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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Minecraft Project Update-Fortresses and Castles

Where We Are
Our 7th grade students have been moving full speed ahead on their Minecraft projects. These projects involve teams of students, designing a fortress and castle, based on what they learned about such structures in 6th grade. They are using Minecraft to create the structures on the school server. We are one week away from testing them out in survival mode. Students are rushing to get supplies stocked up, ensure that their structures are well fortified, and are busy contriving and building traps for potential invaders. Needless to say there is a lot of strategic thinking going on!

What We Use We opted for Minecraft Edu which was a smart move as it allows the teacher control of a lot of what goes on in-world. Among the various options available are the abilities to freeze students, teleport them back and forth, mute their chat, bring them all in to the teacher, toggle between creative and survival mode and revoke student building as well as student creative mode. I am able to do all of this as well as work with them on our map.

We came up against two major challenges when beginning this project. The first involved constant server crashes which occurred when the whole class was logged in. We solved that by initially partnering the students up and then bumping up the memory on the computer that hosts the server. This was a great solution and we have not crashed since!

The second challenge had to do with demonstrating respect for others. With over 100 students playing on one map, on the school server, it can tricky to monitor the goings on. For that reason Student building privileges are limited to class time and after school for one hour. That way i am able to pop in and visit while I monitor behaviour and chat. 

Respect for other people's work is vital in an online project,  just as it is in real life. Griefing and  "trolling", are not unheard of and some kids do partake in it when playing on different servers. I spoke with the students about this upon commencing the project and come back to it in each lesson. Unfortunately,  there have been a few cases of griefing and trolling during the project. You can imagine my surprise when I logged in yesterday only to find out that my own structure had also been greifed at one point! 

I have to admit that it was a bit disconcerting at first, but these incidents ended up providing the basis for teachable moments. The whole project is about learning to work together online. The issue having hit home provided us with the fodder for a relevant discussion about griefing and trolling . 

I have to say that the kids should be commended. They are are amazingly flexible and despite the setbacks many have experienced, they remain very positive and even come in to work after school. They are quick to fix any damage that occurs and and then they move on. Let's face it, many of them, especially the team leaders are experienced gamers and have dealt with these problems before. It is great to see how positive they are about it all.

Our team leaders are doing a fantastic job of running the builds. They organise their teams, direct construction, teach others how to create more advanced constructions, all while working on their own building jobs, designing defence contraptions and meeting with the teacher to discuss the progress and the parameters for testing day. 

I was able to capture some video footage in-world, while a few classes worked on their structures. Please have look at the video to see what they have done.


  1. Thank you for the informative and reflective update. One of my biggest challenges this year was to step back and let the students take charge of their learning. Probably more teachable moments for me than for my students. It's a refreshing approach to learning and much needed!

  2. Thank you for taking a look at what we are doing and for leaving a comment. This whole project has been a real eye opener for me. Placing the learning into the hands of students can be a bit nerve wracking. To be honest I dreaded it for a while after designing this project. I kept wondering about what I had gotten myself into. Fortunately my excitement at trying this out, outweighed any apprehension I felt.

    I couldn't be more pleased with the results. My students are heavily engaged in these lessons, even those who had their doubts about us working with Minecraft in ICT. The looks on their faces when they teach me something new, or when they help me solve a problem is priceless. I can see their self esteem rocketing up. Many of them are our experts in this area and they teach the rest of us so naturally, without the restrictions of formal lessons. Things just flow so nicely and our sessions are so busy and full of fun. Then the bell rings and nobody makes a move to get up and leave. In the end I have to pretty much force them to log off and get to their next lesson. I wish every lesson could be like this...