Some interesting things have been tweeted this week including this article How Minecraft gave Virtual Worlds a Second Life. It cannot be denied that Minecraft is growing, the rate at which people purchase a client to play on multiplayer servers is incredible – take the time to watch the counter on minecraft.net. The Minecraft server that my students run and lead is a vibrant community. It is growing, and fast. This goes beyond the interactions on the server itself to the connections made while playing together to becoming a community in other places. These communities are often smaller, yet as a result of like minded students getting together they start raising questions about what we need on our server to better support their learning. This is really wonderful and also extremely challenging at the same time. A small community of miners wanted PvP (player-vs-player) turned on in our newly developed survival world. They wanted to explore what it was like in medieval and roman times where wars were fought and communities became more defined as a result. As part of their exploration of this they had built a rather impressive structure to undertake battles between communities. So they raised the question of PvP with the lead students, one of whom was personally connected to the project. The lead students came together to discuss the proposal.
The discussion was interesting to say the least. These students had to consider the purpose of their server, the range of students who make up our community (this community is made of students at our school and at a few other schools) and how imbedded our values and charter have become. It became evident that through the discussion the most significant questions being raised were focussed on how was it benefiting the learning/education of the users and how do we manage the emotional and social development of students who may feel that they are not fairly treated in a PvP world. The second aspect of the conversation was possibly the one that was most significant as we have students who are between 10 and 16 years old.
One of the student leaders in the group, natbott , has reflected on this:
As part of leading the subject, we of the Project M.I.S.T group and Ms Batty, have had many conversations about the community we want to create in the minecraft class. These talks have included a lot about ethics, expectations and the range of ages on the server. We as a group thoroughly discuss these things and how they affect our players. We discuss the impacts of our actions and the actions of others considering carefully the affect they have on the class community. Recently we had a discussion about the ethics and understanding involved with a PvP survival world. We considered how this would have an impact on our younger players and how it would affect the 9/10 class.
I am so proud of these students!
There were two other students in the group who provided great insight into what we needed to consider with regard to this decision. One young man shared how he feels when playing PvP, what actually happens to his heart and his body. It was incredible. He also named up how his annoyance would build up if he felt he was continually targeted and how this could play out in a classroom situation when we are playing the game. The respectful responses of the students present was admirable. The other student, falconcadet, was the one who asked the hard questions around learning. His commitment to providing a server that is educational is impressive.
I do feel like I am the luckiest teacher when I get to see the growth and maturity that these young men display