This week in Minecraft I put my students in groups of two and gave them the task of building something, anything, in 40 minutes and then to display their creation to the other students. I wanted them to focus on building without having to worry about terraforming or gathering resources, so I made two large bedrock boxes (approx. 40 block cubes) and provided them with unlimited resources. I felt bad essentially dropping them into prisons and forcing them to build, because a lot of creativity in MC can come from the environment around you. I tried to remove a little bit of the prison ambience by at least giving them a grassy floor to start out with.
One of the pairs surprised me with their first actions in the arena:
instead of building, they started digging (halted quickly by bedrock)
and made patterns in the dirt ground, writing their names, replacing the
grass with colored wool, etc. Understandably, most students' first
actions were to try and escape the boxes, but when that wasn't
immediately attainable they began building. It was their first exposure
to stairs, glass, and colored wool, which led to interesting
discussions about whether or not it is ok to build a glass house as well
as attempts to build staircases out of the boxes (which were eventually
sucessful). Outside the boxes was just a flat grassland, but that
wasn't really the students' goal in escaping. They wanted to look over
the wall at what the other students were building. Although I don't
think I will use this type of activity again with these students, I am
pleased at how everything worked out.
The students are getting fairly comfortable (for the most part) with
the controls of MC, how to build, etc. Also, the students want to
explore more -- boundaries can be used as powerful tools. The boxes I
dropped the students in originally served to keep them focused on the
task I was hoping they would complete (building a structure), but it
turned into a puzzle (how do I spy on what they other groups are
building?). I didn't intend for it to be a puzzle, but the kids made it
one. I want to figure out more ways to do this -- use MC to give
students a simple task and let them find a puzzle in it.