Monday, March 10, 2014

California Mission Redesign, Crafting Phase

Ready, Set, Craft! Our week of crafting is upon us and the kids couldn’t be more excited. Armed with their paper plans and knowledge of Minecraft from personal use outside the classroom as well as from the tutorial world, the kids jumped onto the world eager and ready to go Monday morning.

Setting up the server:

During the first session, I had to figure out the best way to teleport the students to each of their plots. We decided to line the kids up in the virtual world and have them one-by-one teleport themselves to their assigned plot. This took a bit of time, but seemed to work out in the end as once the world was saved the kids would always start where they left off. Once they were at their plot, we turned off chat. We had students focus on surveying their land to see what materials they had to build with for about 8 minutes, then they started clearing their area. NOTE: we did not put kids into creative mode until day 3 however retrospectively I would have placed them in creative mode sooner so that they would be able to clear and to build at a faster rate. After this session it is incredibly valuable to reflect on what went well for the students as well as what they need to prioritize during the next session.

On the second one hour session, the students jumped onto the world once it was set up with the direct connect, IP address. Right away they were ready to go with executing their plans. Today, as the teacher, we gifted all students sets of blocks that would benefit them during their mission construction phase (bricks, sandstone, wood planks, tools, torches, etc.) It worked well and the kids were great with coming to ask us when they needed more of a certain time of block. 

While the server worked well yesterday, there were many more issues with it today. Kids would be kicked off the world. However, as long as the teacher is saving it regularly this is not a huge issue, more of an inconvenience. The kids learned that they would just click direct connect again and rejoin as the IP address would be the same as before. Now would be a good time for me to mention that even if the server says it is unable to keep up, it is still working fine. The server software is able to run on unibody Macbooks, so most likely your computer should be able to handle running one world. Plugging directly into an ethernet port helps as well. As does utilizing the network when there is less traffic on it. After this session it is valuable to reflect on the knowledge that we are stronger as a partnership rather than as individuals. Prepping for day three, it is important for student again to figure out what they will be focusing on.

A few key reflections happened after day two. Number 1: it is very key to turn on the feature that allows students to teleport themselves to the surface. Quite often we had students fall into holes and be unable to remove themselves from them. It was very time consuming to teleport yourself to the site teleport station and then teleport the student to you. Number 2: be sure students know how to change the vantage point or point of view, check out how to do that here. Number 3: tomorrow we will be testing using creative mode as the students will have unlimited access to materials which should allow them to build and clear more effectively.

By today students were able to arrive at the lab and join the world straight away. It helped to set the server up prior to their arrival. I placed the IP address on the board and students were able to join and begin playing. Since we were putting them in creative mode today, I did freeze students once they were in the game to explain the reasoning behind changing their player mode. Additionally, I took time to discuss the use of only Minecraft blocks that would be available in the era of Mission building. Students were allowed to use the flying feature as it made their construction much easier. If students were abusing the creative mode privilege then they would be placed into Minecraft EDU mode which you can set on a student to student base. As I walked around observing their interactions and building, I noticed that students were forgetting about vertical scale. The walls they were constructing were only two blocks high thus about 6 feet as we used the scale of one block to 3 feet. We paused and discussed as a group what would be a good base height and decided on the following minimum: one block for the floor, three for the walls, and one for the roof, thus five in total. Today I felt that the kids really took off, they were working and collaborating as well as persevering more than when they started. At the end of this session, a wonderful idea is to have groups of students from different teams meet and share about their missions. This exchange of ideas can help inspire some students who might feel stuck at this point.

On our fourth day of building, students were flying. Today it is helpful to emphasize gaining a perspective view by flying up above the mission. By doing this, students are able to see how their buildings are relating to each other. They can check scale and size as well. At the end of today, have students discuss their priority for building on the last day. What structures do they really want to finish? Note: be careful with students using the spawn eggs to spawn animals. The kids tend to spawn too many and then there is an outbreak of chickens or horses.

Final day. Students continue to build. During the class, have students pause at one point and fly up to take a screenshot of their mission. This way, there is a living record of their work. Most likely after today, students will need more time to build. It was amazing to see what they were able to accomplish in the short time we allotted them. From adding intricate floor patterns to anvil’s in the blacksmith’s workshop, the students worked extremely hard to create a well crafted mission. Most likely the teachers will be continuing to offer students time to build on their missions once a month or so. When the students and teachers feel they have accomplished all they want, then I will assist with helping students create a screencast tour of their mission using Quicktime. There are a few other programs that are recommended as well, however, since we are using Macs, Quicktime will allow us to not install or purchase another program. (Creating a screencast with Quicktime).

Overall, this was a wonderful project. Students learned many skills along the lines of perseverance, resilience, and collaboration. It was great to use a medium through which students felt confident and comfortable. They enjoyed having the opportunity to build missions in Minecraft: “I thought using Minecraft was a great idea because it is fun, a lot of the blocks were used in mission time, and you had the chance to make your imagination come alive,” (4th grade student). Not only was this a fun experience for the students, but they were able to have a more personal connection with the missionaries: “I liked Minecraft Edu because it led us to great challenges that could help us learn how it was in the older days and how challenging it was for the missionaries to build the mission,” (4th grade student).

Gaming offers students and adults new ways to experience the world. Adding a creative layer, Minecraft EDU brought the missions alive for the students in 4th grade. Think about what gaming could offer your students and how the open-ended creativity side could bring some kids to life who would otherwise be lost.

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