should have a clear understanding of what ‘gamer culture’ is rather than throw something out there based on my uninformed impressions.

After a quick search it turns out the gamer culture isn’t necessarily the stereotypical misogynistic teenage boys playing violent games on their consoles through the night…though no doubt, it can be. According to the latest ESA study, the average age of video game players is 30 and check out the break down by gender.

Gamer demographics

That surprised me until I read that the study includes all forms of games–from Wii games on a household console to online games on a mobile device. (Even my mother-in-law has a soduko app!) It’s clear that new players are entering the gaming spaces but what about the ones who are well-entrenched there?

In our last class discussion, Audrey Watters reminded me of the dark side of gaming culture, and to the online space in general, particularly for women and other marginalized groups. Much like Bonnie Stewart‘s presentation about networked identity, Audrey’s was not only a cautionary tale of what can happen when you share your opinions with the world, but also a frightening one.

Her presentation was so timely for me as I explore the possibilities of including gaming in the classroom. I am learning to play Minecraft and to use it as a tool for teaching but, as I searched out tutorials to learn how to play I got a glimpse of how the gamer culture might not be the best influence for our students. Specifically, the language used in several tutorials would not be acceptable for my young sons to be hearing. So does YouTube having content warnings? How can we encourage our students’ interests without unwittingly support inappropriate conduct online. Get online parents and teachers! You need to know what’s out there.

And that was just minecraft tutorials…what about the other games and spaces where gamers interact online? I have no idea really…except that my husband occasionally plays Medal of Honor and I have a 12 year old nephew who’s apparently hooked on Call of Duty. In a digital world designed and controlled by men, what about the women who are not only participating in these spaces but also raising their voices against the mainstream. I don’t mean to paint all gamers with the same brush but given the recent events in the gaming world (ie. Gamergate ) one can’t be too careful.

But the gaming world isn’t the only online space where behaviour can be invasive, threatening and abusive. Our class was stunned into silence by the sheer number of names Audrey Watters listed off the top of her head of who she knew who had experienced online abuse. Here are a few more examples off the top of my head:

– Ann Rice explores both positive and negative experiences online in her latest interview with CBC. Check out 7:55 (experiences on Facebook) and 12:50 (tormenting book reviewers on Amazon).

– Audrey Watters noted concerns about ethics and privacy issues with MOOCs.

– Last spring, Saskatchewan news reported on a controversy surrounding the girl from Balcares who wore a sweater reading, ‘Got Land, Thank an Indian’ that escalated to online bullying on her Facebook page.

– and the many other stories like Amanda Todd’s where online abuse moves into real world violence.

So with the online space filled with these minefields should we be encouraging gaming in the classroom? What’s the big deal? Kids love minecraft…but are we inviting real world ‘mobs’ into our classrooms as well? Do our kids get enough positive messages to compensate for the potentially negative ones they may be finding in the gaming world or other online spaces? In his article, ‘Gamers don’t have to be your audience. Gamers are over’, Leigh Alexander wrote:

When you decline to create or to curate a culture in your spaces, you’re responsible for what spawns in the vacuum.”

As teachers, we can’t turn a blind eye on who our students are and the world they are growing up in. However, it is so important to tread carefully and thoughtfully when we bring our students online. We are responsible for the culture that spawns in our spaces. We need to educate students to avoid and not perpetrate the nastiness that can lurk online and in the real world. As Julie Nilsson Smith commented in a recent #moedchat, “Many Ps give phones w/o guidance. Like giving a Ferrari w/o Driver’s Ed.” Like driver’s ed, cyber ed cannot be left to parents alone–our students’ online safety and education needs to be a joint effort.

If your class takes students into online spaces how do you protect them and what things do you do to educate them about online safety? How do you get parents on board and educate them as well? Is an online presence in classrooms worth the risk?

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your comments.

As part of my digital project I have been taking a MOOC called ‘Getting Started with MinecraftEdu’. I wanted to explore gaming and other ways to engage my primary learners and this looked like it would be a hit. Unfortunately, I hit a lot of snags with the MinecraftEdu download provided in the course and so I was unable to complete the module as it was designed.

So, to salvage something from the MOOC and still reach my goal of understanding Minecraft a little better, I bought the commercial version and gave it a try…

This is what the screen looks like when it first opens up. No objective, no instructions, this is it!

Minecraft launch screen

I clicked Singleplayer, created a new world with the click of a button and spawned in my first solo attempt at playing Minecraft. As the instructions were sketchy on how to move, where to go and what to do I promptly got killed by a zombie! I respawned and tried again, and again, and again, each time meeting with some ill-fate by way of zombie, skeleton crossbow, creeper, falling off a cliff…I think I even drowned once! Apparently I am not an intuitive Minecraft player!

So much for experiential learning! I decided to get some instruction. A search for Minecraft tutorials brings up tons of hits so I found one for beginners and learned a lot. This one was especially helpful. It highlights the importance of finding coal quickly, how to build a crafting table to build tools like a pick-axe and how to light torches and find shelter to keep the bad guys at bay!

Progress. Though I figured out what I was looking for it was evident I’m not adept enough at finding it before the zombies kill me off! Time to switch to ‘Peaceful’ mode. Yup, that’s right! It’s a wimpy way to play but given that I’m pretty green I’m allowing myself the cushy road for now!

My next hurdle was to actually find coal. Hmmm, the first tutorial never mentioned anything about what to do if you CAN’T find it…luckily, this one did!

Ok, so this is me playing Minecraft. I was trying to shoot a video that captured me freshly spawned in a new world but after a few failed attempts I’m taking you back to one where I actually found some success!

As you can see I’m no expert! I would have definitely benefited from being able to access the Tutorial World in my MinecraftEdu MOOC. The tutorial takes you through basic movement, picking things up, putting them down, the basics of digging and building and much more I’m sure! After exploring the tutorial world we were supposed to consider the following questions:

  1. What purpose does the tutorial world serve?
  2. Would you use the tutorial world to introduce MinecraftEDU to your students? Why or why not?
  3. What was the most challenging part of navigating through the tutorial world?

It’s obvious that the tutorial world would have helped me understand the objectives and basics of the game. I’d rather learn that way than spending hours and getting frustrated! However, the tutorials that I found independently were very useful. A word of warning though…like any teacher, the personalities of the gamers giving tutorials shines through and colors the presentation of the content (coarse language and all!) Another vote for using the tutorial world if you’re planning to implement this in class!

…Hmmm, perhaps my students shouldn’t be watching Minecraft videos at recess!

After the tutorial, the MOOC presented some considerations for classroom management. It stressed the importance of guidelines in the Minecraft classroom especially since behaviours are less observable on screen. Just like real world unkindness, online unkindness can pervade unless teachers promote a sense of community in the game. “Building and survival are easier with community mindfulness and a helpful mentality.”

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to access the next assignment where I’d have seen that community in action building a castle. I’m looking forward to checking out all the cool things you can build in ‘create’ mode and attempting a multiplayer game in my next forays into the Minecraft world.

5702068334_ccc14b31a0Photo Credit: kenming_wang via Compfight cc

The end of the MOOC encouraged us to consider how we would use Minecraft in the classroom. Here’s what I came up with:

Purpose/Objectives

Understand and describe how the land affects how we live (community development, resource management, socialization, social systems). Work with a team to problem solve and think critically. Understanding needs and wants. Understanding the value of diversity among community members.

Plans for Implementation

Minecraft Assignment – Carefully choose a spot within the given world. Build your shelter and feed yourself, and look after your needs/wants using resources from the land. *Remember: Besides our physical needs (food, water, shelter), we also have social and emotional needs. Incorporate some form of socialization and/or entertainment in your development. Consider how you can involve new members to your community.

Questions to Consider Before Implementation

  1. How would I set up this world for use with young students? (easy access to resources, examples of what socialization and entertainment would look like in Minecraft)
  2. How could I set up the assignment so students make connections to the real world?
  3. What kind of custom blocks would they require? What about placement of special blocks and resources? What about timing of gifts?
  4. How do you deal with social difficulties in virtual play? (assuming the real world relationships will extend to the virtual world)
  5. How much structure should be provided with regard to creating student groups?

Click here for tons more lesson ideas from the MinecraftEdu MOOC!

I’m not sure I’m any closer to trying Minecraft in my classroom. Besides my lack of skill there is the other matter of convincing my school board to purchase bulk licenses…though I think there is some interest. For now, I will continue looking into the world of digital gaming and seeking out games that are already tried and true in the classroom…and I may just build myself a castle!

What about you? Are you using gaming in the classroom?

If you are using games in the classroom which games have you found most successful? Any ‘must-have’s for primary students?

Thanks for sharing your ideas!