The topic for my third meeting with the Sammy Y group was measuring the speed of minecarts. While for the genetics of sheep session I overestimated the knowledge of my audience, this time I underestimated. The night before, I reminded myself how redstone worked and created a couple of starting gates and such. When I asked the kids if they knew how to use redstone, they erupted with knowledge and described some of their builds. In fact, they had already began laying down rail and running a continuous cart around the base of our location beacon. They certainly knew more than I did. A tinge of concern gurgled in my stomach as they took off laying down power rail before I could even pose the question we were to investigate.
Please forgive the digression from Minecraft while I write about teaching in general. I believe many teachers fail to provide authentic learning to their students because of their belief that they should always know more than the students. Teachers are often fearful of their students knowing more than they do about a topic. Embracing what students know relieves teachers of this pressure and allows teachers to capitalize on a student’s knowledge or expertise in order to take the student’s learning to the next level. Moreover, students love teaching the teacher, and adults for that matter, (see Kids Teaching Adults Minecraft), and ironically, this makes teaching the real students easier. End of digression.
Last week, I met with Sammy Y and the guinea pigs again for another session of Science Through Minecraft. Being our second time together, we were all a little less guinea piggy. We thus moved on to sheep genetics. The night before, I prepared a Google Doc with some concepts, terms, video links, all related to simple Mendelian Genetics: inheritance, DNA, chromosomes, genes, alleles, dominance, recessive, blended inheritance, Punnett squares, probabilities, P-generation, F1, F2, test crosses, Mendel, pea plants, etc. I had forgotten that this was a non traditional lesson so to speak and I had forgotten my audience. Better to be over prepared.
I arrived on time at 11:30 and found the four kids climbing the walls of the living. Sammy Y told them that they could not go on Minecraft until I arrived. As I opened the screen door the kids bolted to the table and booted up their laptops. I guess they enjoyed our first meeting using feathers to investigate whether or not air exists air in Minecraft.
I began the session by asking the three third graders and one fifth grader what they knew about genetics. I quickly realized four clean slates eagerly sat before me. My preparation the night before was overkill and more appropriate for middle school students, but I was totally fine with that. In fact, I found this to be more exciting. Continue reading →
“Science through Minecraft.” It was Sammi Y’s idea.
Hi Mr. Kahn, I am a parent of an avid 9 year old Minecraft fan in Los Angeles. I have been reading your blog about your middle school students with great interest….Since my son has become a MC fan (and has pulled his friends into it as well), I have gradually become a fan, too. I even some how managed with my son to set up a multiplayer server via Hamachi by viewing youtube videos….Anyway, my son and his friends are quite proficient in all things MC. I am very pleased with all the creativity, math, engineering, computer skills (typing, commands, understanding of internet/servers), designing, architecture, and surprisingly, social skills and friend-building that MC has to offer…The reason why I’m emailing you today is because I have been looking for someone who could teach my son more about MC from an educational point of view…. [maybe] a class called “Science through Minecraft”–like that cool way in which the kids on your blog used MC to design their interpretations of a cell. If you could create a simple lesson about a topic in science and then let the kids do something with that theme in MC, that would be a show-stopper. We are willing to be guinea pigs! BTY- MC user names have been modified.
The guinea pigs, myself included.
Today was our first meeting of “Science through Minecraft.” I spent some time thinking about a good topic to start with. I came up with a question that I actually did not really know the answer to. I think Papert would approve of this as authentic learning. I drew inspiration for my question from a video called Gravity Lab produced by MinecraftEduElfie. My goal however was not for the kids to investigate gravity, but to investigate if a feather falls faster than sand or gravel. My intention was for the kids to find out whether or not there is an atmosphere in Minecraft. Continue reading →
The Pepperdine server has been updated, and one of three teams of students in my Exploratory has completed the Underwater Mine Rescue Challenge thus far. The remaining two teams have had difficulty organizing and completing the challenge.
Watching the kids during today’s Exploratory, I realized that it is a challenge to direct kids in an open sandbox game such as Minecraft without employing a specific mod such as MineraftEdu or being a drill sargent. The latter of which I do not wish to be and would defeat the whole purpose of playing the game in the first place. Continue reading →
Greedy miners were working an underwater mine when the inevitable happened. Reaching for that elusive block of ore, they punched a hole in the roof of a shaft on the top level of the mine and flooded the area. Forced to flee quickly, leaving a lot of their best tools behind, they quickly retreated to a shelter below as water poured in around the mine. They did not make it out. But their situation remains a favorite puzzle past time of skilled miners who believe, if they had been there, they could have made it out alive.
Use the designated Commons teleport to jump with your team to a location somewhere in the abandoned mine, which is now partially flooded with water from above and around it. Salvage what you can from the abandoned mine operation to create a rail-based escape route that can carry a disaster survivor to safety. Continue reading →
Today my students became teachers and met their students in person. Seventeen adult graduate students from Pepperdine University visited my Minecraft Exploratory. I was excited for their visit, but the results were beyond my expectations. Lindax delivered the first challenge for our league: Underwater Mine Rescue (to be described in a future post). The level of engagement of the kids and the adults is obvious from the pictures and videos below. One graduate student expressed her doubts about Minecraft, but since meeting the kids had a complete turnaround. Person to person interaction is still important.
The world may be flat, but it’s also upside down. Below, kids teaching adults.
Teachers would be better teachers if they let the students be the teachers.
Minecraft brings kids and adults together in a collaborative learning space.
There are three schools in the Minecraft League. Several of the graduate students above have been assigned to each school to learn from the kids and observe how the game works. I suppose they will do some writing about their observations. The first challenge will begin in a couple of weeks. The name: Underwater Mine Rescue. Check back here to learn more about the challenge and the kids progress.
“We have to be responsible for what we do.” This was written by a student in response to some griefing going on in our world of the Pepperdine server.
Another student: “I Think that Respect is the most important core value for Minecraft. I think Minecraft is a way to show your feelings and talent. It is a lot like an art show. Some people like some designs or types of creations, others may not. If everybody just respects and accepts the buildings made by each other, we can have fun and be a caring community on Minecraft.” Continue reading →
This living document contains some useful information about how the server has been set up and what’s available to you. It will change as needed. If you are a student with questions or comments, please take them to your teacher first, unless you’re stuck or need help badly while you’re in the game. If we’re online we’re happy to help. Your Pepperdine University team includes:
Linda Polin → Lindax
James Rhoads → jbrhoads
Andrea Shea → Andreashea
This server is set up as a mostly plain vanilla server. Yes, we have a few mods installed, but those are for administrative routines, like creating groups and protecting regions. We think it’s great to mine AND craft, not just get everything you need without even having to find and construct it. After all, it’s not called Craft. It’s called Minecraft. Continue reading →