Monday, March 26, 2012


After two sessions of working in the tutorial world I decided to give students a little more freedom and see what would happen if I turned them loose in a new world.  They had the concepts of moving, building, and destroying blocks down pretty well, so this week I wanted to focus on gathering resources and crafting tools.  I found a printable minecraft recipe book online ( and made a couple copies of it for general use.  If we had better computers, I would have just had students look at the Minecraft wiki page in the background, but I didn't want to risk the computers giving them any more issues than necessary.  My goal for the lesson was to have each group work together to start building a house.  To achieve this goal students would have to craft tools and gather resources as well, giving them all the basic skills they need to go on to bigger and better things.

Looking back at how it went, I worry that I gave the first group of students a little too much freedom.  I spent too much time bending over students' shoulders, explaining what a crafting square is, showing them where to find certain tools in the recipe book and how to get the ingredients for these tools.  One difficulty was the topography of the world we were in: it was a hilly forest, which made it very easy for students to get separated, reducing the potential for the group to work together.  The lesson was successful in the end -- everyone had learned how to build tools and gather resources, but I could have gone about it better.

With the second group I took a couple of minutes before we sat down at the computers to explain the recipe book and how to use it.  I still spent a good amount of time leaning over shoulders, but they were picking it up quicker, it seemed.  Another difference with the second group was the world that they were in:  it was largely snowy grassland with very few trees.  This made it much easier for everyone to stay together, share ideas, and, by the end of the session, build a house together.

Each day I learn more and more of how to make this work better.  While it is great to give students freedom and take the project where they want to go, I need to make sure I am giving them enough support for this to be successful.  This also means I need to know the worlds that we are using before the session starts, and whether or not a particular world will work for what I hope to accomplish.  Today that didn't happen because I spent a good amount of time updating MinecraftEdu to v0.98, but hopefully this next week I'll get some time to experiment with the new tools in the update and have some maps planned out.  Also, I want to show the students some videos of what other people are creating in Minecraft (architecture projects, Rube Goldbergs, adventure map creation [How cool would it be if students designed an adventure map, complete with story and characters?], etc.).  I have a couple of things in mind, but if anyone actually reads this and has some cool Minecraft links I would appreciate it.

(Also, the lag problems I had last week have disappeared (thankfully).  I assume the server just needed to be reset.)

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