Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Winding Up.

My Pre-CAL Numeracy class is definitely winding up, we have just about a week and a half left of this project, so I have been doing a lot of thinking about how it went, what I would change for next time (if there is a next time) and what I saw during the time undertaking this project with my students.

I have made a post in the past about what I think I would change if I were to run this project, or one similar, again. Just a quick rehash;

  • More structure to the tasks, perhaps project explanation sheets.
  • A more fluid market for the land purchasing.
  • Proformas to fill in for loan applications to fast track the application process.
  • Student 'helpers' that are paid extra for helping me manage some of the land/building permits.
  • Mining permits would be available for a % fee of their findings.
  • A complete rehash of the map layout to remove the lag associated with too many entities in the one location.
Overall I think the project went very well but it was far from perfect, we had server issues for a few weeks that made us lose our momentum early this term. Over the course of the project however I saw glimpses of awesomeness. Glimpses of what this could be with enough time dedicated to adding more structure outside, yet more flexibility in-game.

One 'lesson' will stick with me for a very long time, I think I will be hard pressed to forget a disengaged student doing higher level measurement calculations than I would have ever expected from him given his work ethic and history in Maths. Not only was he doing the calculations on the board in front of me, he was explaining his thinking, with great clarity, each step of the way.

The engagement of the students in the tasks is also something I am very impressed with, that fateful Friday afternoon where students were focussed and working towards a $100 in-game reward for a whole 45 minute period blew my mind. If only I had the time or ability to maintain that level of engagement in every lesson I teach.

The engagement definitely declined as the weeks progressed, compounded by the server issues many have 'given up' on the Minecraft side of things by now. I think this steady decline was because the students could not see 'progress' towards their goals, as they spent so much time building their houses in the creative world, and then would not go through the loan application process to get the money required to get that house put into the Pre-CAL world. To remedy this I would not give them that option again, I would have some houses they could buy/rent if they wanted, but I would also have 'blocks' of land that students could purchase and then build their houses on.

Students did not really keep a good record of their budgets, it took a lot of prodding to get them to do their budgets each week, and that was only transferring the information from their payslip to their budget. Their in-game purchases rarely made it onto their budgets. I am not sure how to remedy this, it was not like the students had to get out of Minecraft to do their budget, they had their laptop beside them. Obviously I need to find the 'carrot' to make the budget a worthwhile activity to maintain. However I have no way to track in-game purchases, the real question I guess is, is the budget a key component of the project? Originally my response would have been yes, now I am not so sure.

Since the project started I have been shown mods and very cool command block systems that can 'lock' students houses to particular students and collect rent without input from me. With enough time to explore and implement one of these options I think it would make the process a bit simpler. That being said I still feel that the ability to be very flexible with the pay system, down to paying individual students different amounts based on their work output is a key component of making students take ownership of their work and their investment into the game.

The targeted lesson/map I called the Path to Percentage Perfection worked for some students, but not all. I believe that if these activities were a bit more regular that the students would 'get used' to doing them and also find more value in them. The first time doing anything is always a bit scary but with repetition, the process becomes more comfortable for students.

Whoa, that turned into a long post, it was supposed to be much shorter than that. If you made it this far, thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below. If you didn't make it this far ....... ;)

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