Minecraft Has That Effect

In the keeping with the authenticity of blogging (posting only when feeling moved to do so rather than forcing something out on a schedule) it has taken me a while to feel moved to post a second blog. But I finally had a revelation which has spawned this post.

About two months ago, I was part of some conversations about purchasing MinecraftEDU at our school. At that time I knew nothing more about it than (1) my 5 year old and 11 year old played it at home and (2) it was a craze among my students.  I could also pick out a “character” from the game if I saw one on a tee shirt. However, this was enough to ignite a strong desire in me to explore it. More than explore it, I wanted to master it. Not for me, but for my students.  One month ago, our principal approved the purchase and our PTA paid the bill. I can’t recall the last time I studied so hard and so fast to master anything. My tutorials were a tad unconventional, however.

I did a fair amount of searching online for tutorials and the MinecraftEDU wiki was helpful but it wasn’t very hands on. Mostly, I brought my school laptop home at night. I had my 5 year old use my personal laptop and we would join a world together on a server and he’d show me around and what we could do.  We still do this nightly, a month later, and I am still learning new things!  I don’t know how helpful learning to ride a pig by dangling a carrot on a stick in front of it is, but trading with villagers and navigating the inventory bar has been useful among other things.    I am now to the point where I am teaching HIM new things! And our nightly conversations are quite original!

Now I am also using my students to help me learn and advocate for getting MinecraftEDU into classrooms. Currently, I have a few of my Computer Writing elective students writing a how-to manual for teachers (they know their homeroom teachers aren’t likely to use Minecraft with them if they don’t know how). Obviously, my writers are exceptionally focused and motivated in class! All of the students in that class and my Art of Animation Class contributed to two different padlets; what you need to know to play minecraft and another telling what kinds of curriculum teachers could teach with the game.  My Art of Animation elective class is about to make screencasts of what they can do with the game (we tried modding but that was too much too fast and we wreaked some havoc on the laptops and halted that exercise) and we will compile those recordings as digital tutorials for teachers (and for me, let’s be honest).

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My most current homeschooling is involving downloading new worlds and trying to remember how to access the lesson plans that go with them so I can print them out at school.  And I have begun to journal the few lessons I have taught/co-taught using curriculum standards; area and perimeter to 3rd grade, volume to 5th grade, reading strategies to 3rd grade.   All of this has been extremely time consuming but has been so rewarding to implement. Last week, I was finishing up the volume lesson with a 5th grade class and a girl said she was having so much fun.  She asked it this was really part of the curriculum. I took a picture with my phone of the script for standards 5.MD.3, 5.MD.4 and 5.MD.5 from  my online planbook and had her read the goals. Her response was, and I quote, “Whaoooo, this is a big deal!” My favorite picture that I posted on Twitter was of a 1st grader showing my Assistant Principal how to play!

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So that is what drives me. But I have been feeling like I have been overworking myself; and here I sit blogging about MinecraftEDU!  Teachers do a huge amount of school work at home after hours but this has been a bit over the top. And that is when I had a revelation. I can look at this as an unreasonable amount of after hours I am putting in and feel frustrated about that.  Or I can see it for what it really is. I am under the Minecraft spell that has bewitched so many others out there. This just might be a new hobby? I still have no desire to sit and build and craft things the way the kids do.  But I am highly intrigued by how I can craft curriculum lessons from the teaching potential of this game and ignite a new level of motivation in the students at my school. I realize I am not working for free from home as much as I am challenging myself in new ways; ways I NEVER would have imagined would ever intrigued me….ever! And here it all is; posted all over my twitter feed and the focus of my blog post!

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Minecraft has that effect!