Guest Post by Matt Richards – Microsoft Expert Educator
Minecraft is an engaging platform for creativity, computational thinking, collaboration and learning. Crafting learning opportunities in Minecraft between schools is a wonderful opportunity to develop student collaboration and ICT for learning skills. Mineclass, started by a bunch of Australian Microsoft Expert Educators, was conceived to make interschool Minecraft projects a reality. See how you can can set up your own interschool projects, or just join the Mineclass group below.
Students from geographically remote schools collaborate and construct technical creations in Minecraft as a learning platform. Mineclass gives teachers and students to how-to and a place to make all of this happen.
•Students plan, design and collaboratively create structures and functioning machines in Minecraft.
•Students learn how communicate and collaborate effectively in web based projects.
•Students have real global audiences for their creations.
•Students run virtual excursions for other schools in their Minecraft world creations.
1. Student Minecraft accounts – It is better if the students use their own Minecraft accounts to facilitate learning anytime/anywhere. You can acquire accounts at this link.
2. Server– If you have a fast internet connection (min. 50Mbps) at your school you can host the server yourself. Recommended server details at this link. If you don’t have a fast connection you can buy online Realms at this link.
3. Devices – Minecraft works on most devices (great if you are a diverse BYOD school). Students usually prefer laptops.
4. System Requirements – you can catch up on the technical system requirements at this link.
5. Preparation – Ensure your students all have Minecraft accounts. Initial setup is easier if you utilise the Minecraft Jedi in your class. Liaise with your IT Department to ensure Minecraft will be accessible on your school network. Request that they open needed ports if needed.
Ideas to ensure success
•Set some basic rules- students to be polite in all communications.
•No griefing (griefing is a Minecraft term for being destructive or rude in-world).
•Create and share with students a collaborative OneNote detailing the project, rules and ideas.
•Students can go in-world at any time BUT there needs to be balance with time management.
•Set a 30-60 min time each week where students from each school meet in-world and have a live skype video conference at the same time so students can converse face-to-face.
Make your Mineclass project launch exciting and fun. Let your students meet in Skype and introduce themselves face-to-face. Give them time to talk and discuss project ideas. Let them form sub-teams if required. Then let students go in-world for the first time. It is important to let them just play and muck around the first time they meet in-world. They may show off their Minecraft skills. There may be some griefing. Use this as an opportunity to reiterate the rules.
https://youtu.be/RI0BN5AWOe8 (embed video)
The spectrum of projects in Minecraft is almost limitless. For some ideas check out the video above. Students can create working calculators, toilets, computers, organic cells, sports stadiums with working scoreboards etc.
To create really cool working machines in Minecraft coding and computational thinking is required. Redstone and command block commands are the magic ingredient. Info on how to use redstone can be found at this link.
Student directed learning
At this point in the project most teachers begin freaking out at their lack of Minecraft skills. DON’T PANIC! The students can teach you the basics! 🙂 When the project gets to the level of sophistication where it needs special requirements from the system you need to employ some of your students as admins.
Admins are the moderators in Minecraft. They can change variables, teleport players around, basically be omniscient. They are a much needed resource if your project gets out of hand or students begin griefing. Chose your admins carefully. You don’t want students to misuse their position of authority. This can be a great learning experience also.
You can use Mineclass as an assessment project. Or not. If you want to link it to curriculum outcomes use screencasts, screenshots and conversation records as evidence. I recommend Microsoft Screenshots or Snipping Tool for this.
Once your students have created their amazing structures they can facilitate virtual excursions for students from other schools. These excursions can also be workshops where students teach other Minecraft skills.
I hope you choose to explore Minecraft as a collaborative learning platform for your students. The learning evidenced through my project has been phenomenal. Have fun! 🙂