Friday, 20 April 2012

The Word Is Spreading.....

And that word is MINECRAFTEDU!!!!! Finally I have another staff member on board, and it is not because I have been trying, in fact I have not been trying at all with my staff. I know one other staff member is interested in using Minecraft with her class later in the year when they study the novel "Hatchet" as a creative writing prompt, but I have not been pushing my staff to use it until I am 100% sure the server is stable and that they have had the appropriate 'training'.

But, today I had a visit from the other Year 7 Science teacher in which we were discussing our upcoming assessment on methods of heat transfer and conserving energy in houses. In the past years I have usually just explained how you can conserve heat in houses and avoided creating models, while last year the other teacher got the students to make models. The reason I tend not to let the students make models any more, I have done so in the past, is because I think they spend so long making their model that the 'learning' that I want them to achieve gets lost. I know some of you will disagree with that, but it is the way I feel, so much time gets spent on these models in the classroom that what really is a brief topic becomes something of a marathon to get through, and of course once you start down that path, it is impossible to say to the students "well actually the idea I had for assessing your knowledge by getting you to make a model explaining x,y and z is not worth the time we are putting into it, so lets just forget about it hey."

In the discussion I had with my colleague today, her feeling was the same, for the learning we want to assess, the time to create a model is just not worth it in an already crowded curriculum. Now I do know that 2 of our 3 year 7 classes have experienced Minecraft, one in my Science classes, the other in Humanities with me, so that only leaves one class, and I think both of the Science classes that my colleague teaches have been hassling her to let them use Minecraft in their classes. So after some discussion about how we want to go about this particular assessment we have come up with a plan, that hopefully will meet our time requirements, assessment requirements and also enable the students to create a model depicting their understanding.

We are hoping to wrap this up in about 4 lessons, and here is our basic plan as it stands now (it will probably change).

Lesson 1: Introduce the task, explaining what the requirements are, and how we are going to assess it. Then show a tour of a 'house' created by myself in Minecraft explaining some of the additions to my house to help in energy conservation. Brainstorm some of the ways we can conserve energy in houses. Then research new ways of conserving heat in houses.

Lesson 2: Continue researching, write a plan of ideas to teachers for approval prior to beginning to entering the Minecraft world to create their model house.

Lesson 3: Building of models, writing a 'script' for the tour.

Lesson 4: Finishing touches to model or script, then recording a tour of their house explaining their additions and which form of heat transfer they affect.

So the learning intention is something along the lines of "Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of how heat can be conserved or gained through conduction, convection and radiation."

Our criteria for meeting this intention are:
  • My model has ?? additions for conserving/gaining heat through conduction.
  • My model has ?? additions for conserving/gaining heat through convection.
  • My model has ?? additions for conserving/gaining heat through radiation.
  • I used the appropriate vocabulary when explaining how my additions conserve/gain heat in my tour.

So all that really is left is to find a couple of good 2 bedroom unit floor plans, and then transfer these into a Minecraft world in a snowy area, a desert area and a plains area depicting the different climates that students can choose to build in. Now here comes the bit where I am not entirely sure what to do. I would hope that one of the ideas that students come up with for an energy efficient house is which way the house faces. So do I lay the floor plan down for them, or do I just give them an example one to copy and make them lay down the plan themselves?

I am actually leaning towards creating a quite large estate with different 'house' lots for the students to build on, but laying the floor plan down facing different directions on different lots and the students can choose the one they want, and those that do understand the ramifications about which way a house faces can talk about that in their tour.

The excellent thing about this is that I only really need to create each floor plan once, and then use the new 'worldedit' features in the latest development build of MinecraftEdu to copy them over again as many times as required in the different climates. My long term aim, is to have a world specific to each year 7 class, or perhaps an area in one world for each class, and then the students can 'live' in the houses they create and we can keep coming back to this world for any future Science classes, and maybe even Humanities classes, but just use different areas of the map for different models or experiments and lessons.

I have about a week or so before this begins, so if you would like to share some ideas or thoughts about this, I would really like to hear it soon so that I can perhaps add more value to this idea, so please add them in the comments below.


  1. Elfie,
    I love this idea. I hope my thoughts are not too late. If so, I would be interested to hear how the lesson went.

    Anyways, here is what I was thinking. I might be interesting to create some time of terrain or let them choose their own biome. Then instead of giving them all the same plot, allow them to choose where they build there house within the landscape. They would need explanations for their choice from a conservation perspective. Shapes of house may end up being more interesting and who knows they could come up with some really cool designs applicable to those types of terrain and climate.

    Hope all is well.

  2. Bob, thanks for you comment I have been meaning to reply for ages, but have been extremely busy, so here finally is your reply. We did end up giving the students the choice of the biome they build in, but they all get the same 'floor plan' to minimise time lost on planning a house and focus more on what they are adding to help with heat gain or loss.

    There are several lots in each biome and they have been rotated around so that if a student decides they want north facing windows, they can choose the lot that has the house facing the way they want.

    I think that this was a nice compromise between free build which would have been ideal and focused building which is very teachery. So it is sort of a free build within certain constraints.

    Thanks again for your thoughts, and I am hoping that as a group of teachers at my school we can become more comfortable with giving the students a bit more freedom to display their understanding, but as a start with the other teachers trialling this with me I think this is a good one.