A big thank you :)

This is just a short acknowledgement, as a more descriptive post will follow later. Our students at Riverside High School, Huonville High School, Riverside Primary and Glen Dhu Primary will be playing Minecraft shortly. They will be playing on an external server, which has been made possible by the kind support of http://www.proxifier.com/. Not only is this really significant, but again the DoE techies are providing incredible support. The DoE has provided us with an external server this year. Without both these kind gestures we would have struggled to achieve the Minecraft experience we find most appropriate for our students. I still can’t wipe the smile off my face, and neither can our lead students :)


2014 #ProjectMIST is about to start, it takes a dedicated community to do this!

Mr Mancho created Jo Kay's avatar on his server to say thank you for her help :)

Mr Mancho created Jo Kay’s avatar on his server to say thank you for her help :)

We have many moments of quiet in my home, there are only two of us and two dogs so quiet is not hard to achieve, but then all of a sudden the ProjectMIST Skype chat starts beeping, beeping non stop, beeping at 12:04am on a school night. Oops, I need to point out that I do encourage students that they should be sleeping at this time, but when young people are passionate and they are focussed on their work there is no stopping their learning and the time they choose to learn. This last week has been just that, a week of noise, noise that is productive, conversations that go on into the night. The conversations vary, ranging from working out how to tweak things for the ProjectMIST server, problem solving around the launcher, considerations for the new spawn to the inner workings of personal servers. It is truly exciting and inspirational to see. In fact, when I am feeling a bit ho hum about things this is the one thing that puts a smile on my face. Seeing young people working together, supporting each other’s learning and just being, tinkering, playing and getting excited about their thing – Minecraft.

We are really lucky at ProjectMIST as we have one person who has been with us from the start and is always there, even at 12:04am. At this time of the day I am in bed asleep and the computer is asleep too, but Jo Kay is wide awake supporting the students where I can’t. Her support is extremely appreciated by the students and they demonstrate this through building replicas of her avatar on their own servers, one young man did this just the other night when she helped him out after he locked himself out of his server. This student has now just been accepted onto Massively @ Jokaydia Minecraft Guild and he is really excited to be able to build, learn and explore with others from all parts of the world.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud with this Minecraft stuff, as when I say that Jo Kay helps out where I can’t it is not just about weird times when these students get on Skype to chat. Jo has knowledge that I cannot even think of acquiring with regard to Minecraft especially with regard to building/running a server. She never gives the students the answers straight up, instead she takes them on a journey where they learn for themselves. She never takes over, yet is always there to pick up the pieces when we have a server meltdown (or meltdowns of the human kind). She has taught them so much about supporting a community of learners and what that means in the Minecraft setting. I have learnt so much from her too! For me it has been like team teaching, where the teacher I am working with is my mentor. It is a bit like being on an apprenticeship where I learn something new and different each day. Jo sees things that I miss and due to being respected for her gaming cred (of which I seem to find myself stuck on the newbie setting) the students openly seek out her approval and thoughts.

The other thing that really works having a partnership with someone who is not a teacher within our school, but who is well known for her skill and expertise in this area is that students share differently. The other night part of the conversation drifted to the past ProjectMIST server admins. In this discussion a student shared that they wanted to be just like one of our past server admins. Not sure they would have ever mentioned that to me. But how cool is it that I get to hear about it later – it made my day! It made me feel so proud of my students, to know that they are respected and looked up to by the younger ones in my class.To know that they are having a positive impact on each other.

Building spawn gets students motivated.

Building spawn gets students motivated.

Avatar build area. Students have identified that having a place to honour those who help them in their learning is important.

Avatar build area. Students have identified that having a place to honour those who help them in their learning is important.

spawn3

Little note: Student who was up at 12:04am working on Minecraft now has strategies in place to ensure he is going to bed early on a school night – he came up with them himself :)

Photos by Mr Mancho.


Persistence in learning occurs when it is real!

Over the holidays, which now seems so long ago, learning in Minecraft didn’t stop. It constantly amazes me when students give their time over the summer break to support the learning of other students, which is what has occurred again this summer. A small group of students have worked together to build a launcher that will allow our students to access our Minecraft server, which is housed externally to our school system, from school. Testing of this has proven rather interesting as it has involved me sitting outside the school in my car to link up to the school intranet, while emailing and Skyping to communicate the issues that appeared.

Testing the Minecraft Launcher.

Testing the Minecraft Launcher.

 

We are still in development phase of our new launcher, yet the solution is so close! The student who is leading this project has learnt heaps about coding and about ensuring that we are doing this legally, not to mention the importance of collaborating with those who understand our system. Initially Proxifier (a proxy tunnelling program) was a key aspect to ensuring that our launcher worked within our system. However, this comes with a significant cost – close to $800 for use on 26 computers- that cannot be covered with a very small budget. So the student is now looking at alternatives to Proxifier. He is looking at Open Source and has checked out what is available here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_proxifiers.

 

Here is some of the conversation that went on the other night which will give you a sense of how we sort things, and a big thanks to Jo Kay who is always there to support our students in there learning:

“[19/02/2014 10:15:05 pm] Student :3: Well I have found no other proxy tunneling program as good as Proxifier, so I’m rebuilding an open source one to suit our systems. And it’s GPL so I’m legally allowed to
[19/02/2014 10:16:54 pm] Jo Kay: Hrrrm i think daniel is right.. i dont know of an open source version that is as full featured as proxifier …
[19/02/2014 10:17:07 pm] Jo Kay: Comparisons of various options here tho .. might be worth a look http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_proxifiers

[19/02/2014 10:17:21 pm] Donelle Batty: thanks Jo
[19/02/2014 10:18:12 pm] Student :3: Yeah. I’ve found that FreeCap has basically all we need but it’s missing one feature that is needed. A NTLM Login for the proxy. So it uses the current user login. I’m going to put that in now
[19/02/2014 10:19:57 pm] Jo Kay: Sounds like a good solution to try .. and as you said… GPL so you can modify it to your hearts content
[19/02/2014 10:20:40 pm] Jo Kay: Stallman would be proud of you daniel.. lolza ;)

[19/02/2014 10:21:05 pm] Student :3: Yeah. May take me a while, I’ve never programming in Pascal before :P

Who’s that haha..? :p
[19/02/2014 10:21:27 pm] Jo Kay: Stallman is the guy who wrote the original GPL license..
[19/02/2014 10:21:32 pm] Student :3: Ohh xD
[19/02/2014 10:21:42 pm] Jo Kay: freedom fighter for the interwebz.. copy leftist… all round awesum geeky dude ;)
[19/02/2014 10:22:21 pm] Student :3: Ohh okay :p
[19/02/2014 10:23:18 pm] Donelle Batty: very impressed :D
[19/02/2014 10:25:23 pm] Student :3: I have to learn to use Delphi D:
I’ll be right though ;)
[19/02/2014 10:26:13 pm] Donelle Batty: make sure you get some sleep tonight :P
[19/02/2014 10:26:41 pm] Student :3: I’ll try.. :p
[19/02/2014 10:26:49 pm] Jo Kay: Havent had to do much with delphi either.. but http://www.delphibasics.info/ was handy when i had to modify some tools for opensim
[19/02/2014 10:27:01 pm] Jo Kay: and yes.. sleep makes better code …. mmmmm sleeeeeeep…. goooood ;)
[19/02/2014 10:27:22 pm] Student:3: Oh thanks :)

Mmm now I’m tired :c”

So at the moment the student is learning to program in Delphi. The learning that this student is doing is real, relevant and purposeful. Not to mention it is challenging and self driven. He is engaged! And as a result of his engagement and commitment he will enable other students to be engaged in learning that is at their level and connected to their interests.

How cool is it that a game like Minecraft can provide such a range of learning opportunities for students. At a basic level most of us see play and tinkering from the perspective of placing blocks and mining, providing opportunity for creativity, we then get to the next level where the use of redstone adds another element in developing understanding of circuitry. Yet the tinkering and consequent learning can be even more diverse if we allow our students to have greater control and we choose to step back and allow them to drive the learning. It is then that we see the power of community and connectedness.


My life will fit into these…

My life will fit into these two cases... It will!

My life will fit into these two cases… It will!

Ok, so above is a pic of the two cases that my entire life will fit into for a year. Just before you get too concerned about me carting these across the USA, from place to place, I do plan to have a base in Athens, Ohio. At the moment I am awaiting confirmation of enrolment into Ohio University, so fingers are crossed. Once I receive confirmation I can start on the Student VISA. At this stage I am looking at living at The Reserve at the Falls, again this is where having a great PLN comes in handy. I have had some discussion via email with Seann Dikkers, who I met as a result of his research focused on Minecraft, with regard to the types of accommodation available and suitable for someone of my age (42). The staff at the apartments have been wonderful too, they have sent me photos of an apartment so that I have a better understanding of what they are like.

Just as a side note, the scarf that is around the top handle of the small suitcase has travelled with me since 2002. It reminds me of my connection to Tasmania, not to mention it is highly unlikely that anyone else will have a scarf like this on their luggage. The little dog like creatures on the scarf are Tasmanian Tigers. The scarf  was worn by the GSE team that I was a member of when we were in the Netherlands. If you take the time to google the Tasmanian Tiger you will notice that a Wilf Batty pops up in your searches or within the links that appear, my Great Uncle. I’m not sure he ever imagined that this moment in time would provide him with an identity on the internet. How times have changed! Well I hope they have, learning from our past is so important to ensure that we don’t inadvertently, through poor practices, cause the extinction of other animals.


Things are a changing here :)

If you have been reading my blog over the last couple of years you will note that it has had a significant connection to Minecraft. Minecraft has taught me a lot, well actually it is the students that I have worked with, in class and online, that have taught me a lot as a result of using Minecraft. This learning has led me to take a slight diversion, a new journey that will begin on June 4, when I leave Tasmania to start my adventure as a Hardie Fellow (Info re Hardie Fellowship and recipients for 2013-14).

Before I can start my year of self determined learning, a term spoken about in the book Open by David Price, I need to get organised for the adventure. One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is what do I pack… I have become a much better packer over the years, but I have never packed for a trip that is longer than 2 months. So off to get some advice from my PLN I go, my PLN is a central focus of my Fellowship as is educational technology (ok, yes gaming, just didn’t want to be too obvious or appear too narrow). I love my PLN, it is a wonderful resource, encourages learning and stretches my thinking. To get some packing advice I contacted a couple of past students of mine, one who is currently in China and the other who has just returned from a semester in Switzerland. Both of them have given me some great information to think about through reflecting on their own experiences. So as a result I will be focussing on limiting the shoe collection that I will take, you can always buy more shoes! I will check on any medication that I need. Other than that I will pack my favourite clothes and of course the laptop, iPad and iPhone. The other limitation I need to stick within is the two bags of no more than 23kg each – I think I can handle that :)


Proud Teacher Moment!! Love what we have learnt through using Minecraft :)

Nat Bott is a lead student in our Minecraft class. He has been there from the start, helping to shape our learning. Here is your chance to listen to his thoughts on 21st Century learning.


I possibly shouldn’t be doing this…but I am

Yes, that is right. I probably shouldn’t be doing this…but I am! I am sitting in my Minecraft class, the grade 8 one right now. What shouldn’t I be doing…writing this blog post – oopsy!!! But I really couldn’t help myself. You see the thing that I love about this class is the learning that goes on. I have one student working on a launcher for 1.6 and today he has moved a step closer to a fix. I have two grade 10 students who have just popped in, their role is to help the younger students with technical issues – they have access to the background workings of the game – so negotiation is the interesting thing that starts happening when they enter the class. The one thing that I love the most about this class is the conversation that occurs. Students are supporting each others learning, they are sharing and discussing what they are doing. They seek out students in the class who can help them, they have developed an understanding of who has what skill. They know who has what resources and develop trades that are win/win. Occasionally we have a student who chooses to shear someone sheep. This leads to sorting out a problem in a reasonable way. The discussions that lead to problem solving and consequent solutions are a joy to see. It is a awesome to see them so engaged and interested in what each other learning. So should I not be writing a quick blog post?  As part of this class I expect the students to write on our class blog in this class. As part  of writing this post a couple of students have checked it to ensure that it is representative of what is going on….Is it role modelling? Do we need to role model what we expect our students to do? These are the questions that this class has made me think about. They challenge my learning, so the learning that occurs in this class is not just about them it is also about me as their teacher and what I am learning through this process.


Students need a challenge, Minecraft provides it!

Since the update of Minecraft to 1.6 we have hit some hurdles, but they are great opportunities. Operating an external server and accessing it from a school can create some minor issues, well ok, they seem minor now but initially they were incredibly frustrating. As a result though we have learnt heaps about working with the system. Firstly, I cannot thank the awesome support we receive from Jo Kay and the Techies in the Tassie Ed Department, they are worth their weight in gold. Secondly, I cannot be prouder of the students I work with their tinkering and problem solving and acceptance that sometimes things move slowly when big problems need to be solved.

So what’s the go?
With the previous update we used the following minecraft modified launcher from http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/249450-tool-minecraftproxy14-1-12x-compatible-1600-downs/ to sign into Minecraft and then play, which is “basically a modified launcher, which enables the game to run through a protected proxy.”

Where are we at?
The 1.6 update won’t run through the current modified launcher. Well that won’t stop us. A grade 8 student has taken on the challenge, fingers crossed we will have a solution by the end of the week. We will keep you posted. There will be much rejoicing if it works. There are three schools and around 150 students who will benefit from being able to update our server. What a wonderful authentic learning task. Not to mention the fact that its so nice to see students collaborating, supporting each other and recognizing the talents each person other brings to the class.


Time ticks by, but learning still happens in Minecraft!

It’s been a while since I last blogged my thoughts, finding the time can sometimes be hard. We have had some awesome opportunities within this busy time. A couple of my students have presented at the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference with @Jokay. It was a great opportunity and you can find a blog post about it by Roger at Education News.

 


It’s not Minecraft that’s important, it’s what goes on behind the scenes

Minecraft has taught me many things since I have been playing and using it in the classroom. Although the game is an important aspect of what we do it is not the most important part. Some would at this stage suggest that it’s the learning that the students are undertaking that is most important. Yes, to a point, but where would this be if I was not learning too? Where would this be if I did not immerse in online environments? Would the learning that the students are doing be the same?

There are many blogs and articles on the Internet that you can access that talk about 21st Century learners and what learning looks like along with the skills that the students need to be learning. I believe we need to look beyond this and look at how we as learners are learning. A blog post by @whatedsaid which can be found at http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/10-principles-of-effective-professional-learning/  struck accord with a conversation a colleague and I had last week. My learning impacts on my learners and where I can take them. In a world that is rapidly changing, where we are moving to learning environments that are no longer confined to the boundaries set up by the physical school we need to actively address this as educators and how we are participating beyond the classroom, the school and our system of employment.

When I look at what the students are learning in Minecraft it would not be as relevant or as powerful if I, as their teacher, were not participating in active communities. Communities that exist beyond the school I teach in, communities that exit online. Not only are these communities a support to my learning, and hopefully I am to theirs, but they are an access point to opportunities for my students. Just this week I have been reminded of this. The following pic is a conversation that was led by Rhys Cassidy who was our guest tweeter at @EduTweetOz this past week.

Twitter convo

 

At the end of the conversation Rhys has provided me with a couple of links to communities that will prove interesting to explore. This is just a moment that may provide other opportunities, a valuable conversation. You will note from the discussion, in the pic, that my students have collaborated with Nick in NSW and brought about some awesome change. Our connection to Nick has only come about due to the community connected with Massively@Jokaydia. Being involved in this community has led to connections with so many other great people (the list is big so to name would mean I would miss someone, but you can see who they are by checking me out on twitter and google+) who have supported and worked with both myself and my students.

One thing that has been particularly powerful about these connections and communities is the authenticity that they provide for my students and the work that they do. When my students post on our blog at ProjectmistRHS I know that their work will be viewed by others. Their work will receive comments and likes. They will be provided feedback and they will gain even more reason to participate. The really great thing about being involved in educational communities is that these wonderful people are supporting the learning of my students. I know the community and am able to ensure that my students have an understanding of the power of using social media and other Web 2.0 tools in a positive way.


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