Monday, November 21, 2016

Minecraft Education Edition: Up and Running!

Starting the year, my co-teacher and I had limited knowledge of how to play Minecraft, but we knew what we wanted our students to crate in the program based on the work of a few Minecraft masters that I've followed on Twitter for a number of months.  We figured what we didn't know, we would learn and if our lessons failed, they would fail spectacularly!  From day one in our class, we've been piloting and battling technology with many wins and a few losses and lessons along the way. I felt confident in our ability to troubleshoot to the best of our abilities and our acceptance that we will NOT know everything and that it is okay.  Modeling persistence through struggles has become one of the keystones of our class as we are always trying new things, shaking things up, and sometimes failing spectacularly despite our best efforts.

Despite not feeling entirely confident with our knowledge of HOW to create in Minecraft, we moved forward the sixth week of school with our Module 1 group project where we introduced the inclusion of Minecraft in our class.  To say our students were excited doesn't come remotely close to describing their reactions.  Of the students in our class (35 total students), roughly 10 had played before and 5 considered themselves to be "experts".  There were many students in our class who had heard of the game, but had never actually played.  All students were excited to not only pilot another program for our district, but to also dig into the game that they've heard and read about.

The Project:

Our first module focuses on two questions:
How do civilizations evolve from hunter/gatherers to settlement?
How can we create and establish a civilization?

Our lessons and Module revolve our 7th grade Social Studies standards (Eastern Hemisphere), so we use historical examples as our model for students to examine as we move through development.

Minecraft Lesson 1:

We selected 7 different biomes that were presented on the Minecraft Education Edition website and had our students draw a biome out of a fishbowl for each of their groups.  We had everything from a desert to a jungle as options for this portion.  After they drew their biome, the Minecraft work began.  Students needed to accomplish a few things as a group during this work time:

  1. Determine a name for their world
  2. Tour the biome and discuss any physical features that they saw
  3. Note any changes to physical features/land formations that were needed to sustain a civilization
  4. Take notes on the discussion

Students selected their "Digital Maker" (a group member who would host the Minecraft world and would be the primary builder) and quickly got to work.  Long discussions of safety and water sources were had among group members.  While nothing was built at this point, the close examination of physical features and benefits/disadvantages facing their people due to climate and region created an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge that they learned during their study of ancient Mesopotamia, China, and Egypt.

Check back for lesson 2!