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.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Elfie,
    I haven't actually been following your blog but I intend to start now. Thanks for the thoughtful post. I'm also struggling with the fact that written directions don't seem to be enough. In my limited experience, most students seem to be able to expect to succeed without reading directions these days and many can't cope when they come to something they don't understand right away. I frequently have students tell me that they did read the directions but they didn't help too. In Minecraft it's tricky to help a student go back and find the information block or signs that they missed so I'm playing with a new idea in my own map. At the start of the challenge area, each student is given a copy of a written book with ALL of the directions I would give on signs. I use the blue number blocks to indicate a new puzzle and the text is numbered in the same way. I haven't tried yet but my home is that by having the instructions in their inventory they'll be more curious about it, and it at the very least it will be much easier for me to direct them to instructions first when they aren't sure what they're supposed to do.
    This was such a cool experiment that you did with Shane's map. It's part of why I haven't dared to take anyone else's world into my classroom without heavily modifying it to my own needs yet. What's really cool is that Shane stayed connected with the class. I love the idea that the students can connect with the "expert" and use them as a resource.