Saturday, 25 February 2012

More Great Things.

I just got a hold of the latest build of MinecraftEdu, version 0.98 and I have got to say the developers are doing an absolutely brilliant job. The new features are just amazing. I cannot remember if I have already run through what they have added in a previous post, but now that I have had a play with these features I think I should let you know exactly how they perform.

First, the teleport blocks, when you place them, you can give them a name, then you can decide what other teleport blocks are visible to the students from that location. So my plans for this feature are 1) my animal cell tour will use these to go from organelle to organelle and to specific viewing platforms, this way the 'aesthetics' of the cell wont be ruined by walkways. 2) A thinking puzzle where students need to get to a particular place, only accessible through the teleport blocks, and they will need to go through a sequence of tests/challenges/team exercises to get to the only station that displays the goal station (more to come on this in the near future)

Second, the new way of changing build modes, in a word BRILLIANT! If I am in 'build mode' I can choose between the three build modes with a press of a button. So no more hassle of getting into the menu to turn long build on or off.

Third, the visual fill tool, again amazing, in the past I have had trouble using the fill tool effectively as it is hard to judge the areas when moving around, with the visual fill too enabled that is no longer a problem. Combine this with the fourth new feature, the 'locked build mode' which locks you to the centre of the block and you move only 1 block at a time and you can very easily build the right sized and shaped pieces.

Sorry for the boring post, but there is yet more.

Fifth, no-clip, no more flying around trying to get over walls or out of rooms that I have just built. Why not just walk through the wall. Only when in build mode though, so no cheating in survival worlds.

Sixth, the teleport blocks again, if you are logged in as a teacher you can easily go to any station you want, and if you are far enough away a nice little animation comes up while you wait to get to where you are going.

Seventh, the movement slider, do you find that creative mode is not fast enough to keep up with your students? Never fear the movement slider is now here. So now you can fly at amazing speeds in creative mode, and you can also run extremely fast in survival mode (only if you are a teacher of course) so keeping up with kids is going to be a breeze (as you go zooming by them).

Eighth, and I think last for now, is the simplified menu system. Now there are only 2 menus instead of 3, so if you want to do 'stuff' that affects the world, like day/night and the like, or those that affect you, like enabling your own creative mode, or even things that affect students like freezing or muting them, that is all still in the admin menu (p to get to it) added in here is the movement slider. If you want to build or teleport yourself or students around that is all in the build menu (b will get you there).

[EDIT]Sorry, there is a ninth, the fact that now students can use information blocks as a way of writing in the game. All you need to do is give them an information block and a build allow block to place, or get them to place their information block on an already placed build allow block and they can write multiple pages of text in game.[EDIT]

Well this has been a very excited post by me, I hope you have enjoyed it, I know I have had great fun playing with all the great new features that version 0.98 has to offer. I have got to say that the Edu mod is getting more and more powerful with every release, soon it will be so powerful it might take over the educational world ;)

Video tutorials will be coming soon so keep an eye on my youtube channel. Thanks for reading, remember you are always welcome to comment and let me know what you think.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Role Playing, Hmmmmm.

I have two things that you need updating on. First is the tutorial world, and teaching my year 7 Science class how to play Minecraft, the second is the lunchtime survival 'town' role play.

We have basically finished the tutorial map as it stands, it took about 45 minutes from start to 'finish'. I am pretty sure the students can all move, relatively effectively, around the world of Minecraft. They can destroy and place blocks with some degree of efficiency. (I really like this sentence, it sounds very 'reporty')

They have no grounding in crafting yet, so that is my next task. Last year to teach basic crafting I created a custom world and placed trees, stone and coal around. The idea being that by the end of the lesson the students would be able to craft the basic tools and torches. I also created a sheet that I handed out that showed them the recipes they needed. At the end of the lesson, I was not entirely sure that it was a success, and even now thinking back I don't think we actually used crafting in any of the lessons.

So the big question for this post is 'Do I teach them how to craft now, or if I do need it in a lesson at some stage teach them then?" Basically 'just in case learning' or 'just in time'. A lot of research states that 'just in time' is a much more effective way to learn things and gives real purpose to the learning, but as a teacher it makes me a bit uncomfortable not teaching them everything they might need to know in the future, even if that future is 'only a game'. I do have a bit of time to think about this and come to a decision as they, and me are going on year 7 Camp next week. However I would love to hear some of your ideas, remember my goal is not to teach them Minecraft, that is just a means to an end. My goal is to teach using Minecraft, and in such a way that it is easier for the students to learn and visualise.

I will leave the heavy 'stuff' behind and get onto some more exciting things. I had a quick meeting, we weren't going to play, at lunchtime on Thursday to discuss the options that I had thought about for our 'Minecraft club'. Basically it came down to the fact that I didn't want them 'just playing around' like we did last year, but that I wanted it to be more interesting and we talked about the role play scenario of being a town and each having jobs. I should also mention that many of the students had already heard about my idea as they kept 'pestering' me as to when I was going to run Minecraft at lunch again. They all seemed on board with the idea and were very eager to get started, so I started up the server with the cleared area for our town with sectioned areas for each persons business.

There is a team of three of four 'bakers', a 'postman', someone to man the hotel, a timber worker and some others that I cannot remember. I figure everyone is going to be a miner, but there is going to be a blacksmith, and my hope is that only the blacksmith will be able to work iron into tools, it is going to be an honour system so it may not happen exactly as I plan. I have decided not to try and install more mods over the top of the Edu mod, so we are working on a barter system, not a currency system. All of this is in very early days and I said to the students that we might as a group decide that this way of playing is not what we want and change it, nothing is set in stone.

So once the students really get their buildings going I will take some screenshots and post them up here and will definitely keep you updated. As always thanks for taking the time to read, and also if you would like to make a comment regarding the 'just in case' versus the 'just in time' please do, I have a week and a half before I need to make a decision so all input will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

I Always Forget.

I woke up at 4:30am the other day with some brilliant ideas on how to use Minecraft to teach Maths. I didn't bother getting up and writing the ideas down because I was sure I would be able to remember them. Turns out I was wrong, I cannot remember what my brilliant ideas were. So now I need to wait until they come to me again and when they do I will definitely write them down, and I need to get a notepad for beside my bed.

On another note I have joined a Minecraft in School community to help share some of the ideas I have on using Minecraft in the classroom to teach students. Here is a link to it.

The Minecraft Teacher gave me access to the latest version of the tutorial map to use with my students, I found a couple of exploits that I will be fixing and sending back to him. As I mentioned in the last post I think it is a great way to introduce the students to the wonderful world of Minecraft.

On yet another note Minecraft Teacher tweeted about a very interesting project, I think I am going to have to donate to do my bit to get this started and get access to the beta version. I have always wanted to be able to program games, specifically for educating students, and this project would probably give me the knowledge I need to do that. So I might be expanding my game based learning ideas even further.


I donated to the above project, downloading the Beta now. I will be having a play around over the next few days. Yet more school work that wont get done.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Tutorial World.

Well I had my first Minecraft lesson today, I started my year 7 Science class running through the tutorial world. I don't think it is the latest version of the world as I found a place where the kids could escape and plugged it quickly before they could. So I will probably have to make the students 'start again' once I replace it with the newest one. It is my own fault for being lazy, when I re-install the latest version on the school server I don't tick for the inbuilt worlds to be installed as they are already there. So I guess I will have to fix that before the next lesson.

The lesson itself started in chaos, for some strange reason, all of the computers MinecraftEdu should be installed on didn't have it installed, so there was a bit of running around finding the install file, putting it somewhere on the network where it could be accessed, and then running the kids through the install process, but even that was surprisingly simple and very successful. So double thumbs up to the development crew for making the classroom edition such a simple install that 12-13 year olds can do it.

I explained to the students that I was going to record what was happening in the lesson today to show other teachers how it works and hope that they want to join the 'fun'. So they were very well behaved, there was one student who was running around looking for a way to escape the boundaries, he was unsuccessful, but we had a good laugh about it anyway.

We didn't get very far through the map because of the time spent installing and connecting to the server, but the students had an absolute ball. I have to hand it to Joel and the others that built the tutorial map, so far it has been a great way to teach the students the basics of Minecraft.

It will be a week until we continue our journey of learning Minecraft as a class. After that I can get stuck into some custom maps for geography and mapping and some very quick 'concept' maps for some of the trickier Science concepts I need to cover this term.

I will be checking the footage from the class and will most likely upload it to my youtube channel if you are interested in seeing the students have fun, get frustrated and get helped out by their friendly teacher :D

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Exciting News.

Hi all, I have some exciting news....

I have reached over 100 subscribers on my youtube channel, so I thought I should do a special video and blog post. So here is the post, and below is the video, I didn't think that just a video saying thanks was what I should do, so I also added in a quick tour of the 3d cell build so far. It is coming along nicely, and now I don't need the map until the later half of the year.

A massive thanks to all those who have subscribed to my channel and regularly watch my videos and read this blog. I really enjoy sharing my game based learning journey, and it makes it so much more meaningful for me knowing that there are people out there enjoying what I am sharing, and perhaps trialling it themselves.

Thanks again, here is the video.