Thursday, September 20, 2012

Well that was fast

Gigih, thank you. Your generosity and faith in a project you've only read about, organized by a person whom you've never met, is truly touching. I'll make sure my students know that someone from literally the other side of the world believes in their potential and knows that who they become and what they will do can affect the entire world.

I'm going to document this endeavor rather heavily and, even before I actually implement it in the classroom, I'll make sure to post updates on this blog at least once a week. Everyone in Internetland deserves to know how things are progressing. Hopefully, the better my documentation, the better this blog will function as an educational resource for teachers interested in similar projects.

To everyone who donated, I can't thank you enough. Maraming, maraming salamat kayo.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The plan & the pitch

Hello, world!

This is the first of what I hope will be many posts documenting the work of my students and I as we explore the use of Minecraft in the classroom. I have a lot of excitement, a lot of plans, and an incredible amount of support from my school staff and administration. This is a project everyone hopes to see grow from a dedicated class to an educational tool that can be used across the curriculum

Before that can happen, though, we need to actually purchase the game licenses. A classroom set and the educational mod developed by the folks at MinecraftEdu will cost a total of $400. Before we can implement, before we can use a video game to construct a castle using Boolean logic, reenact the Hunger Games, or learn about the struggles of young civilizations by creating our own, we need to raise the money.

You'll see a donate button on the right-hand side of this page. Please, donate. I will remove the button as soon as we've raised the $400. If we raise more, we can buy more licenses and more kids can use the program simultaneously. There is, of course, something in it for you, and I don't just mean the joy you'll get from reading these posts and watching the videos I upload. Donate $25 or less and we'll name a monument in our world after you. Donate any more, and you get a town named in your honor.  The sooner we do this, the sooner my 7th graders can begin exploring.

So here it is: the pitch. 

For students to grow truly engaged and curious about learning, the content must connect directly to their lives. Traditionally, this hook would be an outside speaker or a discussion about how the material affects the world around them.

One of the most powerful hooks, however, is also one of the most frequently overlooked: Video games. Games are pathways into other worlds, playful windows into which one can disappear for a while. They are chose-your-own-adventure par exemplar.

And then there is Minecraft. Minecraft doesn't just allow students to explore worlds, it encourages students to create them. Players become architects, engineers, hunters, farmers, artists, sociologists, storytellers and world-builders.

Minecraft is often described as a "sandbox" game. Much like in a playground sandbox, the only creative limitation is the creativity of the students themselves. And much like a playground, Minecraft acts as a microcosm of wider society. Yes, players construct castles and fight zombies.
They also learn to work together, to compete healthily, and to examine how their world is structured.

In my 7th grade classroom at New Los Angeles Charter School, my students will use Minecraft to learn about themselves, their world, and the rise and fall of civilizations, both ancient and modern. As they play Minecraft, they will intuitively explore how civilizations grow, falter, and co-exist alongside explorations of electrical engineering and logic systems.

I am developing a two-month course, during which students will create their own resource-driven society and then interact with the societies developed by other classes. They will face a stark choice -- interact and work together, or collapse.

The use of Minecraft will extend beyond this primary two-month course.  An after school club will be developed and Minecraft will also be used to convey specific concepts in core classes. These concepts can range from the development of trading routes in ancient Ghana to electrical switches to the architecture of ancient civilizations.

We will document this entire process through a class blog that will include postings and videos by both myself and the students. At its culmination, the entire project will be compiled in one comprehensive guide to using Minecraft in the classroom across curriculum. 

By the end of the school year, the 7th grade students at New LA will have used Minecraft to create and develop their own robust civilizations and world. Through Minecraft, they will experience a holistic and hands-on exploration of concepts that are simultaneously academic, societal, and moral.

Our culminating output will be twofold: The world the students create and the documentation of the project itself. The world will reflect what happens when 100 12-year-olds are given the power and the freedom to create and grow as they see fit. The blog of this project will ultimately function as a template for other teachers looking to either have a dedicated Minecraft class or simply incorporate Minecraft into their core subjects.

Our computers are in carts like this: