Minecraft: Structure or Free Play?

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.

Maybe my role as the facilitator of this Exploratory is simply to provide the students with a place and time at school to play in the presence of their friends. I struggle with my belief  that they should have something to show for their time spent playing. What if they don’t? Is that acceptable? The kids in the kickball Exploratory do not have anything to show for their play. The kids in the sports talk Exploratory do not have anything to show for their talk. Maybe it is because of the inherent building and creative potential of Minecraft that fuels my feeling that they should have something to show for their time spent playing. Maybe it is my bias as a teacher brought up in a different time. Many teachers believe that the kids should just play. Others provide structure for the kids in the form of a lesson in a particular concept. I see the value in both. However, my Exploratory is not a class, but a period once a week for 30 minutes for kids to “explore,” not nearly enough time for the kids to really accomplish something.

Still, today I was reminiscing with a student who was in the first Minecraft Exploratory last year. He was telling me how cool the orienteering activity was when the teams had to search for their hidden chest containing apples, take a screenshot of the entire team holding the apples, and navigate back to the spawn site.

I guess it depends on the activity. To that end, I have come up with another activity that I am hoping will engage the kids. The buzz so far is good. Stay tuned for more.

As always, thank you for reading.

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One thought on “Minecraft: Structure or Free Play?

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