Tuesday, 29 November 2011

More tutorials.

Just a quick post to embed the new tutorial videos, these are much better quality than the laggy ones I uploaded of in-game screens last week.

I hope they are helpful.


My mind is blown. I just walked out of a double year 9 Science class wondering what exactly happened. I was not sure my 21 question map was going to go very well but after the amount of time and effort I had put in to getting it ready to go I was not going to chicken out. After some initial 'how do we do this' and 'I don't understand' comments from the kids it ran very smoothly. Most of the kids were working solidly for over an hour before getting somewhat frustrated, but most managed to get through all of the questions in that time.

There were some glitches that needed to be fixed on the fly with the redstone, I think having that much redstone in one area caused some update issues. I also had to complete some of the work on the last couple of rooms while the kids were in the first few rooms. So it was a very hectic lesson for me, but I really think the kids enjoyed it.

I asked the students yesterday to come up with 3 questions each, that were multiple choice with four options. I then used the questions in the map today, so they had to read some information, come up with relevant questions from the information and then give them to me. There was a large variety of questions and they were worded in 'kid speak' so there were no real understanding issues.

So they had to learn something yesterday and then apply that knowledge today to get through the rooms. I also asked if they would like to build the rollercoaster at the end of the map and they thought that would be a great idea, so there was my carrot to get to the end.

It took about 3 and a half hours just to get the questions into the map, and then another 2 or so hours to make the answers line up with the redstone wiring, so is this a sustainable amount of work, no, but it was a very interesting experience today. I am a bit torn, in a normal class, with those 21 questions on a piece of paper, they would have been done within half an hour maximum, but would they have got the same learning experience out if it? So what extra did they get for the extra half hour working through it.....

As the kids were working through the questions they were asking eachother for help, so collaboration, something that they are not always good at was definitely there. They were definitely more involved in the learning experience. There was almost a sense of pride in themselves when they got the door to open to get to the next room. I also think because the questions were in a different order for all of them, they could be an 'expert' on a question they had done, but others had not, so even those who do not always offer answers to others in class could do so in this space without repercussions.

I did shut down the internal text chat early on in the lesson as they were getting a bit silly, and I meant to open it up again later for them, but I got so busy helping them through the rooms and confirming the redstone was right that I forgot. So that is a quick, or perhaps not so quick, summary of what happened in class today.

I have been thinking about how much time has been spent on this map, and I think it is around 24-30 hours building the map, then the 6ish hours putting the questions in. I have an idea of how to speed this process of putting questions in but I don't have the programming know-how to get it done. If any of you out there reading do have a bit of knowledge of programming let me know, and I will explain what my thoughts are and you can tell me whether it is even possible.

I have recovered my voice, so I am planning on doing some more recording of tutorials tonight, and re-recording the laggy ones, so keep an eye on my youtube channel.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Finally Finished!!! (almost)

Hi all, yet another update on the 21 question map. It is done!!! Almost, I have now thought it would be pretty cool to build a rollercoaster on the end for the kids to ride once they have finished the questions, and then at the end of the rollercoaster there would be a sign with the port for the free build world.

But I think that will have to wait until I see how it actually goes with students on Tuesday. I am planning on using it with 2 classes, my year 7 Science and year 9 Science classes. All I need to do now is write the questions into my modified infolocations.ini file and it will be right to go. I have hit a snag there though. Whenever an information box is 'saved' in game, it undoes all of my formatting and ordering. Quite problematic as I built a 'Staff Only' room where teachers could format the questions the way they wanted, save them and then these would show up at the top of the infolocations.ini file and they could be copy-pasted into the students boxes. I would of course need to record a how-to video on this process, but it is a pretty basic idea.

If this can not be worked around, (I emailed the devs to ask), I will probably have to build a separate teacher world where they can edit and format questions. This would not be as daunting as sifting through the 1575 lines of information boxes, it would only be 75, then they could open the 2 infolocations files side by side and copy-paste that way.

Now for some more screenshots of the complete build, minus the rollercoaster.
 This is just showing the staff only door, this is off the spawn area. Teachers would just need to give themselves a lever, or fly over the wall to get into the room.
 Down the bottom of this picture is the starting location as seen in previous posts, with the entire build fading off into the distance.
 The side of the first 'half' of the build, i really didn't expect it to be this big, I don't know why.
 This picture picks up where the last one left off and shows the rest of the build. I think I am going to do some calculations of how many of each type of material went in, but that is just too much for my brain right now.
This just shows the length of the 6th and final room with 6 questions in it.

After I have completed my testing with the kids, sorted out the question problems and recorded my how-to video on adding questions and making the correct lever tie to the answer I will put it up for download for those MinecraftEdu teachers out there who would like to give it a go.

Friday, 25 November 2011


I have uploaded my first tutorial about MinecraftEdu to youtube, you can find it here if you are interested. This one just shows you how to install MinecraftEdu on a mac, but gives you some hints for installing on windows as it is very similar. I am in the process of recording more tutorials so keep checking back if you are interested.

And also a second one on how to start a server using the MinecraftEdu Launcher.

There are also 2 others, but I am not going to embed them here as the video is not the best quality. Feel free to watch them and give me some feedback, I am hoping to re-record them once I work out what caused the dodgy quality.

Another Trial.

Well I ran another class of MinecraftEdu yesterday. This time with my year 7 class. I made up a quick tutorial sheet and started a new world and creatively placed stone and coal around the spawn area, as in creative mode, not artistically. Then I let the mayhem begin.

Again the kids were very excited and had a great time. The tutorial sheet was basic movement and basic crafting. Not all of the kids bothered to read the sheet, but after a heap of prompting most did and followed the instructions.

One girl when we started the class said "but I dont know how to play" and by the end when I asked her for some feedback on the tutorial sheet she said it was fine. I suggested a more structured tutorial world and she thought that would probably make it much easier to follow, so I will be creating one of them in the near future.

So now back into map making, particularly my question map, damn you Notch for releasing Minecraft 1.0.0, as I have been playing rather than mapping. I will hopefully have the map created for Tuesdays lesson with both the year 9 class and also for the year 7 class.

I am also thinking on getting the kids to create some maps by working together, these would be like 3D tour maps of what we are learning about, but I may need to give them an example first.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


I have been in contact with the staff that had my Minecraft class today. I decided to run the survival world with limited resources with the kids while I was not there and see how it went. The response from both staff members was really positive, one said it was awesome, the other said that all were on task, and that 100% were on Minecraft. So really excited I went to Maccas and used the free wifi to get access to the server via remote desktop, saved the world and then uploaded it to dropbox. Then I tried to download it to my computer, the wifi was so slow that it was going to take avout 3 hours to download 12mb. So I gave up on that and downloaded it using the 3G on my iPad, then transferred it from the dropbox app to my goodreader app and then transferred it to my laptop via file transfer, instead of 3 hours it took around 5 minutes. This was after wasting around 30 minutes trying to get it down on my laptop. What did I learn from this, I need a phone that I can tether my laptop to. But I am getting well of track. So I loaded up the world into MinecraftEdu and was really excited to see what the kids had done during the hour and a half they had to play in there. I almost laughed out loud when I saw what had happened. Because this was a full survival map, just with border blocks around an area that I wanted the kids to stay in I expected to see some structures in this area, there was none, very little sign of activity at all. So I changed into creative mode to have a fly around and see what I could see. The kids had escaped my confinement, I am guessing that they discovered by accident how to get rid of the border blocks, and then all decided to get in on the act and away they went. By this point I think I was chuckling to myself. The more I reflect on what has happened the more I realise that my two goals for the lesson were most likely still met. All I really wanted was for the kids to invest time in the game so that they would want to play in future, and at the same time build some team work in. I feel that they probably did collaborate on the escape, and those that didnt know the game prior very well, would most likely have a much greater understanding from those that did. And I am guessing since the teacher that had them for the second half of the double said they were all still involved and playing that they were invested in the game and having a good time. So was it a resounding success, I am not sure, was it a success, I honestly believe it was. I have already emailed the devs and explained what happened, and they will fix it in the next release, so no more escaping kids. Damn creepers!!!! Now it is time to get back to making my quiz map, I need it ready by Tuesday, so I am really on a limited time now. I will upload screenshots when I get back into the land of fast wifi access that I dont have to pay through the nose for, Seriously who would pay $5 for 30mins or 10mb. Certainly not me.

Monday, 21 November 2011

First class.

Well I went through a very interesting lesson with kids today. I decided to try and teach them what they would need to know to survive in a minecraft world by getting them all in a server and walking them through basic crafting and block placing. I would not do it this way again. I think next time I would use a tutorial world and a tutorial sheet to go with it.

I figured that they would know the basics of gaming, and some did, but the majority didn't. This caused some issues with people keeping up. On the brighter side the Edu mod was fantastic, I could keep teleporting the kids back to me when they wandered off. I could freeze them in place so that they would listen while I was giving them instructions. When they were getting a bit silly with the digging of holes I could stop them building/breaking blocks. I could switch to creative mode with the click of a button and place blocks down to show them what they looked like, and then give them the opportunity to mine them.

I am really happy with the way the server and mod work, I just need to work on my students. I am planning to leave the limited resources survival map for the kids to play on tomorrow, but have left alternative work for them to do if they don't want to play, if they get sick of it, disinterested or start behaving poorly. I will be very interested to get the feedback from both the teacher taking them and the students themselves after an hour or so in the world. And of course to see what they have managed to achieve and build by working together as a team.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Plans, Problems and New Plans.

Why is it that that the best laid plans always run into problems. I had it worked out perfectly. I was going to teach the kids the basics of Minecraft during the lesson on Monday, then on Tuesday they were going to go through my 21 question quiz map to find the address of the free build server and then invest some time in creating a place in the free build area. My plan was to get the kids invested in the free build server so that they would want to go through the teaching phase of the lesson to get to the free build.

The original problem of no licenses is fixed but there are new problems. Number one problem is that I am not going to be in class on Tuesday for our double lesson, so there is one and a half hours that I wont be there to work with MinecraftEdu in the classroom. I have to head to a 2 day conference in Melbourne. I also will probably not have internet access at the conference so I wont be able to supervise them in the world of Minecraft either.

The next problem is what do I do now. Do I still spend Monday teaching them the basics of Minecraft, or do I hold out another week, after promising them it would be happening this week?

And the new plan. Quite simple really, I have created a new survival world, almost free build. The catch is there is limited space and limited resources. I think that there are only about 4 or 5 trees in the area that the kids can access. I have done a little bit of exploring and found that there is coal and iron quite close to the surface to get them started. I have also added a chest with a few tools and other necessities to get them on their way, but not enough of any one tool to supply all of the students, so they are going to have to assign jobs to individuals. So while they will be creating a server that I hope they want to be involved in, they will also need to work together as a team.

I did consider assigning the 21 question map on Tuesday when I am not there, but there are two reasons I feel that it is a bad idea. First is that it is untested, if things go wrong I would like to be there to fix it on the fly. Second is that I have put a lot of hours into creating the map, and I would also like to be there to see how it goes.

So the plan for Tuesday? Well I am not sure yet, I think I will have to wait and see how Monday goes and how much the students get done. Or I might save the collaborative survival world for Tuesday and teach them how to survive on Monday.

And as normal here are the latest screenshots of the question map, it is getting closer to ready.
The third rooms are all complete, so is one of the fourth. It is not getting quicker, but I am finding a rhythm that makes it easier.
Just showing the amount of redstone going into the wiring.
This just shows how big the build is going to be. I have mapped out the foundations of one set of paths.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Progress has been made!!!!

Well after spending almost 2 hours with the technician today, we finally have the school server accessible from the outside world, so I will not have to worry about taking a copy of the world home each night if I want to work on it.

We have also made progress on the graphical glitches we were having on the school computers, it was a graphics driver issue, updated to the latest drivers on one computer to test, and works perfectly now, no flickering and the text is readable, glass is clear and redstone is not black anymore. So if anybody is having these graphics glitches I highly recommend an upgrade to the latest graphics drivers. All that is needed now is for the technician to do a room wide install of the updated graphics drivers and we will be all set.

The progress on the map is slow, but steady. I have finished 15 of the 25 second rooms. I have also been in contact with the developers about an easier way to put the questions into the rooms, and I think we are close to an easier solution than walking down 25 paths doing each individually. Unfortunately anybody using this map will have to walk down 25 paths and adjust the redstone wiring so that it points to the correct answer, I cannot think of any way around this, but it shouldn't take too long once you know what you are doing.

I am still waiting on licenses for the kids to use, hopefully I will have them by next Tuesday morning for a run with my year 9 Science class.

Screenshots again, since no-one has said they don't like them, I will keep adding them for a while.
This is the improved starting room, I showed someone today and they said it looks like a school and I should try and build a basketball ring. Thoughts?
 The side of the first two rooms showing the redstone wiring.
The back of the build, as you can see there are 15 rooms done, 10 to go for the second stage, then onto the third rooms with 3 questions in each.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Trial Postponed

Well, my trial of MinecraftEdu with students today was postponed due to licensing issues, the issue being that I did not get licenses for the kids in time. Not to worry, at least it gives me more of a chance to build more maps to use with them, and to fix (hopefully) the graphical glitches that the school computers seem to be having with any version of Minecraft.

The 21 question map is coming along quite well now, I did restart it and made it linear instead of branching, so that makes it much easier to build. I have managed to build the starting area and the first rooms for all 25 student passages. I have also made a start on 5 of the second rooms.

I have had more ideas regarding maps to use with the kids, I am thinking, to bring them together and get them working as a team, of starting a survival server and limiting their resources, mostly space and lumber, and having monsters on and them needing to help each other out to survive and needing to collaborate and decide on the best use of resources. I could also make this a competition between a couple of groups, but I would like the whole class to become more cohesive, they are a bit secular at the moment and I think that starting a competition may just keep the status quo.

Another change that I am thinking is that instead of having the 'free build' world at the end of the 21 question map, I will put a sign there with the port number of the free build world, so that those who get to the end can disconnect from the question map and reconnect to the free build map. I would change this port every time I ran the question map so that the students had to get through the questions before being able to connect to the free build world.

Well I think that sums up the progress so far, I cannot continue to work on the 21 question map tonight, I did some more work on it at school today, and forgot to take a copy of it home with me. I cannot wait until the school server is accessible from home, we are having some trouble forwarding port 25565 through a TMG firewall, by all accounts it should be open but the firewall keeps disconnecting the requests as it is thinking the incoming ip has been spoofed. Yet more work for the technician and I to try and get done.

I probably should buy both my techies a few drinks at the end of the year, with the amount of requests I have gone into them with, and how responsive they are, they have been very supportive of all my little projects.

Time again for screenshots of the build, these were taken prior to todays work, so much more progress has been made. Let me know whether you like seeing the progress or if I am just wasting your time.

 This first one is the 'entrance' area, there are redstone torches to let the kids know which corridors are open. On means open, off means someone is already in that corridor and they need to find another one.
The very beginning of the first room, again these are all done now, but you get the idea. (I hope)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Update on Map 2.

Just thought that I should update everyone on my progress so far on the 20 questions map I am creating. I have absolutely no hope of having it ready by Tuesday to use with my students. I will give you an idea of what it is I am trying to build.

First off the students all spawn in a room with 4 halls leading off it. Each of these halls has 5 other corridors leading off in different directions. Once a student goes down one of these corridors it is sealed off so that no other student can go down the same path. I am hoping this ensures that students are on their own.

The plan is that in the first room the students come across has 1 question that they must get correct to move on. I have built 3 of these rooms, so only 17 to go for the first stage. In the second room for each student there will be 2 questions that they must get correct to open the door. Third room, 3 questions and so on, up till 6 rooms and 6 questions, this totals to 21, not 20 as I was originally planning.

Also I have not figured out a way to open the door when the students get a certain percentage correct, if anybody out there reading this can think of a way to make this work, let me know.

The wiring is quite simple, but very time consuming, my biggest problem at the moment is my own design. It is a bit haphazard at the moment, the rooms are all different, and it is tricky to keep building as they are all very close together.

I am wondering whether to begin again and make the rooms linear instead of branching. So there would be 4 or 5 levels each with 5 corridors, again that get sealed off to prevent multiple students from entering. This would fix two of my problems, the messiness of my current build and getting all of the students to roughly the same area after they have answered their questions as I would like to allow the students some free build time to create a 'town' or some such, and then we could change the questions and keep working on it throughout the rest of the year.

More screenshots in case you were interested.
 The total build at the moment, you can see how much of a rabbit warren it is becoming.

This is one of the rooms, the students must pull the correct lever for the door to open, and pulling all of the levers will result in nothing.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Map 1 Done!!

Well after about 3-4hours of map making last night in creative mode, I have managed to get the first of the two maps I wanted done. This is the 'build a 3D model' map. Instead of two groups I decided it was not too much extra effort to have four, just in case the kids wanted to work in smaller groups. The next thing I need to think about before Tuesday morning is how much time do I give them to complete their construction? I have a feeling I will just have to play it by ear and have the second world hosted on another server so if they have finished their build, they can log out of that server and into the other one.

I had a play around with my ideas for redstone wiring yesterday as well, that is going to be a fair bit trickier than I thought, at this stage I can only get the door to open if the students get 100% correct, while this is workable, it is not really ideal, one suggestion from a colleague was to do it manually for each student. Basically this would be a large amount of work for me, but it is possible. I would need to be flying around all the 'rooms' and have a redstone torch light up when the students get the right answer, and when they get a certain number right I can manually open the door.

I learned a fair bit last night while creating a map, I found that my thoughts regarding the 'build allow' and 'build disallow' blocks was wrong, they only seem to impact the map up from where they are placed, not the entire vertical scope of that block. So I will need to alter that in my tutorial map.

Here are some screenshots of the map I have created, I will upload some shots of the finished builds too.
This first one is the overall picture, you can see the 4 'build' areas as the 4 big green platforms.

This one is the start location, from here the students can choose which platform to head to, but cannot go until a lever is pulled once all students are ready.

I was also having some thoughts as to how I teach the students the basics of the game, do I just throw them in the deep end, or do I open up a free build world and spend 10-15mins teaching them in game? Your thoughts are more than welcome.

Friday, 11 November 2011

MinecraftEdu - The beginning

I was browsing the Minecraft forums over last weekend and saw a post about MinecraftEdu, my first thought was “AWESOME, I have been waiting for something like this to give me the excuse to use this with students.” After a bit of reading I ended up at the website and found that there was a beta test happening. So after a donation and a couple of emails to the developers I managed to get the download links. I could not wait to install it on my computer and have a play.

It has been almost a week since I got my hands on it and I have been very excited by the possibilities. I have made a tutorial map designed to teach teachers how to access the special edu blocks and what they are capable of. I emailed this off to the developers, the poor guy got about 15 emails from me within the space of an hour.

He emailed me back and asked if I would be interested in collaborating on tutorial maps if they host a server. My response was a very quick “YES!!!” In that same email he also asked if I would mind having a look at the translations, as the devs are not native English speakers. Again a quick “yes” but a slightly more nervous one.

So I have come up with a plan that will allow me to use this in a class room, with 20ish students. I have the weekend to build myself a couple of maps, one will be an almost free build map, in which the students will be split into 2 or more groups and will have to build me a 3D model of a human eye, with someone coming in to judge the best model and possibly a prize for the winning group.

The second map will be more about assessing knowledge with a reward to the students who get a certain percentage correct, again this is only a plan in my head, it is nowhere near into practice, I hope I can get it done over the weekend. So the students will each go into a room, maybe in pairs, not sure yet, but in that room will be a series of questions with levers below them to signify the answer they want to give. I am thinking around 10-20 questions with 4 possible answers each about light and how we see it.

With some fancy redstone work I think I can rig up an iron door, or sticky piston secret passage to these levers so that if they get 80% of the answers correct the door will magically open, I think I even have a plan regarding how to stop them from just randomly pulling levers until it opens, but I don’t want to bore you with the redstone wiring plan.

Anyway this was just to get some thoughts down, my first ever blog post, that is visible to the world anyway, and try and track my journey from Minecraft fanatic, to Minecraft teaching fanatic. I may keep you updated over the weekend, but I will most definitely post again after Tuesdays year 9 Science class with my reflections on a lesson doing something I have been trying to think of a way to do for ages.

A great big thanks to the MinecraftEdu team for producing the tool I needed to push my dream into reality.