My head is still spinning after our first few lessons with 26 eager students participating in Project MIST as part of their school curriculum. I thought I was prepared for the first lesson, but was I….well lets just say we got through it. Our biggest hurdle was the recurring issue faced with logging onto minecraft from a school site. We were aware that this would be an issue but I wasn’t prepared for all but 5 students being hit with the annoying response of “oops, incorrect password or username”. This was a great moment however as they put their heads together and came up with a solution to overcome this issue pretty quickly but it did require a little effort to implement. And of course our IT techies assistance. So now that we have a plan in place for that dreaded bad login response we are underway. I am now feeling relieved, especially after todays lesson where the issues faced were minimal. These included a couple of computers shutting down randomly, and java needing to be re-installed on two of them.
It has been interesting watching our lessons unfold as I have talked to the miners that this course is about them creating their own tasks and direction. We have a few designated tasks/quests set up but the plan is that the current group of miners will direct their own learning. As a result of this today there was discussion between a group of boys about how they could set up a server and what they would need to consider. This is great as this allows for some of my more experienced miners to start being mentors within the group and supporting the learning of others. Another student has talked about creating an adventure type game, not quite sure what this could end up looking like but I am sure it will be challenging and fun.
For the moment however, we are focussed on ensuring that we are supporting those that have not used minecraft before and developing the concept of trust within the group. As we are still waiting to have the bugs ironed out in regard to our connection from school to our off-site server we are yet to test our server properly. As a result we are currently playing in single player. Today saw students building a house which required them to include a range of items and a farm in survival mode. At the end of the lesson it was wonderful to see students share what they had built with the group and see the respect that they gave each other through listening. This is not the only sharing that is occurring within the group. One particular student organised a 50 min lesson that explored the history of minecraft and provided some of our newbies with videos to ensure that they understood how to get through their first night on the server. Today this same student enabled students to add texture packs to their worlds and organised the downloading of some useful YouTube videos to support learning. This class is about students finding out the answers rather than being told, and some of them are starting to make me do this….wasn’t expecting that! This afternoon I asked a question of one of them via Skype and the response was “google it”. Cheeky! Well I guess I need to model what I am requesting.
During todays lesson, which becomes not just a problem solving moment for the students but also for me, I had the opportunity to talk to the IT Assistant Manager who has been supporting us at the pointy end of connecting to the server from school. We are still at a stage where we are hitting little obstacles which I am confident will be ironed out shortly. On reflection, I found this moment rather interesting as I was asked by an AP at our school how does this fit with the Australian Curriculum? How do you assess this and what skills are being learnt beyond playing the game? This is where talking to the IT Assistant Manager connects in, these students through developing their server and playing in class are developing their communication skills. They work between a range of tools to discuss issues, in our case this occurs face to face, in game, with Skype and through the use of basecamp to organise tasks to be done. They share their screens and work together. In my conversation with the IT Assistant Manager today, during the lesson, we communicated via email, shared the desktop to explain the issue faced, incorporated voice via Linc communicator and included a chat window. In each of these there are a set of rules that exist around how one communicates. The miners are managing this well, they also redirect the conversation back to the topic when it starts to get out of hand. Beyond this a number of students are operating at a level where they are creating and problem solving to ensure that they are delivering a product that is well suited to the audience that is using their server. Not to mention designing their own culture within the game and constructing situations/moments/reminders that ensure that the culture is maintained.
On another note, the creators of Project MIST will be presenting at http://www.vwbpe.org/ from the 17-18th March.
They will be showing off their minecraft server as part of the presentation made by Massively Minecraft. This is an exciting moment for our miners, it would be great if you would register and join us.