Me to Google: "Define: Nether"
(Me to myself: I should never have let those kids talk me into the Other Dimensions. What was I thinking?)
Me to Google: "How do you get out of the Nether?"
Me to Student A: Find a Nether Portal and go through it.
(Me to Myself: Please know what I mean by Nether Portal because I sure don't)
Student B: "I'm stuck in the End!!! You have to allow monsters so I can kill the Ender Dragon and get back to where everyone else is"
Me frantically to Google:
- What is the End?
- What is the Ender Dragon?
- How do you get out of the end without killing Ender dragon?
Student B: But I'll die!!!
Me to Student B: You have to jump.
(Me to Myself: I cannot believe it's not even 8am on Monday morning, I've only had one cup of coffee, and I'm telling a kid to jump off the end of the world....)
This is what the typical Monday morning sounded like in our tech lab for the first semester of the 2015-2016 school year during Minecraft Mornings.
I was inspired to set up Minecraft Mornings based on what librarian @StacieLynn2000 had been doing at her own school for the last few years. It seemed like a great opportunity for me to learn how to work with our server more and to give kids who are passionate about Minecraft an outlet to collaborate with other students who share their interests. With 1st Grade teacher, @stephperks1, on board to help me moderate our 7:30am-8am sessions, I set up the dates and notified parents.
Registration opens every Friday at 4:00 pm and parents can log in and register their children for the upcoming Monday. Tickets are usually gone within 20-30 minutes of the event opening on Friday.
Eventbrite makes things very easy because I can easily use the service to communicate with the parents of students who are attending, and I can use Neon Eventbrite app to check in students and monitor ticket sales.
For a Monday morning, our Minecraft sessions have been full of energy and quite chaotic as kids of all age and ability levels attempt to interact. We have one, main expectation: Do Not Destroy What Others are Working On. This expectation has proven to be a bit of a challenge at times as kids with little experience with Minecraft explore and try to learn the controls.
My hope was that the time on Monday mornings could be used for collaboration between students and for me to learn more about MinecraftEDU and how to manage it with larger groups of kids.
Success & Some Learning Opportunities (Failures)We had some success and failures with the first semester. Perhaps our biggest success was using Minecraft to create different setting and character features of our 1 Book, 1 School choice The One and Only Ivan.
As far as failures go, the biggest was during the Hour of Code week, when I thought I would introduce the kids to the Turtle Canyon World and didn't have our system upgraded to include the ComputerCraftEDU feature - basically that was just 30 minutes of kids yelling about how confused they were and finding horses to ride. It also seems like, even though some of the kids come back week after week, that they really aren't clear about how to use Minecraft. Some of the younger students especially demonstrate a lot of frustration, and in turn frustrate some of the older kids by "wrecking their stuff" or getting stuck in places like the Nether or the End. There are also a few students who spend more time looking over the shoulders of other students instead of creating.
When I found myself in the last session before Winter Break trying to explain to a second grader that we should ask other kids questions about Minecraft, because the kids in the room were the experts, I was met with a certain degree of disbelief....how could the teacher in the room not be the expert?! This was the point where I knew it was time to make a few changes to help facilitate the understanding that the kids are the experts, and it's okay to ask another student for help.
A New Plan
Over Winter Break I began to brainstorm with @TLJamesA, who also uses MinecraftEDU to think about ways that I could more actively engage some of the students so that they felt compelled to learn more or build more. After reading the Minecraft: Essential Handbook over the break, I decided to learn from the success we had with the One and Only Ivan Build to encourage students to be a little more goal-oriented with their time spent in Minecraft Mornings.
I decided to try to challenge students to learn many of the "Essential Skills" explored in the book. I thought it would be good to start with wood crafting, stone crafting, mining and shelter building. Since this is a free time before school, I didn't feel like it was fair to require students participate, but to encourage it, I decided to create a badge that students could earn for demonstrating that they understand each of the skills. For students who already know the skills, I gave them the option to either mentor another student through the process or they could opt to create a minimum of three "how to" screencasts demonstrating essential skills for us to upload to our school YouTube page to earn a "Minecraft Essential Mentor" badge. Of course, any of the students can opt out and play and explore in MinecraftEDU mode without trying to learn the skills.
The MinecraftEDU World
With our first session after break, I generated a world that was set to the MinecraftEDU Peaceful Mode, with the time locked to 8:30 am. This meant that students didn't need to worry about their health or life levels, but they also didn't have direct access to everything they need. Currently the only thing I'm allowing is "weather effects" - there are no monsters, animals or other dimensions to worry about or be distracted by.
Upon logging in, I gifted all students with a Home Block and a Sign Post, with the instructions that they should find a place they liked in the world to place their home block, and they should claim their area with the sign. This way they could go out and about and explore and collect materials without getting "lost".
|View of world with home blocks placed|
I then explained to kids that I was going to keep them in MinecraftEDU mode for the time being so that they could concentrate, if they wanted, on learning some skills, and told them about the opportunity to earn the badges. To help facilitate learning, I'm working on creating "Essential Skills" booklets that are heavy on the pictures. Most kids jumped right in to try to learn the skills, a few stepped up to mentor, and I had one or two decide to just play. My main guideline is for kids to just not mess with someone else's work. We have run into the issue of Home Blocks accidentally being broken, but I think with more practice that will stop.
The Skills Explained
Currently I have a "Crafting Level 1" and "Crafting Level 2" booklet developed. I'll be working on the Shelter booklet next.
In the Crafting Level 1 booklet, students learn to: harvest wood, craft: planks, sticks, a crafting table, wooden tools - pickax, shovel, hoe, and how to make a storage chest.
In the Crafting Level 2 booklet, students learn to: mine stone, craft: torches, stone tools - pickax, shovel, stone axe, stone sword, furnace, iron ingots and a bucket.
As kids finish crafting something, I'm encouraging them to either put it in their inventory to show me upon completion of a level or store it in the chest that they made.
After our first session the most of the kids had finished the Level 1 booklet and were ready for me to check their work. I'm hoping the "Level 2" booklet takes a little longer, but I'll have to be ready with the shelter booklet just in case it doesn't!
What's next, maybe?
After our first session, many of the kids left excited to have learned something new. I'm hoping to capitalize on that excitement with other badges they can earn. I'd love to encourage a DIY.org Minecrafter approach and encourage kids to make things like: art, a Redstone contraption, or a rail system. It might also be fun to encourage them to learn skills like: baking, farming, and entrepreneurship within Minecraft.
I am hoping that if the kids using MinecraftEDU in our morning meetups can develop some real skills, they can embrace the idea that they are the experts and become mentors during the day with their classmates and help teachers who want to use MinecraftEDU for lessons.
As I'm working through this more, I would love some ideas! What badges do you think would be fun to develop?