Minecraft sometimes scares me – in a good way

At the moment I am busy, as most of you are, just getting through the day. I feel somewhat exhausted but excited by the things that I get my mind stretched by in relation to what students want to learn through using Minecraft. I have a group of students who are exploring ancient civilisations and the way they were formed along with the conflict that was encountered. The young man whose passion this is amazes me, the fact that he has his friends on board all exploring this is also inspiring. I really would love to be a student in a lecture theatre at uni with a lecturer with such passion, his understanding is astounding and his delivery of how a range of civilisations have evolved is undertaken in a way that is not biased, rather it is aimed at enabling understanding of what was truly going on at the time.

This exploration of ancient civilisations has lead to an incredible build on our Minecraft server. It has all been created in survival and has lead to the students discussing the use of PvP (player-v-player) with the aim to act out battles of the past, obviously with their own twist added. So this is where it gets scary for me, but in a good way. I don’t like PvP! Just being honest. Do I let my stance impact on the learning of the students in my class and the peer to peer learning and social learning that is occurring between my students? Do I jump in as teacher and say what I think and go with what I am comfortable with? Ok, so we have had a number of meetings with the lead students  and discussions with the rest of the class in small groups that have naturally occurred as well as being orchestrated. We have overcome the issue that is presented by having younger students on our server as we have rearranged our worlds and created one that is totally survival and as a result of this has attracted a certain type of player, the ones that keep asking the question of PvP. In this world we have the very focussed group of students that are building the civilisation that want to explore the PvP and another group that just want PvP, not to mention a few others who have not exerted their opinion. So where do we go from here…… I hate PvP, on a personal level I get edgy and nervous in game, but do I stop it without the students forming their own opinions, do I stop them gaining an understanding of what is best? Sometimes we need to be immersed to gain a better understanding – after all some of us do learn better through experiencing and then having the opportunity to reflect on it. (“We do not learn from experiences; we learn form reflecting on our experiences.” – John Dewey, 1933)

Yes, my arm was twisted – more due to the fact that this is about the students and not me. This is about their learning and this is about ensuring that they remain connected their learning. Yes, it gets turned on….yes I am scared….and I am aware that I will need to work hard in this lesson to ensure things don’t go pear shaped. People who play Minecraft are very attached to the things they have mined, crafted and built – not to mention their understanding of what is fair and ok. I go into the class still feeling very uneasy but aware that I want my students to learn – this is what is overriding my fear.

To find out what occurred visit this blog Pondering by one of the students. This student is one of our lead students in Minecraft and he rolled out the PvP and monitored it – scaffolding was put in place to ensure that this was as safe as possible and enabled a debrief at the end. Good has come out of this – but it scared me, it was not something that I wanted to do, but I now feel relieved 😉

**I would strongly advise careful consideration re PvP in an education setting – it needs purpose, it cannot be rolled out lightly**

An ancient village created in survival. this has been a collaborative project.Village 2

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

An ancient village created in survival. this has been a collaborative project.

9 Comments

  1. Britt Gow says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences of Minecraft in education. I have been working with a group of Year 7 boys this term in the Quantum Victoria Minecraft world, setting challenges each week. The students have been highly engaged, demonstrating organisation, persistence, teamwork as they teach each other how the game works and resilience as they rebuild after others have destroyed their work. We have negotiated protocols for the game and students have created bridges (arch, cable, cantilever and beam), spiral towers and forests.
    I am interested to know of you have specific tasks for each session or ways that students document their learning?

    • dbatty1 says:

      Hi again Brit,

      I forgot to mention that our server runs 24/7, and we usually have around 5-6 students on after school. This goes up and down at times depending on what is going on. So my server managers have accepted that their job, and they do call it a job, goes beyond school hours. 🙂

    • natbott97 says:

      Hi Brit,

      I’m Nat, one of the lead students of our Minecraft group. We have found that setting structured tasks for each lesson tends to cause our students to be more unsettled. We prefer to stick to what Minecraft is all about, creativity. We just point the students in the right direction and let their imagination go. We then grade students on their ability to collaborate with other students, their communication and their behavior in class. Many students also take on leadership and mentoring roles. Minecraft is a sandbox game and we prefer to stick to that main theme. Of course we still have to have boundaries because of the nature of the subject, but otherwise we try to avoid limiting our students.

  2. dbatty1 says:

    Hi Brit, our perspective on what to do in game has changed considerably since we first started out. We run our own server so have found that a charter is most important for setting up expectations. As a result we have had little griefing and when it has occurred because we run the server we can see who has participated in it. Once we’ve worked that out we focus on a resolve to restore the situation and relationships if affected. With regard to tasks this year we have run two half year courses for grade 9/10 students. We started out with the idea of naming up what the students needed to do, this included a range of challenges students had created over the holidays. When we found ourselves in class it became somewhat different. We had to deal with logon issues that were related to the Minecraft.net site so sometimes things did get a bit problematic, this has now been ironed out and the logon issues are no longer thanks to the proxy logon. So we went for a more creative approach students started in a Residential area creating their homes and while doing this they needed to come up with a collaborative project. Working in teams was most desirable, but for some collaboration rather than straight team work was the better option. Students had to discuss their project ideas with me and a student leader before starting to determine depth of project. So essentially it became very much focussed on the needs and passions of the students in the team. Some of the projects have included a roller coaster, the seven wonders of the world, survival challenges, a labyrinth, grid iron stadium, a medieval city, a library, the titanic, a buy/sell commodities environment and much much more. We discovered by creating too many boundaries reduced creativity. By supporting a culture we wanted we saw much more, so our focus is more about being a good citizen within a community of learners. Sometimes we do have specific projects that focus on videoing also. As we have gone along students have raised ideas and issues that we have discussed and problem solved to make things fit with what they want, we can do this as we run our server, rather than use someone else’s. So for a group of the students their learning is focused on server management. They control updates, the plugins used and monitor behaviour. With regard to show casing their work students are given a number of options to show and tell, but on reflection the one I like is getting students to share every week or so with the class what they have done, sort of like a walk through. Some students however, love PowerPoint, video etc… I have kept some documentation of what we’ve been doing here on my blog. I have two students who blog – see my blog roll for Pondering and Minecraft in School. Next year we will have a new group starting in grade 8 they will start on either sky blocks or islands. At this stage we are looking at building up their resources to connect to at least two other blocks or islands and creating a community/village/city/place, how they get there will be their journey. It will be discussed with the students to determine what they want to achieve. It will be done in survival so it will be quite challenging. Grade 9/10 will remain with the collaborative project. The underlying principle that I have continued to uphold is that the students came up with this, it is theirs, I am there to support and facilitate learning they are in control of it. I received some lovely feedback from a grade 9 parent the other day, she expressed that she loved the fact that her daughter could play Minecraft as it gave her a way to express her creativity in an alternative manner and a place to relax and feel free to be.

  3. Roger says:

    After reading your post and particularly the post in Pondering it’s clear that the risk you took and the trust you placed in your students payed off big time!

    In learning that is more student-directed we can plan our risk-mitigation strategies but at the end of the day we need to let students take some responsibility for their own learning which often means we need to step back and allow for the possibilty of failure.

    Brilliant learning opportunities – at so many levels!

  4. dbatty1 says:

    Thanks Roger, and yes it’s the learning on so many levels that I love! 😃

  5. Kate says:

    Donelle, fantastic post and I am with you on your fear of letting them go in PvP but as Roger said it paid off big time. It is similar when I am using Sim on a Stick in multi user. Sometimes I think are the kids off task as they fly off with each other to other builds etc, but then I see something amazing happen as they collaborate constructing sim rules, providing technical building tips/criticism etc etc etc and when they call me over to either show me something or justify their actions well I just seriously smile. I see the depth and richness the experience has given them. As you say we cannot create boundaries on imagination; sure we have our learning outcomes that must be met, but by your students creating strong ground rules and behavior expectations woven within their charter you have given them the opportunity to fly. Excellent!

  6. I really love this post and discussion around PvP and students. I think most adults and non-gamers misunderstand what PvP is all about and are naturally fearful of the inherent violence, potential bullying etc that they see.

    However, seen from the view of gamer or young person, PvP is nothing of the sort. It’s a very focused, competitive activity that I really think isn’t much different than a game of one-on-one basketball, or a football match. And it’s the number one thing many kids want to do in MC and other games. With a plugin like WAR, it’s easy to set up PvP arenas and play “capture the flag” style battles.

    With our Multi-School Server project here in Canada, we have 30 students from 3 schools sharing 1 server. Some of the best learning and fun happens during the school vs school PvP matches.

    In my opinion, in the future PvP will be the new inter-school, extracurricular sport, much like basketball and volleyball are today.

    We run a server for teachers and their families with several PvP arenas. Anyone interested in coming and playing with us can find more info at: http://gamingedus.org.

    Looking forward to reading more on your gaming with students journey. I love that it is student-led with unknowable outcomes! That’s where the true learning lies.

    Liam O’Donnell

    • dbatty1 says:

      Thanks so much for your comment Liam. Love what your doing in Canada. We can certainly learn from your experiences. Being a ‘non-gamer’ I need to be challenged with regard to my thinking and consequent possible opportunities that I’d not naturally explore as a result 🙂

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