Saturday 6 November 2021

Analytics, Interesting Ponderings and More Work To Do

OK, so I have been very busy with all kinds of things, which is great, and what is even better is 1.17 M:EE finally dropped. Which means I was able to release the 3rd video in the tutorial series.

One thing I have really enjoyed is watching the analytics of these new style tutorial videos and seeing whether all the effort, work, scoping, recording, scripting and editing is paying off for my viewers. I am glad to say it looks to be, with a very small sample, and a relatively short period of time.

Normally, and this is the reason I was exploring this as part of my masters degree, the viewer retention on my tutorial videos hovers around 10%, which means viewers, on average watch one tenth of the video I publish. What I am seeing with the current 2 videos is viewer retention over 30% and 40%. Which is still not what I would love, but it is proportionally longer even if the actual view time is less. Which is an interesting thing to think about, are viewers watching more, or less? They are watching more of a shorter video, but what is the impact on the actual time they are watching? Viewer feedback has been fairly positive, with people saying that they are able to follow along for the most part.

I am still 'iterating' on my process, and while I have not got anywhere near having video 4 ready to publish, for video 5 I am doing a bit of light video editing while I write the script, which I am hoping will make the final editing process a fair sight easier, but we will have to wait and see. I am really enjoying the whole process still, which is positive, but time is also getting harder to find, but I really want to get the whole series of 15 odd videos done before I run out of steam.

Another project I have been working on is the update to classroom management pack to make it better and have more functionality. It is just about ready for release, I just need to tweak one letterbox texture and then record my 'old style' video introducing it, and how to get it working. I have decided to push it out as it stands, even though I have more that I want to do to it, I found a few interesting bugs while trying to polish it for release. I also found that you can no longer 'hide' functions from users by putting an error in them within EE. As doing so prevents the game from calling the function at all, which is definitely new behaviour.

A group of us on the discord group started discussing the new features of structure blocks that come along with 1.17, and we collectively figured out a way of possibly transferring builds between worlds 'easily' using these new features. It is going to require a development behaviour pack in your EE install, and that pack being attached to each world you want the structures loaded in, but if we use development folder, users will be easily able to add their own builds do it. I need to explore how this might work on things like iPads which don't necessarily have easy access to the game folders. Also, I don't have a Chromebook to test yet so if you have one and want to help me out, let me know.

I am in the process of thinking about the 'cool' builds that might be useful to have across multiple words to put in this pack and sharing it, and the process to make life easier for those teachers who want to start/continue creating their own content. On that, if you have a build of your own that you think would be beneficial to have in a pack like this, and you are happy to make it available for others (with attribution of course) let me know and we can sort something out.

That's it for now, thanks for reading, as always feel free to leave a comment below, hit me up on twitter or join the mentor discord

Saturday 9 October 2021

Tutorial Series has Begun!

I finally built up the courage (silly I know) to release the first episode of the new tutorial series that goes alongside the genetics map creation.

This first video is a very quick one, that shows you the tools and software you need to start this process.

What I have found most difficult with this series is finding the time to actually create the videos as I want them to be. I have recorded plenty of footage, deliberately without audio. However, editing that footage and writing a script to go along with it is time consuming. Then taking that one step further and recording the narrative, and then aligning the footage to the script takes even longer.

That being said, I think the quality and ease of use of these videos for their intended purpose is much greater than my previously available tutorials. I have had a couple of people view and provide feedback, with a few tweaks having been made before pushing this video live to YouTube.

If you are interested in how I create my maps, or customise Minecraft and bend it to my educational will, follow along with these tutorials as we create the genetics map. Some of the content will not work until M:EE updates to 1.17, but that should be in the next few weeks hopefully. As always if you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

Sunday 3 October 2021

Classroom Management Pack 2.0 (for 1.17)

I managed to find some time to revisit an old project of mine and apply new learnings and new features to it. My Classroom Management Pack, which was originally released via my YouTube channel April 2019 and had some 'easy' toggles that allow teachers/players to control certain 'educationally distracting/destructive' items that EE didn't allow fine control of.

I have learnt an awful lot about the backend of Minecraft since 2019, and the update I am working on has features I didn't even think would be possible. The one that I am most proud of is the ability for players to 'set a home' and teleport back to that point from anywhere in the world. They can also pick up their 'home' and re-set it elsewhere. The textures are all temporary, and need a bit of work, but I am very pleased with the basic systems in place. 

  The 'home' is a letterbox (currently textured in pastels) and the 'go home' is the big purple ring on the right side of the screen. As I said, the textures need some work.

Putting in the 'safety' features was a fun problem solving task, and I think I have it so that only the owner of the home point can remove it and teleport to it. There was some pretty neat tricks about making sure the entity knows who it belongs to, and some even neater tricks in the scoreboard to make sure that each player always goes to only their home.

In the middle of writing this I had a brainwave about how to make it even better. Now if a player sets their home, and the home toggle turns off, the home can stay, but cannot be used, and if home is toggled back on, they can go right back to using it.

I do have concerns about lots of students using this in the one world because each home loads a ticking area of 2 chunk radius around it, but we will have to wait and see how EE copes when we get there. Technically there are infinite home points able to set, however I have deliberately limited it so that each player only gets the ability to have one point set at any given time.

I am also considering whether to incorporate multiple models/textures and allow players to swap between them and find something that 'suits them'. This is quite easily doable, but time consuming to create the models and textures, so if you had students who want something in particular, get them to make it and send it my way and I will include it if I get around to adding this feature.

It is now also much easier for users to start using the pack now. In the previous version you had to copy/paste the commands into the command blocks for the controls, but now the common ones are all in-built and no longer require typing in. Any custom controls unfortunately still need to be manually input, but I cannot help that.

I have also fixed, what I guess you would call a bug, that used to wipe all the command blocks when you tried to revisit and adjust or add any commands to the control center. Now that doesn't happen, which is great.

I am considering adding a system so that teachers can 'freeze' a certain student, rather than only the whole class, but I am not exactly sure how useful that would be, and how stable and 'cheatable' it will be. I have a solid setup for it in another project I was working on, so I know I can do it, just a matter of making it as simple as possible for the teacher to actually use. Of course now that I type it out, I have some pretty good usability ideas that would make it easy for teachers, and less likely to be 'cheatable' by students.

If you have used my CMP pack before, and have some ideas of anything else you would like to see added, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and the first video of the tutorial series should be out soon, I have the video edited, the script written, now I just have to find the time to record the script and align it to the video. Then onto the rest, I have quite a bit of footage recorded, just no scripts or audio to go with them at this stage.

Friday 27 August 2021

Tutorial Series/Genetics Map Progress

I am still here!! It has been a few days, but I am still steaming ahead with new found purpose and resolve! I have managed to record the footage for the first 3 videos in the tutorial series, and this means I am at the point of having the custom entity, in its most basic form, in a Minecraft world.

The drosophila (female) in world.

However, remember I said that the videos were scoped as part of my masters degree? Well the whole reason for the scoping was because I was researching what makes 'good' educational videos. I did a heap of research and came to the conclusion that my previous tutorials, while not complete garbage, were not all that great either. So it means a few fairly significant adjustments to my workflow for producing these videos.

Recording footage and narrating 'on the fly' is something of the past for these kinds of tutorials. I found that I ramble... and get distracted, and therefore distract from the intended purpose of the video. Alongside that there was a lot of research about video length, and what is likely most suitable. In the past I tried to keep my tutorials under 20 minutes, because that seemed to be what all the other YouTube creators I regularly watch do, however they create entertainment content, not educational content, and there is a difference. Apparently I should be trying to keep these tutorial videos under 7 minutes if possible, and definitely shorter than 10-12 minutes.

So while I have around an hour of raw footage recorded, I need to convert that to highly focused footage (of around 15-20 minutes) and then add carefully scripted narration. On a side note, I am clearly getting better at this, because if you read my first post of the genetics project from a few years ago I am pretty sure it took quite a few more hours last time.

I am also working 'between' Minecraft versions, because the tutorial series (now expanded to something like 14 different videos) includes things currently unavailable in M:EE like custom items and blocks. These will be available when M:EE finally updates to 1.16/1.17 which I am hoping is on the cards soon, and I think it is going to take a little while for these tutorial videos to be ready, as I estimated that it takes about 3 times as long to produce the videos in this way, compared to what I used to do. (I hope the extra time and effort is worth it!)

I am currently deciding whether to publish them 'one at a time' as I complete them, or whether to hold them and release as a complete set. If you have any thoughts there, please let me know in the comments, on Twitter (@EduElfie) or in the Mentor Discord (

That's it for this update. Thanks for reading!

Monday 23 August 2021

Guess Who's Back.... Back Again... Back Again... Back Again...

OK, so it feels like this is the 20th time I have said I am back into it and working on stuff, and then I fall off the face of the blog again and come back x months later saying the same thing. I cannot promise this time is any different, sorry folks, but I can say that I am in the best 'mental shape' I have been in years and I no longer see educational Minecraft as a pain point. I am excited by it again, and am actually looking forward to creating some more things.

I have spent the last few years avoiding everything educationally Minecraft related. I have kept up with my Minecraft skills by creating content for the Markeplace, and some non-educational live Minecraft events. That being said I am slowly transitioning back in the place I specialise in, as there have been a couple of really cool educational things over the last 6 or so months that have helped 'heal' my mental anxieties around the Minecraft education space and almost 'reset' my feelings towards it.

So, am I back forever, who knows, but I am back for now, and I have plans to create some 'next level' stuff for M:EE to support teachers in their classrooms (did someone say custom economy?). The first project however is to re-start the customising Minecraft tutorial series from 2018 that I never finished. Things have changed so much in the intervening time and I have learned so much since then. 

Also, as part of a Masters assignment last year I scoped and planned a sequence of videos to take people from not knowing anything about customising Minecraft to being able to create custom entities that suit their purposes. As part of that I did record one video of the series and received some pretty powerful feedback about how I could improve my videos and make them more enjoyable, applicable, relevant and useful to those who are looking to learn the stuff I am sharing.

Recently this has come to the fore again as there are an increasing number of educators looking for this kind of content, so I feel it is time to go back to my 'old self' and start sharing the 'how' I do things again. So, the old 'genetics' project from a few years ago, that involves custom entities, behaviours and everything that I need to do to create that is going to be the backbone of the tutorial series. 

The old version of Drosophila!

I am hoping to even be able to extend it into the functions side of things because I still feel they are completely underutilised in the M:EE space in terms of creating interaction based on where students are, and what they are doing.

I also have been seriously considering getting back into streaming my creative process when working on content, either for Marketplace or educational stuff that I plan on releasing, but my internet has been terrible lately, and I am hoping that will be resolved in the next couple of weeks.

Another project, in the near future, is to re-create my old transcription/translation map for a teacher at my current school to use, we were going to have that going in the next few weeks, but since we are back into remote learning here, we are going to hold off. What was really cool though, was I found my old world and managed to get it to the latest version of M:EE without losing any important data. It took some doing because a lot of the sequences/blocks in that world were the original MCEdu blocks, that didn't swap over to M:EE very nicely, so currently my genetic code is all in what I would call "Log Format" 

I really didn't want to lose the old genetic sequence, as there was countless hours put into getting that right.

That's it from me, nothing really super exciting to share at this stage, except stay tuned, here, my YouTube channel and Twitch channel. Things are going to start happening!

Tuesday 16 June 2020

It Is Official!!

This wasn't the great news I was thinking I would be sharing first, but it is too good not to share and it only became official a few days ago. I am now officially a Minecraft Partner, which means I can finally make my content available on all Bedrock platforms through the Marketplace. I am super excited, and have a couple of fun ideas to put out there, not educational, just fun. Which is an interesting shift, and actually quite hard to wrap my head around, I keep trying to 'sneak' educational stuff in while planning, but I need to keep reminding myself that I don't need to, nor do I really want to do that right now.

I do have a couple of solid ideas for maps, and I hope to get one done in the next few weeks ready for release, but I have so much work going on at the moment being back in the classroom, I am struggling for time to do all I want. I need to do the 'timeline' specific projects before I can go onto other projects, but I will get there.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a couple of other projects going on, which I am hoping to be able to share some screenshots and work soon. The first 'event' is just under a month away for a project with a local gallery here in Victoria, and when registrations open I will surely let you know. We are currently exploring how we can make this live event, hosted on an external server, available on as many devices as possible.

I found a neat little tool called Phantom, over on github, that 'mirrors' an external server on a local network, allowing consoles to join as if they were on a LAN server. So, we are currently testing that as an option to allow users to join from their console.

That's a pretty short blog post, for me. Thanks for reading, onwards and upwards!

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Road to Recovery!

This post has been a solid 6 months in the making, and I have started it so many times, in the wrong mindset and never been able to properly (and professionally) explain what happened, why it happened, what it means and what is next for me. Putting it plainly, I have been on an interesting personal journey the last few months, and it has been one of (I hope) immense personal growth. As you know I was leading the development of Mini Melbourne, and the deployment of M:EE across the state of Victoria. Well, in mid July last year, that all stopped, quite suddenly, and what started as a great opportunity for me, turned into a terrible circumstance and one that had serious impacts on me, my family, and most importantly for this blog, my mental health.

I don’t want to, nor do I think it appropriate, to go into all the details of what happened, and why, but I do think it fair to try and explain what impact it had on me, and why, yet again, I disappeared off the face of the blog planet for a significant time, with no reason or warning.

Basically, I was letting someone else’s (possibly several else’s) poor behaviour and choices define my behaviour, to some extent. Most certainly not by choice, but by virtue of seeing no ‘positive’ way forward, and no way to resolve my feelings due to the fact there is no ‘reasonable’ person on the other end of this situation. I wish there was, sitting with someone reasonable, outlining the situation would, I believe, help in a resolution to a very confusing, and I feel unfair situation. Unfortunately, due to the inability to have this ‘reasonable’ discussion, I am left feeling unfairly treated with no way to resolve the feelings I have, no way to ‘go back in time’ and fix the issues I have faced over the last 6 months.

I loved working on deploying Minecraft: Education Edition on a large scale, developing lessons for teachers to use, working with and supporting a large range of teachers across all subjects and year levels, and best of all, being paid to do it. Then due to misrepresentations and poor decision making, outside of my control, I ‘lost’ that opportunity, and what I thought was going to be a new, even greater opportunity, was no longer available to me.

It was a very abrupt change to my plans, and it was very disheartening to feel all the passion and drive I had for pushing boundaries, and supporting educators slowly drain out of me. Something I had managed to hold onto since 2011, something that I valued in myself, something that I felt defined me in a lot of ways. Educational Minecraft has been a large part of my life for a long time, in fact the majority of my ‘teaching career’ has involved Minecraft in some capacity. I have learned a great deal about myself, education and learning, had some awesome successes and I really value all the friendships, opportunities and experiences I have had in this space. My feelings towards all of those great things was souring, and that was not something I wanted.

I have still been helping where and when I am able, but for my own mental health I had to take an immense step back from the M:EE community, not because of the community, but because of the feelings and thoughts and angst I was feeling about the platform in general.

Basically, right now, I feel like I am beginning to come out of the ‘dark days’ of my mental health issues. Reflecting on this ‘change’ in my disposition, I think a large part of that is probably because I am really looking forward to working in a real life classroom with real life students again.

I have also been working ‘outside’ of the education sphere of Minecraft and with some non-educational projects, which has also been helping, slowly transitioning myself back into seeing Minecraft in a positive light, rather than the cause of a great deal of stress and anxiety. I am working on some really cool stuff, that I am really enjoying, is stretching my own knowledge and ability in customising experiences in Minecraft and is generally, going quite well.

I am also back to ‘imagining’ what I could do to support education when M:EE updates to 1.16. This has not been the case for far too long, not being able to ‘see’ my next big ‘innovation’ and project because I could not see myself working within Minecraft. Something I have wanted to do for a long time might actually be a reality when M:EE goes to 1.16. The longer the delay in updating M:EE, and the closer Bedrock gets to 1.16, the more likely that the next update for M:EE will bring it to 1.16, and that long term desire may be a reality, even if it will be with way too many hours worth of work.

Most importantly, I am back to doing what I love, working with students. It is a tough job, coming back into the classroom after a few years out of it, but there is a solid team around me, both locally at the school, within my family and with my friends, local and global. Here’s to continuing in a more positive frame of mind, and going back to defining my own path, rather than letting others define it for me. For those of you out there, that have supported me, in any way, over the last 12 or so months, know that your support has been highly valued, and likely you don’t even know you did it! To those who did know what was going on, and regularly put up with my terrible moods and grumpy rants and still stuck around, thank you! Without your reasoned and well thought out responses, I wouldn’t be mentally where I am now.

So, this is not the ‘goodbye’ post, or the grumpy rant I started writing so many times over the last few months, but instead, and I am very glad to say it, a more positive me is emerging. While I am not back to ‘full strength’ and I still have more bad days than I would prefer, I am certainly on the road to recovering my passion and drive for supporting educational Minecraft, and pushing my own Minecraft boundaries to help me build whatever my next ‘great’ idea is.