Thursday, 6 July 2017

Factorio Days 2 and 3

Alright, ready for another brain dump? I was trying to write a post each day after the session ran, but unfortunately the last couple of days have been super busy, so I am writing this a couple of hours before the 4th session is about to start to try and get what I have observed in the last couple of sessions down on 'paper' somewhere.

It is very surprising to me to see how focussed the students are, both in their own sandbox world and in the group factory. In the second session we started with a bit of setting up their own sandbox world with basic power and resource collection, with the goal of producing some automation of the red science packs and green circuits. Only a couple of students got to that stage, but many were still developing their basic gameplay skills.

Once we began in the group factory again, they had to try to get some of the automation happening, and they succeeded in automating stone wall production, and also setting up single machines to create 1 red science pack and 1 electronic circuit. We also progressed in the research tree and started producing steel in somewhat small quantities. One student also began building the 'main bus' for our raw resources to try and give the factory some kind of ordered shape, rather than the spaghetti that we had after day 1.

At the end of the session we discussed our progress and had a chat about scalability and how much of the items we might need in the future if we were to get further in the game. The students are keen on launching a nuclear bomb on the aliens in our final session. So with that in mind we finished the second session and I started planning a mode of attack the get them to see the scale of the factory they need to build.

So the third session begins and the task is to create a factory that can produce 1 red science pack and 1 green science pack per second. I showed them a small spreadsheet that gave them the raw requirements of each of the components needed to create these things and we discussed how we could create 1 per second and how much of each raw resource we would need to do so. We did some math, or at least we tried, the math can get quite involved if you want it to, but we got there in the end, the students understood that to do this, they would need to upscale their production.

I also explained why I had challenged them to produce 1 of each of these items per second, because that, in theory would get us to finish our nuclear bomb research before we finish the workshop. So now they have a long term goal, and some idea of how much production they are going to need to get there. Students were then let go for around an hour in their sandbox world trying to create a factory that would produce the set target.

Many students created working factories, that, according to the math we had done earlier, should be producing 1 item per second, however they were not, and some students even figured out why that might be. The investigative options, and the opportunities for problem solving are blowing my mind. I had figured they would be available, but there are so many different opportunities, and if I was to do a project like this again (which I very much hope to be able to) it would be great to record what happens to the factory in a time-lapse kind of way, with some kind of narration as to what is happening and why, as the thinking behind the build is not always understandable from the finished product.

I am also very surprised at the quality of interactions happening between the students. I have some students that are seen as annoying, very annoying, by others and even in my Minecraft workshop I have one of them and he is very frustrating. Annoying others, breaking their things and generally making a pain of himself. However put him in Factorio, and he is a completely different student. I think it is an 'ownership' thing, if I try and bring it down to the difference. In Factorio, he has a job to do, a fairly clear objective, and he 'owns' part of the factory, as he built it.

For example, yesterday, he wanted to mine a lot of stone, and he has a pretty good set up that he has built. The factory was running low on power, so we asked him to disconnect his stone for a while, until we could get some more power. He happily did this (to my surprise) and then went up to the power plant and started creating more power generation. He took the initiative to fix the issue that was preventing him from doing what he wanted to do, and in the process he was supporting the entire group by making more power.

Other students are also showing great leadership, team work and initiative. The students worked together to re-create some factories that we looked at that were 'optimal' science pack generation. There were 3-5 students working on these at any given time. Another group took the initiative to finish the wall, and then turn off the wall production factory, gather the resources and bring them back to the main factory.

I feel like I am struggling to explain all of the minor problems that are arising within the factory, that students just go and fix, no fuss, they might ask for help from other students, or they may just do it themselves if they know what to do. There have been no arguments, which I find very surprising for 14 13-17 year old boys in a multiplayer server together.

As in the first session, it is absolute chaos to the outside observer, students moving around the room, constant chatter, me constantly reminding the students to speak in English so that I can understand what they are doing and why. But from inside it is such a great chaos, a chaos of amazing engagement, learning and collaboration. A chaos of students fully engaging in a collaborative project with a clear goal in mind, and a single mindedness to get there if they can. Persistence and problem solving are all over the place. I feel alive when in the room, you know how sometimes as a teacher you just 'know' you are achieving everything (and probably more) than you wanted to in your lesson? That is how I feel when I wander the room listening and supporting, I cannot just sit and play with them, as much as I expected to, I just cannot do it, there is too much energy in the room, and so much to go and look at.

So, what is the plan for today and tomorrow. Well today I am going to (hopefully just after I finish writing this post) convert our multiplayer map to a single player sandbox one, so that I can put that on all the student machines and they can use that as their sandbox today to see what they can do to improve the factory. I will be asking them to go around the factory, and look at what might need to be improved, take a screenshot of it, take 30 minutes to try their best to improve it, take another screenshot and then reflect on how they did.

After that, we will have a quick discussion about the successes and failures of their missions, and then start the multiplayer building again. I have said that if they continue to work as successfully as they have the last few days, that I might let the server run for a while to try and help them get to the nuke stage before the end of tomorrows session, but I honestly don't know that we can do it.

If all else fails, I guess we can 'cheat' the nuke in at the end of tomorrow so that they can see what happens, and then they can take the save file home with them, and keep building the factory. I am assuming that many of these students will be buying this game, if they have not already.

I need to do a summary of the Minecraft project so far too, but I want to keep them separate in terms of my thinking here, so I will do that in a different post, and a different time. It is now time to go convert worlds!

Thanks as always for reading, and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to drop them below for me. Hopefully there will be another post in a few hours 'brain dumping' todays upcoming session.

No comments:

Post a Comment