Monday, 4 June 2012

Immersion and Adventure.

I never thought when I started my cell tour map that it would be this cool. To be honest I had never really thought about messing with texture packs to make it appear more realistic than 'Minecratfty', but I have got to say I am really impressed with myself. The cell and custom texture pack I am creating to go with it are coming together into what I believe is probably the best thing I have ever created for education. I keep using the word immersion when talking about this cell. What I think I have created is an environment that is a cell, or at least as close an approximation as I am able. It no longer 'looks' like a Minecraft world.

Is immersion important for learning? I think that it is, if you are 'lost' in the moment, isn't that when you have the greatest buy in, and in theory doesn't this lead to an overall better learning experience. A lot of educational research states that you need to 'engage' the students, so get them to want to learn, to crave the knowledge. So will this map create that engagement, and buy in with the students, time will tell, but given the effort I am putting in, and how cool I think it looks, I hope it will.

Below are some screenshots of the build so far, with the kind of lighting that I hope to use when students are in the map.

 The orange G's you can see are temporary, they are there so I know where the glowstone is placed, I will remove the G from the texture pack once the build is complete
 Perhaps one of my better 'inventions' the nuclear pore.
Since students no longer need to go into the organelles, I think the mitochondria (orange) is too big, so I will shrink it down a bit and with the new //copy, //paste and //rotate options available with worldedit I will place several throughout the cell.

Now I have decided to take a slightly different track with this map, with the model of the cell I am creating and that you can see in the screenshots above, it will be just that, a model, one that the students can move around in, learning about the cell as they go. However I have an idea where students will be able to 'zoom' in on certain organelles, get a closer look at them, gather some more knowledge about that organelle and its role in the cell. Further to this I am hoping to get the students to carry and deliver energy to different parts of the cell to embed even more knowledge about the role of energy in the cell, and what each organelle does with the energy it is supplied.

This means that there is an absolutely massive amount of work left, and some tricky texture pack alteration to get items to look like something else, as well as a path of item swapping using furnaces and dispensers to get to the final product. This has led to a request for a 'conversion' block to be included in the edu mod, perhaps one day in the future. So when placed, the teacher can put a certain recipe into the block, which when students place a certain item in the block, it will swap it for another, so instead of having to be tricky with double BUD switches (thanks Ethoslab), furnaces and dispensers, creating a sequence of events where students can trade one item for another will be simple.

So my basic premise is that students will start by zooming in on the cell membrane, and will get a better look at the 'fluid mosaic' model of the cell membrane, as well as being able to watch 'glucose' being transported in through diffusion, and also active transport. Then they will take some glucose and travel to the mitochondria, here they will give the mitochondria the glucose, and it will transform it into several ATP. This ATP will be the students energy to spend at organelles as they travel around the cell.

Next stop will be the nucleus, where they will trade some energy for some instructions (mRNA), they will then take the mRNA to the ribosome, where they will give the instructions, and also some more energy and they will get a polypeptide chain in return. Then moving on to the endoplasmic reticulum they will give the polypeptide chain, and more energy to transform it into a completed protein. They will then take this completed protein to the golgi, where they will again trade some energy and get a packaged protein. Then they will go back to the cell membrane, provide some energy and send their completed protein outside the cell.

That is the basic path students will follow, but there will be some 'flawed' proteins, which if a student gets one of these, they will have to take it to the lysosome, give up some energy and destroy their faulty protein and go back to the nucleus to try again. The students wont know they are faulty (I hope) until the get to the ribosome. I am yet to work out how I can tie the vacuole into this path so if you have any thoughts they would be greatly appreciated. I also need to make sure the students don't think that all proteins created by a cell are exported, so I am thinking perhaps that some students should be required to take their proteins back to the mitochondria, or even the lysosome, and deliver them there instead of exporting them from the cell, but again I am unsure how to tie this in with what I know Minecraft can deliver.

As always thanks for taking the time to read, and any suggestions or thoughts would be very much appreciated.

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