I just posted this over on the MinecraftEdu homepage. Good rundown on what we’ve been up to lately.
I’ve been more active behind-the-scenes lately. Consequently, this blog has certainly become quiet. Who knows, maybe I’ll start posting more. Or not. It’ll be a surprise!
Hi everyone, Joel here. I figure we’re overdue for an update about the state of MinecraftEdu.
In short, this truly is an exciting time for us. September was our busiest month ever with hundreds of new schools getting started with MinecraftEdu. As it stands MinecraftEdu has reached students in over 40 countries. It’s fully translated into four languages with many more on the way (get involved)!. Teachers are using it with every age group from kindergarten to university, supporting a wide range of subject areas. How many other learning tools can be used just as effectively in social studies, math, science, language, or technology classrooms? Just to name a few!
Some of our notable recent activities:
The TeacherGaming crew is on a grand tour of Europe, running hands-on workshops for students and teachers, alike.
We relaunched our wiki as THE destination for learning how to get the most out of MinecraftEdu
With the help of the @MCEduCrew, our Devs have started a monthly series live streams featuring in-depth explorations of various MinecraftEdu topics.
Even more exciting is that the MinecraftEdu community is as creative and prolific as ever. There is a highly participatory network of teachers, librarians, youth leaders, parents, researchers and more sharing ideas and supporting each other. These folks are what make MinecraftEdu more than just a piece of software. It’s a movement, driven by people who believe that learning can be different. They demonstrate that we can use wonderful games which kids love to create enriching experiences. They make school more relevant to both the interests of today’s youth, and to the skills they’ll need to learn for their futures. And they keep learning fun!
Now for the question that people keep asking us over and over (especially my Mom). What does the announced Microsoft acquisition of Mojang mean for MinecraftEdu, and for Minecraft in education, in general?
It’s still too early to tell exactly what this means — the actual buyout will take some time to finish. Possibly months. It’s unlikely there will be anything official to talk about until then. But we are eagerly looking forward to exploring how we can move MinecraftEdu forward with Mojang’s new owners.
I’m hoping that you will consider helping out a truly remarkable individual and one of the unsung heroes of the Minecraft community.
In the three years that I’ve been working with Minecraft, I’ve been privileged to meet some truly remarkable people. Among them is Davin “Bohtauri” Taylor — the man behind the amazing Project 1845.
The goal of Project 1845 is to build nothing less than a full 1:1 reconstruction of historical Beijing in Minecraft. The team members, led by Davin, already have the entire Forbidden City constructed and are diligently working away on houses, temples, farms, barracks, and more. Davin has pledged to make custom versions of his map available for use with MinecraftEdu so that schools everywhere can use it to educate about this fascinating time period.
But I was quite distressed to learn that the project, and indeed Davin himself, are facing the most dire circumstances. Davin has a life threatening illness and is unable to get the medical attention he needs.
After a long winter of bug fixing, polishing, and cramming in new features, we are delighted to announce that MinecraftEdu has been updated. As always, MinecraftEdu customers can grab the latest version on our Members’ site.
You can see a detailed changelog on our wiki, but here are some of the biggest additions and improvements:
Based on Minecraft 1.5.1 (we caught up, woo!)
Support for most Forge mods (this is a big deal!)
Improved in-game world controls
Improved teacher’s ‘Give Menu’ to allow any item to be given, including those from mods
More informative server displays
Improved Mac support
Updated WorldEdit functionality
Ability to automatically upgrade or downgrade (we also changed our version number system to make things more clear)
Lots of polish including tool-tips, new icons, and more!
Support for Online World Templates (still experimental)
We’d like to talk about that last item for a moment. One of our dreams for MinecraftEdu has always been to allow the seamless sharing of educational Minecraft worlds. That dream is one step closer to reality with Online World Templates.
The idea is that anyone can make a world/lesson/activity, augment the content with custom MinecraftEdu features, and then share it with teachers everywhere. Teachers can browse what’s available, download a world, and get a server running with that content in just a few clicks. This basic functionality is now working!
We still have a long way to go, and we haven’t made much content available yet… but we didn’t want to keep this feature to ourselves. We think Online World Templates will be an indispensable feature of MinecraftEdu and we can’t wait to hear your feedback!
Schools from all corners of the Earth have purchased Minecraft from us and are embarking on amazing projects. In fact, we are rapidly approaching our 1000th school! The game is being used in literally every subject area across all age groups.
We consider it part of our mission to network these trailblazers, provide support, and share ideas as widely as possible. Here are some of the most effective ways to connect:
MinecraftEdu Forums - there is a lively community of educators sharing ideas, solving problems, and providing inspiration. It’s actually just a Google Group which allows a variety of ways to participate (including email) and handy browsing tools.
MinecraftEdu Chat - This is the most direct way to gain access to the MinecraftEdu team. We conduct a large portion of our daily business over IRC (Internet Relay Chat), and we are happy to welcome anyone to our channel. Especially if you are interested in Beta testing new versions of our MinecraftEdu mod! Either use the link above, or point your favorite IRC client to #MinecraftEdu on irc.quakenet.org
We are trying to figure out what sort of formalized training and materials we will offer in the future. But for now, these resources are the best way to jump in, get help, plan your use of the game, and share your experiences.
My blog has been sorely neglected for far too long. I do apologize. But I thought I’d dash out a quick note to reflect on a few things. And perhaps give thanks as us Americans are prone to do on certain Thursdays in November.
I’ve just come from my parents’ house where I enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I’m now sitting at Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey waiting for a flight to Paris, France… my first trip to Europe!
I am, of course, headed to Minecon, the second annual convention for the Minecraft community. I’m going to be participating in two panels. For the first, I’ll be moderating a discussion with other educators about using Minecraft with children. And for the second, the entire MinecraftEdu team will be joining me on stage to talk about the creation of our mod and the ways it is being used worldwide.
If you’re going to be at Minecon, make sure to find me and say hi!
It still makes my head spin to think about all the changes in my life and opportunities that have come my way over the past two years. All because I decided to try this crazy new game that was still in Alpha with my students.
I am thankful for the many supporters who have sent me words of encouragement or helped to promote my work. I’m thankful for the dozens of other teachers that have shared their classroom experiences with me, offered inspiration, discussed intricacies, and shared pedagogical ideas. I am thankful for Mojang’s continued support and guidance, and for the awesome MinecraftEdu team who have been on this roller coaster with me. And I am thankful for my students and their crazy, passionate, innocent energy that reminds me every day why it’s so important to advocate for new ways to teach and to make school relevant, engaging, and meaningful to today’s children.
And, of course, I am overwhelmingly thankful to my family, friends, and colleagues whose support means everything to me.
We are really proud of how far MinecraftEdu has come in a short time, and so we’re excited to start showing it off and hearing feedback. You can have the chance to play it for yourself at two completely free events…
Things are moving fast for the TeacherGaming Team. As we begin Summer, those of us with academic jobs are now able to concentrate fully on MinecraftEdu, and we’ve welcomed several interns to our headquarters in Finland.
About a month ago we released a MAJOR update to MinecraftEdu that brought…
I’ll be appearing at the Atlantic Technologies in Education Forum in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. I’m taking part in what looks to be a really interesting panel on the roll teachers play in game-based learning. My panel starts at 10:25.
Also fun… my work was recently talked about on the CBC, Canadian Public Radio.
This has a special personal meaning for me… Although I’m from New York City, I spent a lot of time in Nova Scotia, Canada growing up. The CBC was always on and it’s really my idea of a perfect radio station. So I’m delighted to have reached those particular Canadia airwaves!
Recently, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Jessica Millstone a filmmaker and researcher working with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. She, along the good folks at BrainPOP such as Allisyn Levy pioneered a groundbreaking study into teacher attitudes towards gaming. They’ve just made public their survey results and it’s a fascinating read. Lots of confirmation that we gaming teachers are really on to something!
MinecraftEdu collaborative server project for teachers
The talented and handsome @warrenbez has taken the initiative to start a great server project for teachers using MinecraftEdu. I’ll let him explain:
I am setting up a MinecraftEDU server that can be accessed by any teacher. The hope is to have teachers collaborate and create a Minecraft unit that can then be made available for download. I think that having teachers collaborate on a particular unit will yield a better product than if any one teacher attempted this on their own. So, my initial idea is to create a Unit or Lesson based on the architecture and history of Ancient Rome. The idea came to me after finding this map available for download. The map has several identifiable Roman structures that could be used in a lesson about Roman architecture. My hope is that teachers will jump in and start adding assignments.
There’s more information and instructions for how to jump in and get started here on Warren’s blog. Personally, I think this is a fantastic idea. I’ve been hoping to do something like this, myself, for a while. But kudos to Warren for getting the ball rolling.
Lately I haven’t been posting here when me or my projects are covered in the media. Mostly because I got sick of talking about myself. ;)
But there have been two really good pieces lately that I’m proud to share.
The first is an article by the prolific and talented Audrey Watters of Hack Education called MinecraftEDU: Minecraft for the Classroom. Audrey was one of the first reporters to write about me last year, so it was fun to catch up with her at DML2012 and show her how far all of this has come since then.
Next up is a podcast I did with some fellow NYC teachers last week for the EdTechTalk network. I managed to yammer on for over 20 minutes, but I think I did a decent job of explaining some background and the potential for Minecraft in schools. Go listen!
And if you like this kind of stuff, I usually throw interesting, on-topic links on to my Pinterest page. So if you like this stuff, go read: Minecraft/EdTech/GBL on Pinterest.
Students and fellow teachers! I need your help for a super-secret, super-exciting project that I’m working on. I need a large number of testimonials and soundbites about why Minecraft is so great in an educational setting.
I’m not looking for a lengthy dissertation. I really just want a paragraph that sums up your own experiences with the game. You can leave it in the comments of this post, or email it to me directly. Even better than writing a paragraph would be filming yourself speaking your thoughts!
Say whatever you’d like, but if you are unsure what to talk about, here are some questions to consider:
What made Minecraft click for you as an educational tool?
Why is it effective?
What was learned?
What do you see as the future of Minecraft
What’s a real-world example of something cool that happened with Minecraft in school?
Why does playing Minecraft in school represent something fundmentally new and awesome?
If possible, please include your name, and the name and location of your school. If you are a teacher, please say what you teach. If you are a student, say what subject you used Minecraft with.
And if you’ve specifically used MinecraftEdu, I’d appreciate if you’d mentioned that fact. And I should probably say that if you share something really glowing about MCEdu (and you don’t mind), I’d love to put your words on the MinecraftEdu.com site.
Even if you’ve sent me something before, please paste it in again… I’m terribly disorganized these days!
Recently some spirited debate has unfolded between several teachers whose work I admire and whose opinions I respect. And there seems to be a rift forming about the “correct” way to use Minecraft in the classroom.
I’m going to oversimplify things a bit, but here is the crux of the debate.
One camp argues that teachers should take a “hands off” approach and just let the kids play the game the way they want to. There is plenty of self-directed learning to be found and kids will constantly amaze you with the ingenious things they come up with. There is a belief that play has its own intrinsic value which can become diminished when a teacher imposes his or her own goals and restrictions. Minecraft worlds that support this approach tend to be large and the students return to them over and over.
The other camp sees value in using Minecraft as a platform for more structured lessons. They will place restrictions on where the students can go and what they are allowed to do. The teacher creates content and customizes the world before the students ever see it, and then outlines goals that the students will attempt to achieve. There is usually a specific set of information that will be communicated and/or skills to be learned and practiced before the lesson is over. Minecraft worlds that support this approach tend to be small and the students spend a shorter, more focused, amount of time in them.
And of course there are teachers whose opinion falls somewhere between these two extremes. I guess I’m one of them.
How a teacher chooses to interact with a class is such a personal decision. There are so many factors to consider. The age and genders of the students. The culture of the school and its philosophy. The teacher’s comfort level with the subject matter and teaching tools. The objectives of a given lesson. And of course there’s that intangible and organic social dynamic in the room that forms with any group of human beings. No one would dream of saying that there is one best teaching practice. This applies to game-based learning just as it would to any other methodology.
I have a (bad?) habit of treating each group of students I teach as test subjects to be experimented on. I modify my approach for each class. Sometimes it can be as simple as explaining things differently. Sometimes I design an entirely new activity for a class. And after all this experiemntation, I still can’t claim to have figured out what works best.
Some of my students thrive in an unstructured environment, each rising to self-imposed challenges, finding ways to leave their own personal mark on the world. However, other kids tend to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available to them in an open world, and need constant direction. These students respond much better with clearly defined limits to work within. In fact, these students are more likely to approach the activity as a self-contained adventure or quest and proudly speak of “winning” Minecraft. (A concept I find amusing… but I’m not about to question their feelings of triumph!)
I’m starting to believe that the best designed lessons and activities provide options and multiple paths to success, catering to various play styles. This lines up nicely with traditional classroom practices of embracing a wide variety of learning styles.
We are all in uncharted territory here. Never before have teachers had a game with the breadth of experiences and malleability that Minecraft offers. If you are using Minecraft in your classroom, you should be paying close attention to how other teachers implementing it. Especially if their approach is very different from your own!
We’ve been quite busy preparing the first public release of MinecraftEdu. You can see screenshots of the latest build below. This version will first be sent to our pilot schools in the next week, or so. And then after some testing, we will make MinecraftEdu available to the general public!
What would make Minecraft the perfect tool for your classroom? This post is mainly aimed at other teachers, but we’d welcome anyone’s input!
My MinecraftEdu colleagues and I are hard at work on our custom version of the game. The focus has been on a powerful (yet easy to use) set of tools to help teachers utilize the game in their classrooms. But so far, most of our additions have been either basic student management tools or world construction shortcuts.
We are starting to look ahead at some fundamental changes to the game that educators would find useful. We want to know what specific additions we could make to mesh with your curriculum. I’m talking about actual changes to game mechanics.
For example, if you wanted to teach chemistry, we could add a certain number of compounds and then program their interactions. That kind of thing.
Please let us know your thoughts. Don’t worry if you think your ideas are too ambitious… we’re just brainstorming now. Add a comment below, email me, or join the under-utilized Minecraft Teachers Google Group.
I’m really bad at updating my blog. It’s unfortunate.
I am much, MUCH better at getting out my thoughts (and links to interesting content) on Twitter. Please consider following me there if you aren’t already. That is… if you are into that sort of thing. If not, I totally understand. No pressure. I’m coming on too strong, aren’t I?
Anyhoo, I’m @MinecraftTeachr over there. Maybe you’ll swing by later if you aren’t too busy.
After yesterdays final lesson in minecraft english I did an evaluation with the students. I have also regrouped and reflected on my failures, and here’s a list of things I will be considering for my next course:
Server, server, server! Before I start next time I will need to run some…
Wow. Things have been moving very fast for me. I have a backlog of Really Cool Stuff that I need to post on here. I will do that very soon. But for now, an update from Aleksi Postari about one of the things that are keeping myself and my partners busy. Aleksi is the Lead Developer for MinecraftEdu. Check out the progress of our custom Minecraft mod designed for educational use!
Few screenies here about what’s coming up… We will try to aim next release to be also available for individuals, so that has taken some time from us (had to develop separate mod install tool and such for it), but now we are mostly just waiting for the bugfixes for 1.0 and next release that could be merged into Edu!
I have been really bad about posting here lately. Starting your own international company from scratch will sure keep you busy!
But I found myself interviewed by some rather high-profile outlets recently that I wanted to share.
U.S. News and World Report spoke with me while doing an article and Game-Based Education, in general. It was a good article. Except the “expert” they found to refute the benefits of using games in the classrooms only qualification seems to be “mother of three video-game loving boys”. Right.
MinecraftForum posted a nice audio interview with me as well. They asked good questions and I think I managed to not stutter very much!
The next few weeks are going to be a roller coaster. On Thursday I will be leaving for NEIT2011, a conference for New York State independent school educators working with technology. I will be discussing the benefits of Minecraft in the classroom and hopefully demonstrating of bit of what our MinecraftEdu mod can do. In theory, my panel will be livestreamed if you’ve got nothing better to do on Friday at 10:30am EST…
And then of course next week is MINECON!!!! I will be on two separate panels. Further details will follow… but the titles are:
Making a Difference - how Minecraft is more than just a game and is having a positive impact.
Education Panel (not sure that’s the official name) - for teachers and academics to showcase how Minecraft is being used in schools around the world.
I still can’t believe I am going. Sure, it will be fun meeting with the folks who make Minecraft. But I’m also really looking forward to interacting with all of the other members of the this vibrant and creative community. There are just so many fascinating projects going on. I can’t wait to meet the talented people behind them!
Hello there! I’m Joel Levin, the so-called Minecraft Teacher. And I’m incredibly excited to announce the launch of MinecraftEdu.com!
Over the past several months, I have been collaborating with a small team of educators and programmers in Finland. We have been given the incredible opportunity to work with Mojang AB, the creators of Minecraft. Our goal is to get Minecraft into as many classrooms as possible, and to give teachers the tools to get the most out of the game…
I got a great video sent to me from a teacher and student that I really wanted to share! Here it is:
And equally inspiring was the letter from the teacher that accompanied the video:
Hello Mr. Levin,
My name is Erik Shaver and I am a social studies teacher at Achieve Virtual Education Academy in Indiana. We are the state’s first virtual public high school and I wanted to share a video with you that was inspired by your blog.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Minecraft and I play it at home in my spare time. Starting to teach in a virtual environment, I started to see how Minecraft could be used for Project Based Learning. One of my students approached me and asked if he could design his own personal city via Minecraft in lieu of writing a history for a “fake” city per my Geography and the History of the World class. I told that would be more than fine. What he produced blew me away.
If you would like to share it on your blog, that would be fine with me and I’m sure it would be fine with him. For the past two weeks, he’s been agog working on this fantastic project and it fulfilled my expectiations and SO much more. Due to this project, I’m looking into ways to get some school licenses from Mojang and perhaps run an online cohort to design a group city.
I just want to say thank you for starting me down this pathway for using Minecraft as a teaching tool. As you can see, not only did my student go above and beyond the call of duty, but his finished work is amazing. He also appears in short Minecraft web videos and hosts public servers if you’d like to hop on and check it out for yourself.
From one educator to another, Thank You.
Erik Shaver Social Studies Teacher Achieve Virtual Education Academy
I got the following short email from a student in California:
Hello My name is Boomer and I’m interested in starting a Minecraft club at my school but how should I introduce the idea to my teacher?
Here is my response:
I would approach your teacher and tell him/her that there is a game you enjoy that you think has a lot of potential in a school setting. Make sure your teacher knows that the point isn’t merely to play Minecraft, but to use it as a base for a wide range of educational and/or creative activities.
Minecraft is hard to explain succinctly. Come prepared with a few videos or pictures that introduce the game and/or show what is possible.
Tell him/her that there are already many teachers using the game in schools around the world. Show him/her my blog as well as these others websites:
Also come prepared with a few example projects that you think the club might attempt. And don’t limit yourself to projects that are only in-game. Brainstorm other ideas for things you can do with Minecraft like making videos, creating texture packs, programming mods.
But ultimately, it will be up to YOU to demonstrate that this is a serious idea which can work at your school. Your attitude and your preparedness will be important!
A teacher in Finland left the following message in a comment. He runs a Minecraft club and hopes to find another school to partner with. Preferably in an English-speaking country so that his students can practice their English. Interested, read below (and don’t forget to read the humorous PS at the bottom)!
I have started using the minecraft at the local art school. We work as a school club and the idea is to learn how to create new worlds and skins and stuff with micecraft. My students are 14 years of age so the classroom is kinda lively sort of event ;-)
Joel’s tutorial world was quite a success yesterday the word was “siisti” and in English it means “neat” or “cool”.
In Finland English is a foreign language so the language aspect is very important for us.
What I would like to do is set up a server and do gaming sessions with other schools and preferably abroad and preferably with English native speakers. We have skype in our lab so we could log on to one server and the students could then speak (as in oral) with each other like work in pairs with the other in Lieksa, Finland and the other in - well like UK or else. The time difference to US east coast is 7 hours so it may be a problem. But since we have our sessions in the afternoon (15.00-17.00 hours) the time there is 10.00 but again that is in the middle of the school day.
ps . the boys wanted me to tell you Joel that they are sorry that they wrote those f*** words on the signs you had put up in your tutorial world. It was good idiomatic use of the English language although quite derogatory in terms of semantics. So it was plus for the good command of English and that they figured out how to edit the signs by themselves but minus for the content of the edited signs. But what do you expect from a 14-year old boy?
If you are interested in partnering with Juhani, then leave a comment below, I suppose.
I get asked a lot for advice by teachers about how to get started with Minecraft. But everyone’s situation is a little different given the ages of students they teach, resources available, the acceptance of gaming culture at their school. It’s hard to generalize.
I am, in fact, working on some *not-so-secret-anymore secret resources* that are aimed at helping the largest number of teachers possible. But for right now, I thought it might be useful to share the response I just sent to a teacher asking for some pointers.
Here’s a excerpt from his email:
I was approached a couple of weeks ago by a couple of students asking about a Minecraft club. The students chose to ask me to be the faculty sponsor when they realized that I too played the game! I currently teach high school math in North Carolina, and was wondering what you would recommend for a high school Minecraft club?
Luckily our students participate in a 1:1 laptop initiative, so hardware isn’t an issue. Do you have any advice on the software end? Also, I play on a server, but not absolutely nothing about hosting a server.
Lastly, what activities, games, or ideas have you proposed to your older students to keep them engaged with Minecraft in a more educational setting?
And here was my answer:
Hi there! Always exciting to hear from another teacher using Minecraft…
Well, I’ve only just started working with older students. I have a highschool Minecraft club that has only met twice. So I’m trying to figure it all out as I go along, as well.
The first thing that caught me off guard was how wildly different the student’s expectations were for the club. Everyone plays Minecraft in a unique way. Some build, some kill, some can’t play without mod X installed, some hack the game, etc, etc. And of course all the kids showed up with their own ideas of how the club should be run. Forming a consensus has been difficult. I ended up creating a fairly basic server so that everyone had a familiar starting point.
So I’ve been wrestling with what to do next. I’ve toyed with the idea about doing an experiment with government. Each kid that feels strongly about how the club should operate can throw his/her hat in the ring and try to be elected leader (for a term of a few weeks). But that might be too much of a logistical challenge for a club that only meets once per week for 40 minutes. I’ve also toyed with the idea of setting up multiple “settlements” for the kids who want to play different ways. I would make them stay apart for a while, but at some point let them interact and see what happens.
But those are my crazy ideas for social experiments. In terms of more traditional educational uses… I agree that geometry seems like a slam dunk. Architecture would work really well too.
But another thing that I want to try is to encourage the kids to bring their own techie interests to the game. If they like making videos, they can record the game and make commentaries, machinima, tutorials, etc. If they like programming, let them try to make a mod that we all can use. If they like writing, let them start a blog about their Minecraft adventures. There are a lot of possibilities.
As far as running a server… I don’t know how technically inclined you are. I run a server using Craftbukkit from www.bukkit.org. It’s incredibly flexible and powerful, but can be a real pain to get up and running. The vanilla Minecraft server from minecraft.net is a lot easier, but lacks a great many features. There are some great guides on YouTube to get you started with either of these choices.
Also, as an aside… My partners and I are in the process of creating a partnership with Mojang. We actually have the rights to redistribute the game to schools at a reduced rate! So don’t run out and buy a lot of copies of the game without checking with me first!
And a little down the road we will actually be releasing our own server package, designed to help teachers and students get the game up and running quite easily. We’ll have more info on that soon!
Tonight I will be talking with Precipice Games, a non-profit that is “helping gamers, developers and the world through the art of game creation.” They have formed a wonderful and supportive community that not only plays games, but makes them too. And their focus is on games that have a positive impact on the world.
I will be talking with them and touring their Minecraft server tonight at 9pm Eastern. Discussion can be found here, and the place to watch live is live.precipicegames.com.
David Pakman is a venture capitalist, a dad, and a nexus of digital media. Recently, he has been playing Minecraft with his kids. He wrote a touching and insightful article about his experiences that is worth sharing. All parents should read this! Here’s a snippet:
It was Father’s Day after all and I’d rather be playing with my kids than not, so I launched a local server in our house. It worked like a charm. We all logged in and then the magic really started. We were now playing in the same world, chatting with each other, banding together to mine, build and defend our creations. After a few hours glued to our computers and to each other, it was clear we were going to be playing this for a long time. I was flying to California that night and thought this would be a great way to keep in touch with the kids,
Quickly addicted to the tasks of mining and building, I awoke at 4am California time each morning to play with my kids online for an hour before they left for school and I left for meetings. At night I’d check out what they made. They wanted to play Minecraft every waking hour of the day. And so did I.
A new school year is about to start and I feel the usual mix of emotions. Excited to tackle a new year full of fun with the kids at school, and sadness that my Summer break went by at lightening speed.
My schedule is still a bit up in the air. I’m not 100% sure when I’ll be seeing my 2nd graders in computer classes this semester, or in which computer space. So I’m planning my first few weeks of school to be flexible. And, sadly, I will probably NOT be teaching Minecraft right away. I need to do some more basic activities first so I can get to know the kids and assess their skill sets. I will probably wait until early October to start Minecraft.
BUT I will be meeting with my brand new high school Minecraft Club for the first time next week! I’m really excited for this. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with a large group of older students. (Grades 9 - 12, so 14 - 18 year olds). I miss the energy (and the challenge!) that comes with teaching this age group. I think that most of them will be familiar with Minecraft so I won’t need to spend much time introducing the game.
So, instead, for the first class we’ll talk about:
What kind of world they will want to play in.
What kind of gaming experience they desire and what they’d like to accomplish.
And I’ll try to figure out what other auxiliary projects they want to try while playing the game. Such as writing projects, making Let’s Play videos, modding the game… or who knows! I’m sure they will surprise me!
Hopefully we can cobble together a server we all like and then play on it during the first class.
I recently gave a presentation at the 2011 Games in Education Symposium held in Upstate New York. I will talk a bit more about the experience in an upcoming post, and hopefully have a video of my talk.
But I’d like to at least thanks the truly awesome folks at 1st Playable Productions. They put on this groundbreaking conference every year (for free!) because they believe in the concept. Everyone should buy their games!
For now, here’s a picture taken by my friend and colleague Owen Long, who is also doing some wonderful work with kids and Minecraft!
Hey folks. I’ve been pretty bad about updating the blog. I’m going to try to start posting more quick little bits as they come up. Don’t want things to get stale around here!
In that spirit, I’d like to share an email that is typical of something I get asked a lot. Many parents have contacted me for guidance about getting a home server running for their kids and their friends. Here’s one such email that came in this morning:
Hi Joel, my boys and I just found your excellent blog! I must say they are very excited about your posts. My eldest (aged 10) has been having trouble finding an under 18 years server (mummy’s rules about online play). So he has decided he would like to start up his own server, we were hoping you might be able to point us in the right direction regarding hardware requirements etc.
Thanks so much in advance for any help!
And here is my response:
Hi! Thanks for your kind words! The good news is that Minecraft does not require much in the way of hardware. Just make sure the machine has at least a gig or two of RAM free. And you probably do not want to play the game on the same machine that you are running the server from.
But it actually does require a fair bit of computer savvy to get everything working just right. And even when everything works, things can suddenly go horribly wrong — so you’ll want to make sure you’re making good backups.
It might be worth investigating a 3rd party hosting company. Personally, I use MinecraftHost.ca, which has been fantastic. And I’ve also heard good things about servercraft.co. For a modest fee per month, they will host the server for you and let your boys just play. But it would certainly be a good learning experience for them to have a go at it for themselves!
Let me know how it goes! ~Joel
If I had the luxury of free time, I would be doing a series of tutorial videos aimed at teachers and parents to get stuff like this up and running. It might still happen…
I finally recorded a follow-up to my Worthy Builders video that everyone seemed to enjoy to much. In the new one, I show off the buildings that my students created and then show you the Fabled Golden Pyramid of the Ancient Minecraftians that they got to explore as a reward. Have a look:
Now an update.
On Tuesday I’m going to be making my annual pilgrimage to QuakeCon, the world’s largest free LAN party. It’s really an amazing celebration of gaming in all its glory. And for the past 11 years, I’ve been one of the organizers.
This year, I will be running a HUGE Minecraft server in the BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer network). I’m sure there will be quite a few Minecraft players among the ~2000 or so gamers in attendance. It might even possibly end up being the largest local Minecraft server ever!
In the next couple days I will be putting a test version of this server online. Hopefully some of my readers can log on and help me test it out. I will announce on Twitter when it’s ready, so be sure to follow me (@MinecraftTeachr)!
I recently posted videos showing off student creations from my two afterschool classes. The 90 minute classes met once per week for 10 weeks. While I would occasionally have an activity or a building project planned, I generally allowed the students to play the game however they wished.
Here are the results. Part 1:
And Part 2:
I also recently started another video series on YouTube called Elementary Minecraft. I’ve got big plans for it. I have started off simply playing the game in its most basic form. But as the series progresses, I intend to slowly add mods, servers, plugins, etc. I hope that some of these episodes can actually serve as tutorial videos for various “advanced” Minecraft activities.
In general, I try not to gunk up this blog with all of my videos… but you should feel free to subscribe to My YouTube Channel! ;)
Classes are over, but that doesn’t mean I can relax. In fact, I have an incredibly busy Summer planned.
Some of my obligations are personal, some professional, and some stem from my work with Minecraft. I don’t want to rest on my laurels*. I want to take whatever momentum and attention I’ve generated and do something positive. I’ve had conversations lately with very interesting people about ways to bring Minecraft to more schools all over the world.
But that translates into a lot of work over the Summer! I’m looking forward to it, but I will also need to find ways to recharge my batteries along the way.
And next school year won’t be any calmer, either. I just found out that my teaching schedule will be significantly changed in the Fall. I’ll be seeing each group of kids about four times as often next year. And you know what that means… more Minecraft!
And all the while, I want to continue producing videos on my YouTube channel. I’m finding it very and rewarding to get this content online and have people watch and enjoy it. I’ve been getting so much great feedback and suggestions for ideas. I want to expand my videos beyond just my classroom activities. (Don’t worry, they will still focus on Minecraft).
And speaking of YouTube… I’ve just passed two milestones: 200k video views and 2500+ subscribers!
I can’t quite wrap my head around those numbers. But it’s sufficient to know that people are genuinely interested in what I’m doing and want to see more. I’ll do my best!
A new community for educators has been launched by my fellow Minecraft Teachers, Dean Groom, Jo Kay, and Bron Stuckey. They are attempting to lay the groundwork for getting kids, parents, teachers, and schools playing together. The site is called Massively Minecraft and it appears to be a perfect place to get some real experience working with kids in Minecraft. From the site:
You are invited to join Massively Minecraft, a professional community of educators preparing to explore a new game suitable for children as young as 4 years of age, yet expansible enough to still stir the imagination and interaction of late teens and adults.
The purpose of this community project is to trial the use of the game Minecraft (http://www.minecraft.net) in schools as part of voluntary student activity. The community will engage in exploration and research, not to decide or direct any particular application of the game but, to understand where students might take it and how they and their teachers visualise possibilities for it use within the curriculum. This ethnographic approach relies on you, as the professional in the school, to observe and reflect on student imagination, initiative, interaction, engagement and learning.
The project appears to be an offshoot of another great site, Jokadia Minecrafts which is also a really good read. I’m looking forward to getting involved and seeing where all this leads!
It’s a lesson I did recently with a group of 2nd graders who had only been playing Minecraft for a few weeks. In fact, they had never been outside of my Tutorial World before.
This is a good example of how I try to layer a story into my Minecraft lessons in order provide a context for the children. I find that Minecraft by itself is too open ended for most young children (these kids are 7 and 8). They need something to ground them and give them a reason for their actions… otherwise they just run off and do whatever they want. ;)
After a great many delays, the Tutorial World, made by me and @GraphicsMatt, is finally available for download. This is more than a simple training exercise, it’s a whole world to explore!
Beyond that, it’s designed to be played by a single person OR an entire class being led by a teacher. This world (and variations of it) are what I use personally in my own classes.
Tonight I’m releasing the basic map file that anyone can drop into their Minecraft ‘saves’ directory, or host on their own server. I’m releasing it with very few strings attached. Anyone should feel free to use it. More information and instructions can be found in the ReadMe file.
PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT the full server setup that I use with my own classes. In fact, I would not recommend that a teacher use this raw version in school without certain protections in place. There are far too many ways that an inquisitive or mischievous students could “break” the intended gameplay experience. (Which is not always a bad thing… but with a large class full of younger students, maintaining a bit of control is crucial).
I would still love to release my full server in order to help other teachers start playing Minecraft with their own students. However, right now there are a couple technical and legal roadblocks that I’m working out. But I can say with certainty that the server WILL be made available in some form before long.
I would absolutely love to hear feedback about the Tutorial World. This map is mainly designed for children aged 7 - 12, but I’m curious how older people respond to it. Show the map to your kids, your grandma, your yoga teacher… whoever. Leave a comment below, email, or tweet me.
My blog may have been quiet lately, but don’t let that fool you. Big Things have been happening for me. My head is spinning.
First of all, I finally had my guest appearance on The Shaft, the world’s bestest Minecraft podcast. I had a great time and I managed to not yammer overly much. In fact, I think I somewhat coherently explained what it is that I do — something I often struggle with when I’m put on the spot. Listen for yourself and let me know what you think.
But now looking ahead, I am going to meet the guys from 2 Player Productions tomorrow. They are the company that is currently working on a feature length documentary about Minecraft and Mojang studios. They decided to fly to New York and spend three days filming me at my school. I am incredibly honored and flattered that they think what I’m doing is interesting enough to include in their film. I will try not to disappoint.
I still can’t really believe this is happening.
I usually try to keep my classes doing similar activities for my own sanity. But I didn’t want the 2PP guys to film the same content over and over again. So I’ve been very busy prepping six different lessons for them to film. I ended up redoing my entire Pyramid world from scratch. Hopefully the payoff for all this effort will be on film for everyone to watch on film
This video might be a bit drier than some of my previous ones. It’s a lot more of just me talking. Jump ahead to 12:15 if you just want to watch kids building. ;)
This is from one of my afterschool classes that meets once a week. There are 14 second graders (age 7 and 8). I have 90 minutes with them which is twice as long as I usually get during regular classes. Thus, I’m able to go a little slower, do more planning with the kids, answer more questions, and go off on tangents.
This is the first part of a multi-week project. Look for a follow up in the coming weeks.
For the next few days, I will be leaving the Tutorial World running on my public server. You can connect to it in Minecraft at ’ mythico.com ’. It will likely go up and down a few times and will almost certainly be reset quite frequently. So don’t build anything on it that you would want to keep. And for those of you awesome folks that helped me test in the past… there is new content!
@GraphicsMatt and I have been putting the finishing touches on the project and could really use some comments and playtesting. There are still a couple rough spots and unfinished areas, but it’s almost reached the state of Good Enough For Release.
After this test concludes (in an unspecified number of days), I will package up the entire world with instructions for download.
I would appreciate feedback e-mailed to me. Screenshots speak volumes. Any general comments are welcome, but here are some specific things I’m interested in:
First time spawn problems - I’ve been having a really tough time getting a precise spawn for the first time a player joins the server. You are supposed to start directly in front of some signs telling you how to look around. I think I’ve finally got it working, but most of the plugins I’ve tried to fix this have been inconsistent.
Places where it is possible to leave the main path - This does not apply to the final Campground area since people are allowed to explore by this point. I am less concerned in bugs/glitches/exploits that allow you to leave the path… there’s not much I can do about that.
Places where it is possible to become stuck
Clarity of Instructions - Is it clear what you are supposed to do at each step? Again, this doesn’t really apply to the Campground. It’s designed to be a setting for which to experiment with crafting. Or ideally, it’s a place for teachers to show their classes crafting. Besides, I can’t think of a good way to explain crafting from within the game. (At least until Notch adds books!)
Follow me on Twitter for any special notes or instructions during the playtest. I won’t be logging in myself until later tonight. I’ll tweet when I do. But I will be reviewing the server logs of activity during the day.
@GraphicsMatt and I have been working on some new content for the Tutorial World. The ultimate goal is to provide an area to practice crafting. Here’s a little preview:
Lots of cool things to play with. And yes, I am still planning to make my entire Tutorial World available for public download. There are still a few more areas that are “broken” or that need to be connected. After a bit more polish, I will package it up for download.
Maybe I’ll have another testing weekend first. Lots of people seemed to enjoy that. :)
Question: Would you rather download just the Tutorial World map alone, or would you want my whole server setup with mods configured? [Not sure if the latter is actually feasible, but I’m just curious.]