Minecraft Student Letter…Chills

Below is an email from an eighth grade student. This is the third year of the Minecraft Exploratory at Brentwood School. Looks like the kids might take this to the next level. Three has always been my favorite number.

Mr. Kahn,                                                                                                                     When you sent me the email about league of legends, I happened to notice you had your blog link in the signature, so I decided to check it out. I am planning to join the [Minecraft] exploratory again this year, and had a few ideas about Eaglecraft.

I have recently been experimenting with a terrain generation program for Minecraft that allows you to customize your world map. I think it would be fun to have a game where we put everyone in a variety of environments with varying difficulty and see how well we can survive as a team. I have also found plugins that can add a harder survival environment, such as adding thirst and seasons, as well as things like heat, increasing the need for fire.

I think it would be fun to have Dylan (See previous post) help run the server as well. I took a java  corse over the summer, and have done some experimenting with plugins for Minecraft, and would like to learn more. It would be great to have someone with experience in plugin development manage the server. I look forward to meeting him, and having a great year in the Minecraft exploratory.

I hope you like my suggestions,

The more I think about this letter, the more moved I become. Being a middle school (within a k-12 school) with only a 7th and an 8th grade, there has sometimes been friction between the two grades. After all, the totem pole only has two levels, the top and the bottom. This year, a considerable effort is being made to stymie this friction and turn the tide. Indeed, the eighth graders this year do not even see a totem pole. The letter above speaks to this point as well as to the power of Minecraft.

Furthermore, this takes me back to a post from March of 2012, the day “Minecraft Ends.” I wrote,  “I am now even more determined to provide a safe place for the “geeky kids,” to be, to play and to explore their interests. And I thought I was just getting into Minecraft.”

Minecraft is not only a wonderful game, but also a conduit for creating incredibly valuable human interactions and friendships, ironically born out of a virtual reality environment.

What if Sander and Dylan strike up a friendship centered around Minecraft that lasts a lifetime? Who knows what, together, they may create.

I have the chills.


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. Continue reading


Interschool Minecraft League: A Collaboration

First Planning Meeting, 22/6/2012

What: Several schools engaging in challenges of collaboration and competition in the virtual world of Minecraft.

Who was Present:

  • by phone: Nicole Assisi, teacher from the Da Vinci Schools in California
  • Bob Kahn, science teacher at Brentwood School in California
  • by phone: Angela Larsen, Pepperdine doctoral student and teacher at Bernard C. Campbell Middle School in Missouri
  • Scott Perloff, Director of Educational Technology at Brentwood School
  • Lead: Linda Polin, Professor of Education and Technology at Pepperdine University
  • James Rhoads, doctoral student at Pepperdine
  • by phone: Andrea Shea, doctoral student at Pepperdine

Why: To inspire students to create and collaborate with students in their own school and other schools from around the country using Minecraft. The ultimate goal is for students to further develop their technological potential and interests. Continue reading


“Don’t Tease Me Because of My Skin”

The Eaglecraft server’s wings were clipped on Monday because members of the new Exploratory were clashing with members of the previous group. In a nut shell, players were griefing each other and stealing from each other’s chests, and then it got ugly when someone created some bad signage with inappropriate language. Off it went until this was sorted out. So we had a meeting today at lunch for all those students interested in continuing to play on the server. If the didn’t come to the meeting, they would not be playing any more. The meeting was very productive but two comments stuck out in my mind.

1st. One student expressed concern that if we simply played the game as it was meant to be played, pvp in survival, that it would just become like Animal Farm (seventh graders are reading in English) as they collected too much power. A connection to curriculum, cool!

2nd. Another student asked that there be something in the Code of Conduct about not teasing because of the skin he had chosen. Wow! How fitting after having a very effective and accessible first Black History Month Assembly. “Don’t tease me outside of the game because of the skin I chose.” So interesting; and here he gets to choose his skin. In the real world…


Eaglecraft Community Code of Conduct

Today was the first day with my new Exploratory group on our Eaglecraft server. I tried unsuccessfully to get them to create a mission statement for our server, but they were just not interested. Then I thought about shutting down the server until they created the document. Then I just decided to do it myself. I would be very interested in anyone else’s thoughts about my process and/or my document. Thanks in advance.

Eaglecraft Community Code of Conduct

Eaglecraft is a Minecraft Server run by Middle Division students at Brentwood School. The purpose of this server is for students to have a safe place to play, build and collaborate in Minecraft. Responsible members of this server will respect each other and the rules of the server. Once whitelisted, you become a member of the Eaglecraft community. This means that you agree to:

  • Respect other players, their belongings, their skins and their builds. This means no raiding or griefing.
  • Not to use hacks to cheat the game or other players.
  • Not to use bad language or hurtful words while chatting or on signs.
  • Not to tease any one based on their appearance in game or how they play.

If a player chooses not to abide by the rules then he or she will be choosing suspension from the server. Abiding by these rules will ensure that all members of the Eaglecraft community feel included and safe to explore the world of Minecraft.



What Did I Do Wrong?

Exploratory Fair

Maybe the picture says it all. Today we had our Exploratory fair for students to sign up for second semester Exploratory class. After being the first to fill up in the fall, I was expecting another full class. I made an announcement that there were spots for 10 boys and 10 girls. No eruption of excitement like last time. Hmm. This is different. I think you can see where this is going. When it was all over, only 6 boys had signed up. What did I do wrong? The good news: these boys know the game and have started their own servers. Maybe it is an opportunity for me to really learn from them and for us to do some incredible creating together instead of simply playing the game. My sails are luffing a bit, but when life gives you lemons….



Orienteering: 3rd Strike or Charmed?

Group Screenshot Before Orienteering Mission

Thursday was the last chance for the Orienteering Quest with this Exploratory group. Strangely, I was excited and nervous about how it would go; it’s only 30 minutes out of my week. Would it be a “3rd strike; You’re out!” or “3rd time’s a charm.”

Success! 3rd time’s a charm! The kids appeared in the reinforced spawn site, all fluttering about. This was the first time they were all gathered together at the spawn site long enough to take a screenshot and without cleverly figuring out some way to escape. Aren’t they a good-looking group!

Some of my favorite quotes from the activity: “We have to take a screenshot eating apples.” “We won! Do we get candy?” “A 10!” One student’s response to my asking him to rate the activity on a scale 1 to 10.

Please read on. I promise you will dig this. Continue reading


Orienteering 3rd Attempt

So this is it. My last session with this particular Exploratory class. My last chance to redeem myself and send them off with a completed activity.

A switch was and linked to an iron door with redstone to let the kids lose when the game begins. Hopefully, the server will cooperate.

Sun setting on the Orienteering activity spawn site. Symbolic of the 3rd and last attempt.


Orienteering 2nd Attempt

  • Spawn area rebuilt———————————————————check!
  • Signs rewritten————————————————————–check!
  • Worldguard tested and functioning properly————————-check!
  • Treasure chests restocked with apples——————————–check!

Time for Exploratory. Been looking forward to it all day.

“New update available. Would you like to update?”

Nooooooooooooooo! Don’t do it. Too late.

Will try for the third time next week.

For some reason, when Mojang comes out with a new version, Bukkit does not have the multiplayer server updates ready and available. So if you update to the new version, all the servers that you were playing on would not be available, because they cannot run the new version. I asked a student, why doesn’t Mojang let Bukkit know so they can create an update. The student said that the companies do not like each other. I do not know if this is true or not, but I don’t understand. Isn’t Mojang shooting themselves in the foot by not providing the update to Bukkit in advance? So irritating and frustrating.



Orienteering Quest 1 Results


So after hours of building up the spawning tower and protecting it with the plugin WorldGuard, the hour had come. The kids filed in and the whitelisting began.

They jumped on the server and the noise level began to rise. A good sign. There they were, all moving about with their user names floating over heads. It was cool to see.

Then the noise level rose higher and laughter ensued. Something seemed wrong. Someone had escaped. “How could this be? It was protected!” But the protection wasn’t working and the kids were mining the floor and falling through. Oh no! The room became suddenly warm and I began to perspire. All my work being destroyed.

My student assistant turned the spawn platform into a bedrock chamber and he began to teleport the students back to the chamber. But they continued to escape. A new kind of challenge, one not planned, revealed itself. Kids were fist bumping, laughing, exulting with each other when they escaped and teleported each other out of the “protected” spawn area. Some were upset that their classmates were griefing and they began trying to police each other.

I relaxed and watched it happen. It actually turned out to be pretty cool. Some fixes will be in order for next time.