Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Week 1 - Vision and Reality

After spending weeks researching possible lesson plans, reading material on Minecraft, watching YouTube videos, reaching out to others, and playing in the MinecraftEdu world, I was semi, sort of prepared for the first club meeting at the middle school. Dave and I had started a wiki so the students could have profile pages, created the accounts and I had worked with our senior systems administrator to create the Minecraft world. We were ready to begin!

The 15 students (17 total in the club), grades 6 -8, bounded into the room as though they had been shot out of a cannon, full of talk of past adventures, the battles yet to be fought and what their plans were for this club world (to the Nether and beyond!). Dave and I gathered them around the SmartBoard for a little discussion on the concept of community gaming and collaborative work within the Minecraft world. We discussed a few guidelines - no griefing, teamwork, and respect for each other's work were the main goals. We asked them what their expectations were for the club. They didn't appear to have any beyond getting into the game and playing.

The loose plan Dave and I had was to have them spend some time exploring their new world and then gradually we would have everyone meet at the "Welcome Center" where we would build something together - their choice, in teams. My vision, which I didn't share, was that they would build something "fantastical" together.

The reality was that students who generally play alone don't suddenly start helping each other mine for materials or construct buildings. There was a fair amount of argument about who shouldn't be some place or who did what to whom. Several times we felt the need to remind students of the policies we had discussed.


At the end of the fastest 90 minutes I've ever experienced, we gathered together for a little "show and tell." In spite of the discord, the students had done an amazing amount of work and were quite pleased to show others what they had done. They wrapped up by logging off, shutting down and whoosh! They were gone - leaving as abruptly as they had arrived.

Dave and I dropped to our chairs, trying to process whether we had actually accomplished something. Our eventual conclusion was that they were accustomed to playing alone, not together and were not used to teamwork in a virtual world. Teamwork on a physical playing field is one thing; working with another in the virtual world - well, that was going to take some time

Later, I thought about my vision of a collaborative, imaginative world filled with structurally stunning buildings and joyous inhabitants. Perhaps I needed to revise a little. How about striving for a feeling of working and living together within a virtual community? Time (1 week into an 8 week program) will tell. 

3 comments:

  1. I'm interested in what your later experiences brought. I've been using minecraftedu in my middle school social studies classes and have had great success with some of the lessons. I highly recommend the web displays mod: http://www.minecraftforum.net/forums/mapping-and-modding/minecraft-mods/1291044-web-displays-browse-on-the-internet-in-minecraft

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    1. Everything changed for me since I wrote these posts and took this class three years ago. I'm a much better listener for my students - they share their gaming stories and I understand the skills they needed to achieve success. Games such as these require failure in order to learn and I better appreciate trying again and again. I think about that when students are working on non-gaming activities.

      I also think about the concepts they're learning when they're playing a game - or when I'm playing a game. I try to consider the educational context, such as math and science, logic and problem-solving. I recently went on a museum field trip where they had rock displays. I just knew that obsidian would be found where the igneous rocks were. Some of the students who went on the field trip are in my Minecraft Club - they knew, too. Connecting the dots!

      I would be interested in hearing about the lessons you're doing with your middle school students.

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  2. Sally. I read a couple posts and I appreciate your candor as you navigate virtual worlds!

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