Hurray! I tamed a horse. Hearts escaped. And my friend Lee Graham snapped a screenshot of me. Yes. That’s me learning MinecraftEdu on a horse I trained, thanks to Lee creating a week of challenges to a group of newbie Minecrafters.
Lee and her friends at the University of Alaska had created GiverCraft, a MineCraftEdu exploration of the book, The Giver, which my sixth grade students participated in. Knowing how important games are to students, and how those games are designed with the brain in mind, I felt compelled to learn more, to learn more to design my own MineCraft modules for my classroom.
But I am not a gamer. On the gamer personality test, I am an extreme explorer: I really don’t like playing, I like exploring the story. In my first venture with my students, I just couldn’t do it: every time I moved, I smashed things. I could barely move. So I stood behind my students and let them do the playing while I watched.
So, Lee offered to help set up a learning experience for newbies. Melvina, Mari, and I spent the day at different times exploring, learning commands, and how NOT to keep destroying things. Thank goodness, Dustin joined in to help as well. I’m accepting the challenge to earn the Emerging Builder Badge! Whew! It will not be easy, but that is part of the point: learning to be a learner again! I should also let you know that my grandson has offered to Skype in to help me if I get stuck, and I have two students willing to come up to school to make sure I don’t destroy the place, if need be. So, with Lee and Dustin, my colleagues Melvina and Mari, and my younger helpers, Hunter, Isaiah and Daryl, I am ready.
What did I do today?
I was a learner.
I had to download and install not only MinecraftEdu but also the Java required for its play. That part was easy. I’m a geek after all.
Entering the game however was not so easy, as this tweet explains:
— Lee Graham (@ak_leeg) June 29, 2015
I didn’t even know Melvina was in there; I couldn’t watch the Twitter help stream and focus on my stuck avatar. I thought I was in a deep hole and couldn’t figure out why that eye was staring at me. I kept pressing the space bar to hop, which isn’t the hop code. It was hilarious.
Once I finally got going, I took time to set my controls as Lee explained in the video [which uses my name at the parts just form me, the biggest baby who can’t even move!] I still didn’t know Melvina was there! I saw Lee, but that’s all. Lee told me it was my mouse clicking that was destroying everything. Finally, I figured that out. I kept wanting to use the mouse instead of the control keys. Ok. I learned something. And I was so happy to know the controls for dropping something and to start the chat.
I followed Lee along the blue brick road [I’m sure this is a better road than that yellow one!], but got stuck on the stairs. I had to learn to jump and walk forward, and to hit the spacebar to drop down [not hop] when I ended up in the sky. Lee and Dustin gave me so much encouragement, such as, “Some horses take a long time to train, but they are trainable.” I don’t think it was the horse that took a long time; it was just me. I know because I never did figure out how to give my horse her apple. That really bothered me I couldn’t thank her with an apple. Will she always be my tamed horse? I don’t know.
As a learner, I can see how some kids want to just keep trying on their own, to figure out what to do before going in groups, and some people want hints, and some need encouragement, and some are naturals. Some kids go off on tangents important to them. Sound familiar? Yes, our classrooms. But do we as teachers really always remember these individual strategies to success? And in Minecraft, you learn that help is there to encourage and hint [or google it], and that collaboration, as in the real world, is a key part of success.
I can now walk around, choose inventory, and place things like grass and stone blocks.I can also take screenshots [fn2] although as a Mac user, I’d never really used the function key before!
See that plus sign in the middle in the shot below? I didn’t know that’s how to place blogs. I kept just looking with my eyes and turning my avatar’s head to “look” and then tried to place the stone. I could never get them where I wanted them. Finally, while looking at that horse [above] looking at me, I noticed that plus sign behind him. That’s just like any learning; what seems obvious to me is NOT obvious to the learner. That’s why my blogs are all called something like “What Else.” Because I have to always ask myself, “What else could I do to help the learner understand?” And of course, my students need to ask, “What else do I need to do to complete my work to the best of my ability? What else could I add, delete, elaborate, etc.?
I did it! I accurately placed a stone brick without destroying something. Smallest thing to do in Minecraft, and big deal to me! Think about it: learners need continuous feedback, resources to review, and encouragement at what may seem so simple to us teachers.
I should add here, that students are so helpful to each other. During our GiverCraft, students who knew Minecraft would jump up as they heard a peer frustrated, and would help them figure it out — not do it for them, just guide them. It was awesome to experience.
I had made a mess of our world placing blocks:
Remember, I do know how to destroy! [but hate doing it] See: all cleaned up! All good citizens keep their world clean.
Before I left, I thought I should review the chat, and I’m glad I took the screenshot. I missed the top lines about the apple for my tamed horse: I have to throw it. That will be the first thing I learn tomorrow. Got to take care of my creatures. But you can see how helpful Lee has been and how she let me be to explore, to “walk around and jump and ride and dig a bit,” which I did. Thanks, Lee, for a great first adventure in learning.