My introduction was lacking, I didn't stay in my role and I think the students capitalised on that. They 'used' me as a crutch instead of trying to work out the problem on their own. It is unsurprising however, as I quickly had to revert to 'teacher' to move students around the world. The pre-release appears to have an issue when it comes to teleport blocks and students, that being said, a hectic start and a loss of role was well worth the in-game journal, portable text is something that I have been waiting a long time for in Minecraft. I also was using the pre-release because it needs classroom testing, there is no test like putting 15-20 students in a world and seeing what issues they come across.
It took a lot longer than I thought it would, I originally thought that students would be able to complete most of the experiments in a lesson, when in fact most students did not quite finish one research station (3 experiments, each repeated 3 times). I even went to the class early and logged all the computers in and opened MinecraftEdu for them in the hopes of saving some time. Reflecting on the timing, I probably spent 10-15 minutes on the intro and then trying to fix the teleport blocks, giving up and moving students around myself. My thought about how much time each experiment and therefore each research station would take was well out. It will probably take the students at least another lesson to complete the research. After that we will need to reflect on our results and discuss them, and then write a report on our findings to the 'Minecraft government'.
All in all I think it is going to take 2-3 times longer than I wanted so I really need to make sure the 'learning' that we are getting out of this activity is worth the time so here is what I am hoping to achieve.
- They will understand the main misconception about gravity, that "heavier things fall faster than lighter things" is false.
- They will inadvertently learn about the scientific method, why accurate recording is important.
- They will need to learn how to write a report discussing findings from experiments.
- We will definitely be discussing the need for control and keeping each test fair and consistent.
- By the end of all our experiments and discussions I am hoping that some students will design their own experiments in Minecraft to confirm their findings and share these with the whole class, which means they are learning good experimental design.
Now for what I would change about the map itself, the starting location is not quite 'right'. It needs some tweaking. It either needs to be more linear to 'force' students in the right direction or I need to direct them (in my role) better. If teleplort blocks work the rest is pretty good, there is still the old 'sticky' button issue sometimes with some of the tests, but that is an easy fix (if the students read the text explaining what to do in the case of experimental equipment failure).
I think the information blocks have too much text although if I want them to be self sufficient, and keep the story going I already have the minimum amount, so I am not sure how to go about fixing this. The reason I made the introductory video was to avoid a 15 page book reading by each student, perhaps some small 'scientific journal videos' from the previous (and now deceased) scientists at each station would be the way forward (that really relies on link blocks, hopefully something that will be included in MinecraftEdu in the future, but until then I think we are stuck with the 2-3 pages of text in info blocks).
The experiments themselves seem to be fine, and the results students are getting are well and truly workable in terms of the activities I want to do with them, so on the whole there is very little to change with the map, and it is most certainly workable right now.
For those of you who want to read the backstory to get an idea of, if not what the students are doing, at least the why they are performing gravity experiments, here is a link to the script I used for the introductory video. I will upload the video itself to my youtube channel once I correctly credit the students that helped me create it.
Well that is an honest, and probably not very well written summary so far, more updates will come the more I work with this activity, but for now, thanks for reading and please feel free to leave some comments below.