MinecraftEDU in the classroom: My first few lessons.
This semester, I’m teaching an enrichment class using MinecraftEDU. We have 40 minutes at the end of the day, every other day, for a semester. In my class, I have seven girls and 21 boys, all seventh- and eighth- graders.
From the beginning, I told them that I had been reading a lot about Minecraft and playing some over the summer, and that some of my teacher friends felt it could be used as an educational tool, while others were not convinced. I wanted to test the idea that you could use Minecraft in education.
The plan is and continues to be that every day, we will either download an existing lesson from the Minecraft EDU World Library and try it and review it, or we’ll create our own lesson with an educational goal in mind. Every day, a different student blogger will write about our experiences.
We have used several lessons from the Worlds Library and blogged about them here!
After trying a few canned lessons, I created a world that was mostly empty except for border areas for groups of students, and chests with some building supplies such as stone, redstone, doors, levers, and lamps. I told the students I wanted to try a group building activity where they make an interactive learning experience using redstone. Perhaps a quiz with questions students can answer. I was vague about what I wanted, knowing what they gave me would be different than my expectations anyway.
I split the class into four groups and put them in this world.
We reviewed, briefly, norms for how to act in a creative Minecraft situation, and worked for two class periods – along with opening and closing and logistical things, the students probably had 60 minutes of build time. This is what the world looks like now.
Almost none of the students actually created an interactive quiz, but almost all of them did create something. Some of their creations, as you can see, are very creative and interesting. They’re learning new building techniques from each other and by trial-and-error.
There were some amazing things going on and some problems that I need to address.
- If students didn’t know how to accomplish something, they were resourceful in figuring it out. For example, one student wanted to create a display that shoots fireworks if you click the right lever. He researched how to make fireworks in Minecraft, gave me a list of supplies he needed, and planned the display. The student who created the waterfall display did similar research and gave me a supply list.
- Students were constantly iterating on their designs and learning from them. One of my students said “I realized that you could click any lever and all of my lamps would come on, so I had to re-wire all of the redstone.
- Students were teaming up and creating structures together. A group of three students made an underground house with redstone-activated doors and a labyrinth inside.
On the topic of problems I need to address:
- I have one or two students who have decided to take on the role of griefers. I saw one doing Google searches on how to get around border blocks in MinecraftEDU, and then he took what he learned to enter other student areas and damage their structures. Another student would log off, log on under a different name, say bad words in the chat, and then log back on again. The class is very big, as you can tell, with 28 students, so I didn’t catch every problem right away. It created a very bad vibe.
- When a student discovers building supplies stashed somewhere, their first instinct is to take them and use them to build. Groups of students complained often that their supplies kept getting stolen. I see this as a problem-solving opportunity so we can work out a system for you to have private areas to keep items you want later. Perhaps signs next to chests and a class rule about what to do when you see a chest that is labeled. Students asked me for Ender Chests which you can lock, but I hesistated, not knowing anything about Ender Chests. My own inexperience with Minecraft is a limitation at times.
- I would say there can be cliques in the building world – for example, the girls tend to stick together and build separately from the boys, and the boys tend to team up with their close friends and ignore other groups. Community building, creating an atmosphere of trust and respect, needs to be done intentionally and explicitly, and I went into Minecraft building without doing enough of that up front.
This first creative world is clever and I intend to set up a day in which we have groups of students come in for tours of the redstone build. Students will have to create signs and arrows that show how to get around their creations and use them. By the end of the semester, I want students to create a world with missions that teach something of educational value and give other classes a tour through it.
This class is so weird. It’s messing with what I know about public schooling. Kids are so engaged and excited by it. I can’t point to many math or science or social studies standards that we can progressively understand by using Minecraft. Students seem to be having fun, working together, and making creative things. Is there educational value in just that? Could I measure the impact of Minecraft if I wanted to? Is this a valuable class?
Those are questions I’ll be thinking about as we progress here.