Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Why is it Always Evolution?

So, while I have been quiet on the MinecraftEdu front, I have been working in the background, testing the latest version and bug hunting. I am very pleased to say that the new 1.7.10 version is out and can be found by hitting the update button on the launcher. It is still a development version, so there are still some bugs and issues that may arise. So get into it, 1.7 adds a whole heap of new opportunities in terms of blocks, but also in terms of, and probably more what I will be using, the new command block possibilities. I will hopefully be doing a feature update soon, as I have not done one in a long time, as well as some fresh tutorials to put on the MCEduCrew channel.

Now onto the topic for this post. Why, when I look at games, is it so easy to see how evolution could be discussed. I mean first Plague Inc, which was a great success, and now I have been watching someone play Spore on YouTube, and straight away I thought "Wow, imagine the discussions we could have as a class, or small group trying to work out what parts to put on the creatures and why." I mean Spore just lends itself perfectly to the "why" of evolution, and in a fun, and kinda cute way too. So while Plague Inc is a great discussion starter, I think that Spore might hit the mark for a better, more rounded discussion and therefore a deeper understanding.

So I got a copy of the game and started playing last night, and I messed up. The evolution of my little species sidestepped without me realising it and now I cannot go back, at least not at this stage. Which is interesting, one decision has altered the path of my species for the foreseeable future. What a powerful discussion to have with students.

My only concern with using games in this class, this year at least, is I have a totally blind student in my class, so my animal cell map, which I would normally use in the latter half of this year is not going to benefit him at all. So do I stop the others doing it to be 'fair' to him or do I try to find something that would give him the same depth of understanding while the others explore the cell? I know what I would like to do, but I am limited in my resources for giving this student a greater depth of knowledge, I am investigating designing and printing a 3D cell in slices that he could explore, but I just don't think I have the skills in design yet (or the time right now to put into learning them along the way).

This applies to Spore as well, I think with a guided discussion and verbal explanations it would work, but I am also looking into exporting 3D models from Spore to print on the 3D printer so that he can explore the parts like the other students. There are of course limitations to this method that I need to consider, he will not be able to scale the parts like the other students, he will not be able to see the environment, and other creatures that are around, unless I already have printed the scenario, which I think is impossible without actually playing the scenario first, which means I would have already done all the decision making.

So my current plan is to play a scenario as a class for a lesson (or two) and have discussions along the way as to the changes we make and why we are making them. Then break into smaller groups, of 3 or 4 students and then they play their own scenario in the groups, again documenting all the changes and reasons for them. Then as part of a final report 3D print their creatures (assuming I can get each step out along the path) and have them alongside their decision pathway with their reasoning. I may need to get them to take screenshots of some of the opposition they come up against to include in their reports to help clarify their decision making.

But first, I need to do all of this myself :D and I think I might have a fun time doing it. So keep your eyes on my YouTube channel for a feature update video, and keep you eyes here for my first attempt at a Spore evolution report with 3D printed models and screenshots to go along with it. 

So back to my original question, why is it so easy to see evolution in games? Is it that the games have it in them, or perhaps because I like games, and I love evolutionary theory, it just pops out at me when I am playing games because I am passionate about that subject. Who knows, but I am definitely excited to see if I can get this up and running in the next couple of months.

As always thanks for reading, and if you have any comments please feel free to leave them below, especially if you happen to have used Spore in your classroom before, I would be very interested to hear from you.

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