Friday, 2 March 2012

Just in Time Vs. Just in Case.

Today was the trial of my 'treasure map' map. I was working with students who had not played Minecraft before, and I thought I would try something different for the introduction to the game and how to play it with this class. The tutorial world is good, but that takes a lesson to complete, and since I only see this particular class for 3 lessons per week time is short. So I decided not to use the tutorial map and just teach them what they needed to know as they needed to know it while getting them to create a treasure map.

So the map was designed (video of map is on my youtube channel here) so that the students would follow me on my treasure map, built in game using signs. This would teach them the basics of moving around in the world of Minecraft. After we had run through my map, I explained that their task was to create their own. This map also takes advantage of the new teleport blocks, so after my explanation the students headed to the teleport block to choose a starting point. From there the students were choosing land marks and writing down their treasure maps.

Some students ended up in caves, so there was a need to give them all torches and explain how they can be placed. Other students were beginning to finish their treasure maps so I needed to give them all a chest and a diamond for the treasure, teach them to place the chest down and then put the diamond in it. Some wanted to bury their treasure so there was a need to explain how to place blocks over chests.

This is where the reflection comes into this lesson. Do these students understand the basics of Minecraft, we spent a lesson in-game, had they been in the tutorial world they would have basically completed it. So was the learning the same? This really comes down to the 'just in time' vs 'just in case' argument of teaching.

The tutorial world teaches the students how to navigate through the world and how to break and place blocks. This is 'just in case' they need it, I know they will probably need it in future lessons, but they are completing the tutorial map so that we can move on with other lessons.

On the other hand the lesson today was the 'just in time' side. Students learned how to move around the world when they needed to follow me, they learned how to place and break blocks when they needed to place torches, or their treasure down.

So which is better? Honestly I have no idea. Each has different outcomes, the learning about the mechanics of the game in the tutorial world is much better so after a lesson in the tutorial world the students have a good understanding of how to move and how to use blocks, but there is no learning of the subject I am teaching, only Minecraft.

After a lesson in the 'treasure map' map I think that the students understand how to move around in game, so that outcome is the same, however I don't think they have the same understanding of the blocks. But there was subject specific learning happening, students were learning things like how to produce a treasure map and what makes a good landmark for a map.

So I ask you for your thoughts. Each lesson has a good outcome, they are slightly different but both are valid in terms of the learning produced. But if you were in my position and had another class that you needed to introduce to Minecraft, would you use the tutorial world or would you use another map that has some subject specific content in it? Thanks as always for your time.


  1. I have used MinecraftEDU a couple of times now with my Science 7 kids. I started with the tutorial world with my 2 different groups of students with pretty good success. I, like many others, had a mixture of experience levels in each group. I subsequently made a world of my own that incorporates a scavenger hunt for signs that give them information about the unit we are working on (Matter and Energy, in this case). Looking back I may have been able to start with the scavenger hunt map with similar success for learning movement basics. I have not allowed them building privileges, except in the tutorial world, yet. I do agree that Just In Time learning can be more impactful because the students use the knowledge right away and aren't trying to recall a lot of information from previous days or weeks.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Matt. I feel that those that are interested in creating things to share in Minecraft will go away and learn, or perhaps come to the lunchtime sessions I run and learn the what they need then. So why 'waste' the precious class time we have with the whole group.

    As long as the students have the knowledge, or can get the knowledge, to work through the map/task then they need no more. This is the way I am leaning now, could quite possibly change as time progresses. Thanks again for your input.

  3. As an IT Facilitator and PYP experience teacher, I am going to have to argue that the "Just-in-Time" learning usually wins hands down every time. Researchers have found that learning that has the greatest long-term impact (transferrable) is learning that is presented in a real-world context, authentic and meaninful and is put into a larger context rather than isolated skills. To put this to the test, just go ahead and think about something meaningful and exciting you learned in elementary school. My guess is that you will remember something that connected with you emotionally or a project of some sort that you worked on. For me, it was a science fair project I did on the solar system. I still remember facts about each planet and remember minute details about this project.

    So to put this in a Minecraft context, I do teach skills ahead of time like how to craft tools, how to place blocks and use redstone BUT only if they are going to use it immediately for a project ahead. If students forget it, I guarantee that they will remember it when it comes time to build that redstone switch for their door as it is exactly when they need it.

    This is why in tech classes, I would never teach isolated skills like how to do keynote/ppt slide transitions unless they were in the middle of a presentation and needed to know.

    Just my 2 cents anyway!

  4. Thanks for giving us your 2 cents Mr.Marshall. Last year I tried to teach crafting to students, as it is part of Minecraft and I felt I should teach them all they might need to play the game. But they never used it, and even now those students who have not played since last year, when they come to my free play at lunch times need reminding a couple of times on how to craft certain things. That is why I thought I would try both the tutorial map for teaching movement in game, and also a map of my own devising.

    I agree with you wholly that 'just in time' makes it more real, and therefore more valuable to the students, but I feel that there are pros and cons for each map I used to introduce students to Minecraft. The tutorial map is fantastic, and to get through it you need to learn the basics, the map is designed to teach you them.

    In my map, I was the teacher, not the game itself, the game was the subject being taught (along with a little bit of mapping). The discussions I have had with people (yourself included) since I wrote this post now let me see these two different maps from another point of view.

    One has me on the side doing 'nothing' except maybe helping those that are struggling while the other has me at the forefront providing the students with the knowledge I have. Both of these are two very different approaches to game based learning, I just need to work out which I prefer, and which is going to be best for each different group of students.