Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Game Inside A Game Inside A Game.....

OK so an update on MinecraftEdu and my Year 8 Maths idea. MinecraftEdu now comes with Forge, at  least the latest very test version does, and I am so excited by the possibilities this offers. Having explored just a couple of the mods available to add to the server now my mind is exploding with ideas.

I am 'thinking' constantly about a way to bring the Custom NPCs mod and MystCraft (after a reply to my previous post about my Maths ideas) and I think I would like to try to make my Maths world a game inside a game. So there would be quests, rewards and of course learning along the way.

I probably should explain what I think these two mods do (in my very brief exploration so far) and then I can try to explain how I am going to use this to make my maths world a massive game.

Custom NPC's: I will be able to add computer controlled characters, with specific scripts and items to trade with students. These characters can also deliver quests to students and then reward students for completing the quest.

MystCraft: This adds books that can be used to create and travel to an almost infinite number of different worlds or dimensions (25565 I think). These worlds can be customised in various ways through colour of the sky, clouds and the void, the general biomes available in that world and their size, the weather and light levels. In other words I have the ability to tailor 'new worlds' to look and feel different for the students.

So my basic idea is to get the NPCs to give the students quests to complete in one of the many MystCraft worlds I create, and it is in these worlds where my activities will be placed, rather than in the 'overworld'.

This will mean that students will travel to these other worlds, complete the quests (learning tasks) come back to the villager with the items that complete the quest and then get rewarded in various ways. The rewards may be special blocks to build with, tools, food or pretty much anything that the students need/want in the overworld for building their house/playing Minecraft.

Now this means that I am going to have to give the students time to just play Minecraft, to make them want to complete the quests and get the rewards they need to take ownership of the world. So my plan is to have a year 8 Minecraft lunch (or 2 for the 2 different classes if the other teacher wants to come on board) for a few weeks prior to the first quest.

So the students will have been playing (I know not all might but I will come to that shortly) and have a base set up and 'need' some things to keep moving forward and if I pay the right sort of attention while the students are playing I should be able to tailor the quest rewards accordingly and make the rewards even more rewarding so that students want to complete the quest to get the rewards. (that is a terrible sentence but you get the idea)

So now for the issues, what about those students who don't want to play Minecraft during lunch, or that don't care about the rewards. No ideas here yet, I wont know how many wont want to play until I let them know what is happening, I taught these students last year for Science and I know they like to play Minecraft so I am hoping if I tell them that this world will be theirs and they can play it 'anytime' I open the room for them, they will take ownership and come on board.

As for the quest rewards, I am not sure whether I can have multiple students doing the same quest from the same NPC yet, and I am not sure I can have different rewards for different students (I think not unless I want to intervene and give out rewards, which I am loathe to do, as I hope that students will want to re-do quests in their own time to get more rewards).

So very early planning days for this and I am not sure when the more stable version of MinecraftEdu will be out but I am going to base my plans on this and use the very unstable version to start creating my world to see if this is actually a viable idea. Thanks for reading this 'brain dump' of ideas and feel free to add your comments below.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Augmented Reality.

I managed to get myself an iPod touch 5th gen for my birthday so now I can explore the world of Minecraft Augmented Reality with the Minecraft Reality app on the iTunes store. This app allows you to put pre-built Minecraft structures in specific locations in the real world, where others with the same app can see it. I am hoping to place virtual models around my room and let students explore them with their own iDevice or perhaps even mine. So expect some updates on that in the near future, near being well and truly over a month.

Along the same line last night I managed to get myself an invite to the Niantic Project Beta, which is a Google/Android based virtual game that plays out in the real world with augmented reality. I am very interested in seeing how it plays and trying to figure a way to bring something similar perhaps into my school/classroom. If any of you out there are playing I am one of the Enlightened and am so far a little bit at a loss for what I need to do and how to get to where I need to be.

A quick post today, thanks for reading.

Monday, 7 January 2013

I Am Still Alive.

Happy new year everyone. I am still alive and kicking, still messing around with MinecraftEdu and planning my next year of Minecraft learning lessons. I am going to keep the backstory short as to why I have not posted in ages, but I feel you deserve a bit of an explanation.

My 2 year old daughter broke her leg mid October and my wife was due to give birth to our second child late November. Unfortunately the plaster was on until mid December so I had to take time off work to support my wife with my daughter. I thought things would settle after the plaster came off and while I would most likely not be back at work for 2012 I would have plenty of time to work on planning for 2013 and beta testing the latest MinecraftEdu release. It turns out a 2 year old with a sore leg and a new born baby are what I have taken to calling a 'time sink'. All 'free' time disappears into these two (amazing) little children. Finally things are starting to settle down and I managed to spend some time doing 'stuff' towards MinecraftEdu and planning.

Some really exciting news that @Kulttuuri has blogged about is that ComputerCraft is coming to a Minecraft install near you. On top of this the MinecraftEdu mod is being reworked to become a Forge mod, which for those who are not into the modding of Minecraft means that theoretically MinecraftEdu can be combined with any Forge compatible mod (which for me, excitingly means an in-game NBT editor that will allow me to create custom spawners for my Edventure maps)

So I spent my New Years night (about 5-6 hours of it) modding a Minecraft install with Forge and installing ComputerCraft to get a bit of a headstart and a clearer idea of what capabilities I am going to have access to when it comes to MinecraftEdu and WOW!!! I was hooked.

I watch a fair bit of Minecraft on YouTube when I get time and I have been watching the Mindcrack crew play Feed The Beast and have been really enjoying watching Guude mess with something called Turtles. I figured "I know a little programming language, enough to get me by surely" but let me tell you I am a complete and utter noob. I have done a fair amount of BASIC programming and the LUA language has some similarities but there was a fair bit of reading web tutorials trying to get my turtle to what I wanted it to do.

I have learnt a few neat tricks that I will share through YouTube when I get a chance, and I am super excited about starting a lunchtime Minecraft programming club at school when I go back in about a month and learning alongside the kids.

The real reason I am posting a blog today is that today I managed to find some time to go through the junior maths course I am teaching this year and brainstormed some pretty neat ideas for the various topics being covered and also started fleshing them out and planning them a bit more. I have ideas for most topics over the year, most are simple activities that I think should help students understand the concepts a bit more.

Here is the idea list so far (in order of teaching I think).

  • Theoretical vs Experimental Probability
  • Venn Diagrams
  • Length & Perimeter
  • Area
  • Volume & Surface Area
  • Scale
  • Place Value
  • Fractions (maybe)
  • Positive and Negative Numbers
  • The Cartesian Plane
  • Sampling/Collecting Data
  • Bar & Column Graphs
  • Line Graphs
  • Simple Algebraic Equations
  • Isometric Drawings & Plans
  • Nets & Perspective Drawings
  • Rotations & Reflections
I will be sharing the full plans and the map with the community but that leaves me in a bit of a pickle. I think I want this to be a persistant "Year 8 Maths World" and I would love even more if I could open this map up to students outside of school hours, there are technical issues that will probably prevent this from happening. But the idea of a Year 8 Maths world in which students could also have time to build and play in is something that intrigues me, giving them ownership of the world but having math learning areas that they could revisit if they wanted at any time. 

This leaves me with some options, I could share the plans and parts of the map separately as I complete the building and people could import them into their own worlds or I could hold off and share the entire map at the end of the year when I have built all the different parts. Of course there is no reason I could not do both and I think this is probably the way I will go, share the parts throughout the year and publish the entire map at the end of the year with everything that the students have built and completed to give them a 'real audience' to build for, but I would like to ask for your opinion. Do you think sharing the individual parts is a good idea? And is sharing the students completed work and buildings appropriate and providing them with an authentic audience?

Well that is a pretty long post, so if you have made it here to the end, thanks so much for taking the time to read and I will try to do more planning and blogging over the coming weeks as well as sharing my findings about ComputerCraft and my maths world builds.