Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Elementary Minecraft-Part 2

After seeing all of the third grade students for the first Minecraft lesson, I thought it best to reflect on the sessions as I try to keep up with the progress of this project. 

I introduced the idea of the project first by stating that students would be put into three groups representing the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims and the Puritans. Each group would be “creating” a village, colony or town representative of how their assigned group would have lived in our state. This ties to the 3rd grade Social Studies curriculum quite nicely. I then explained that we would be doing this by using Minecraft. Here’s one class’ response:


Obviously, the excitement level of the students is high. They love Minecraft! Even those students who haven’t used the game before are eager to try it out. I decided to try to even the groups based not on academic ability level but on Minecraft experience levels. I had kids decide whether they were a newbie (never played the game or extremely limited knowledge), an intermediate (has played on the computer, ipod/ipad, or gaming system), or an expert (proficient in all things minecraft-willing to help anyone who needs help including me!). I then placed students into one of the three groups accordingly.There are eight students in each group and they were encouraged to sit near each other in the lab. I actually tried to seat the newbies between experts/intermediates so to have a double line of support.

I explained that we would be working in creative mode only (no zombies, spiders, creepers or other villains). I asked if we needed any rules before we got started. Hands shot up. Most students agreed on: “No Griefing. No one should destroy something if they didn’t make it.” We talked about why this was important: we are sharing the world with the other 3rd grade classes. If one of the other classes destroyed their creations they’d be mad, sad, disappointed. We also spoke about including everyone in the project. Coming up with ideas and building/creating are expectations for all students. Students need to collaborate and create when using Minecraft.

Goals for the first session were to have students login to our school based server and find their class/group plot. I obviously wanted to see if the students lived up to their designated experience labels too. Students logged in with their name (real names allowed as our server is only for my class) followed by Pg for Pilgrim, W for Wampanoag or Pn for Puritan. I thought this might be helpful to identify groups within the game as most avatars have the same skins or appearance once inside the game. After logging in, students were assigned to find their class plot which was an area fenced off with a class sign. Special thanks to my two 5th grade tech helpers for helping to divide up the world!  

When everyone logged in at once, there was crazy excitement in the lab! Avatars were running around in Minecraft trying to locate their plots and their group members. Some students definitely overestimated their skill levels and groups may need to be shuffled accordingly. I’ll wait for now before making any changes. Some groups began building right away while others were in the planning phase. We shall see what comes of the different strategies. I just wanted everyone to get into the game and see the Biome they would be creating in so they could start thinking about what they wanted to create/develop. I’m sure I will give them time during the next class to get organized and plan before heading back into the server.

We only had a few minutes to explore in the Minecraft world so I imagine our next session will be more productive. I did do a brief overview of how to move within the world (which controls to use) and how to access the inventory. I asked students to share important things that others should know (like building/breaking) and several did. I envision more peer to peer tutoring in the weeks and months ahead.

I'll end this post with this: during lunch one day, I walked through the cafeteria and was stopped by a 3rd grade student. He asked, "Mrs. Winsper, if I'm in the Pilgrim Minecraft group, can we make the Mayflower?" Oh. My. Awesomeness. 

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