Yesterday was the first after-school Minecraft club meeting at my school. After reaching capacity within 25 minutes of registration opening up, we knew this club was going to be popular!
I’ve been wanting to bring Minecraft into school since I first heard about it. I even wrote my capstone paper on applying learning theories to gaming: ‘Cultivating Computational Thinking Through a Middle School Minecraft Club Pilot‘. I couldn’t wait to get this club started!
At our first meeting, the students filled out a google survey to offer more insights into their background and interests. See the results below:
After the survey, we ran through the MinecraftEdu tutorial world that comes loaded with the educational version of the game. I had played through it myself, but I didn’t see this teacher guide until afterward! That would have been useful. I loved the differentiation that is built into the MinecraftEdu tutorial world! The advanced students had several levels of challenges while the other students had the opportunity to get acclimated to the keyboard controls. The kids ran through it at their own pace.
After spending some time in the tutorial world, I loaded a standard Minecraft world. Prior to introducing the students to the world, I set up a perimeter of border blocks to limit the students from getting too far away from the spawn point. I also created a large beacon of blocks to orient the students to the center of the world. Last, I set up my house- a treehouse in the sky with waterfalls (see pictures below). I also set up transportation blocks & a spawn block to easily get around. I’ve spent some time in Minecraft (as a student, actually!), but this is my first time facilitating with a group of kids. My experience comes from Pepperdine’s doctoral program, where we met for several weeks inside of Minecraft during the course ‘Knowledge Creation and Collaborative Learning‘. It was an amazing experience, but I digress.
The third objective for the students was to construct a house in Minecraft. One thing that didn’t go as planned was the student inventory; the world doesn’t automatically load in creative mode with a full inventory. Earlier I spent time in the game, gifting myself a command block. Then… I forgot the next step to make it work, and I was trying to do it manually. As I was working on this, we had a java issue on one of the student computers, so the student used my MacBook instead of me being in the game with the kids. Thus, I didn’t have access to the teacher controls, where it turns out I was making the inventory issue way too complicated. In the teacher control menu, you can simply toggle the different gameplay modes. It defaults to a MinecraftEdu mode, but you can change it to creative mode, and that will automatically give kids access to the full inventory. I didn’t find this out until after the fact. However, the kids had a great time crafting, and it gave me a feel for their experience levels. I want to give them the opportunity to play in the different game modes, but we will mainly be playing in creative mode instead of survival.
After the club meeting, I shared a few pictures on Twitter using the #MinecraftEdu hashtag and I came across a post from @Michaelebraun about a book utilizing Raspberry Pi to code mods for Minecraft in Python. He also tagged the author, @whaleygeek, a software engineer/STEM ambassador from Essex who also reached out to me. The intended audience is slightly older students, but I ordered the book to learn more and see if we can adapt it for our group. I love the instantaneous power of twitter to connect people from around the globe in a matter of seconds!
I’m still trying to plan out activities for the rest of the sessions. Activities will be heavily influenced by student interest. I want the students to learn new things and have the opportunity to share their expertise with others. I’m planning on doing some advanced
work, building challenges, and some type of coding/custom mods. I also want to expose them to some unique worlds to explore. Last, I’d like to incorporate art- we have a pixel art challenge scheduled. For this one, I’m bringing in an alumni student who presented Minecraft to our admin team two years ago. I think it’s really great that he is going to come back and seeing the fruition of his work, and I think he will enjoy serving as an “expert consultant” (he’s in middle school now).
There are so many amazing things that could be done, I am somewhat overwhelmed! Just this week I came across how the Tate Art Museum is building worlds inspired by famous paintings inside Minecraft (see photo below). This club is serving as a pilot, and I hope to expand to two clubs next semester, including an all-girls group! I know whatever we do, the students will learn and have a great time.
If you would like to learn more, check out a Periscope recording of highlights from the first club meeting.