Friday, 13 December 2013

Well, That Was Hard.

That has got to be one of the more difficult lessons I have ever done, in Minecraft or out. I think that it would have been impossible to manage students in that space without experience in Minecraft, and even more impossible to get students successfully completing the challenges without at least a basic understanding of CCEdu.

Shane and I have been discussing ways to adjust the scaling of the challenges to make it more standalone for students and teachers, and there are things that we can do to help, but realistically I think just picking up a map and throwing students into it is not a viable option in the long term. Teachers need to explore the maps that they want their students in and have some basic understanding of Minecraft itself and how it operates as a virtual teaching space. Also I owe Shane an apology, apparently his map is not based on Michael Harvey's challenge map, both maps are completely separate and made completely individually. So sorry to both Michael and Shane for my misleading comment in the last post.

I think one big (and I mean MASSIVE) problem with trying to make standalone maps is that students will not read the instructions. Even today, when the challenges were written in the information blocks, students would not take the time and read them, they were running around with no idea of what they were supposed to be doing. So without my directions to read the blocks, and complete the challenges I don't think the students would have achieved anything today. The only way to make some headway into this would be to 'lock' the map down completely, so that students were restricted to certain areas and forced to follow certain paths.

Enough about the negatives, onto some positives. There were some awesome positives today that I was hoping to see. Some students were able to persevere and achieve the first challenge, and the sense of triumph when they did was palpable. Unfortunately, I was not in the room for one of these triumphs, but the student screamed out loud and came running to find me so she could show me her turtle completing the challenge, I think she had Shane laughing hysterically in Hawaii. What makes this amazing is that this student began by saying "I am no good at computers." but with continued support, suggestions and her own perseverance, she saw success.

Even one of the teachers that came in to explore Minecraft was having a go, and she was ecstatic when she got her turtle to move from point A to point B. Unfortunately the challenge was only half complete as she was supposed to get her turtle to visit 4 specific points in between, but with that small success she began to understand how to get the turtle to do what she wanted.

Trial and error was our friend today, and a sense of 'it is not failing, it is just trying something, finding out that it doesn't work and then altering it so it does' was also important. I think, in general, students are afraid of 'failing' at things, where what they need to do is see these not as failures, but opportunities to improve. I think doing these challenges in Minecraft certainly helps students feel less threatened with failure and more inclined to take the risk and see what happens and because everyone else has not achieved success on their first try, including the teachers, it makes it a more 'friendly' environment for design iteration.

Well that wraps up the teaching part of my MinecraftEdu journey this year, more testing of the new versions and hopefully some awesome collaborative map building will be happening over my teaching break. Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below.

One Last Hurrah!

Not forever, just for this year of classes. All of my formal classes have ended, we have been doing 'headstart' programs getting students ready for next year, and today begins our 'summer program' where we do activities and more relaxed fun things with the students who still remain.

So today it is the Science faculty's turn to do activities, for 90 minutes later today we will have the students and we can run what ever activities we want, they don't even have to be about science. But me being me, I want to do some interesting science type activities. Well maybe not science as such, but computer science. It is computer science week after all, and I always wanted to do some thing to do with hour of code..... so what better opportunity to get students thinking about coding and computer science.

Enter ComputerCraftEdu. Later today, for the first time I will be picking up a map someone else has made and getting students to 'do' it. I am talking about a ComputerCraftEdu coding challenge map made by Shane, which I think is also based off a world made by Mike Harvey, both are great contributors to the google group and are much more advanced in CCEdu than myself.

I am really excited to get students into the world and trying to complete challenges, none of which should be above their ability, particularly with the visual programming that CCEdu provides. Shane is going to Skype in and join the world with the students I think to get an idea of what is happening. He has already run the world a couple of times with his students, and is currently making alterations to it before he sends the most recent version to me to use later today.

But I am also really nervous. I probably shouldn't be, but there are a couple of reasons I am nervous, one, as mentioned I normally don't just get other peoples worlds and run them without at least some exploration, that is good practice. But I am deliberately doing it this time, to see if it is actually viable to just run with a map/lesson that someone else has created, with no pre-work. It seems that there are a few teachers beginning to join the community who want to do just that, take maps made by others and just use them, not explore themselves, but just let students in and the lesson should run itself.

So is this viable, will it work? We have been doing some testing of the online templates area of MinecraftEdu, so I want to know what teachers need in our maps to make this happen. What supportive materials do they need to ensure that even if they don't want to explore the world first, they have enough of an understanding to make the lesson a success for both themselves and their students.

The second reason I am nervous is because I am actually not going to be the 'main' teacher in the room, I have 2 staff that I will be assisting with their activities, one being the CCEdu activity, the other being a Lego robot activity where I have programmed the 'bricks' and students are tasked with building the robots around them. Of course they have instructions to help, but I was planning on moving between the 2 rooms to help out where I could and get the students thinking in some different ways.

So realistically both activities could go completely awry, I don't think they will, but there is the possibility. Both teachers supporting me do not have enough of an understanding of the 'systems' we are using to 'fix it' if things do go in the wrong direction. So why do it? Again, more information gathering to see if picking up Minecraft (and Lego), with no experience and trying to use it for a specific purpose/lesson/activity will actually work.

So I will probably have some thoughts to share later, but before I close out this post, I will say, the next update of MinecraftEdu that the guys are working on now, and we are testing as much as possible, is amazing. A few new features that will make things a lot easier for everyone involved (hopefully) and for the first update in a while I might actually get to record a feature video and share. My poor EduElfie youtube channel is feeling a bit neglected but hopefully soon I can get back into sharing some of the features, tutorials and maps with everyone again.

As always thanks for reading, leave a comment below if you feel like it and there should be another post later.