Friday, October 26, 2012

Suvival? Not so much.

The Map: A modified "Sky Conqueror." This map consists of four floating islands. Each successive island is richer in resources than the islands prior. They also increase in difficulty, with more complex dungeons and stronger baddies. It would be extremely difficult to travel between islands without cooperating, let alone survive and explore once you get there.

 The Mission: Find the next island.

Day One:

Everyone died.

After being dropped into the world, the boys immediately spent the day exploring. One became stuck in the bottom of a mine and spent 10 minutes frustratedly jumping while his peers ran around above him. Another tried building a tower while two of his classmates chopped it down from below. Then night fell, no one had a shelter, and everyone died.

Well, everyone would have died, had I not turned off monsters at the last minute and frozen all of the players to discuss the situation.

Their observations and plans for next time:
We need to work together.
Help another player when he gets lost or stuck.
We'll build a large one-room shelter where everyone can stay for the first few nights.
We need a plan.

Until next time,
Mr. T.

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's not a house, it's a home

It took us at least five minutes to pose for this picture. I told the boys I wanted a group photo and they then ran, swam, and flew around until finding the perfect location. Then, somehow, they convinced me to let them have swords. Gotta look tough.

The problem with the after school club is that kids leave at different times -- we started with seven boys but, by the time we got around to the group photo, were down to just three.

The current project is very straightforward and open-ended: Build a house. They're working in creative mode and can use any materials they want. As you can see in the background, everyone decided to use something different and go for a different style. One house is underground, another has a glass roof, one is straight-up TNT, and two students are building extensive hidden tunnels to connect their houses. 

The coolest moment so far happened after the student building the TNT house went home (in real life). Another boy decided to start destroying his building. The other kids noticed and told him to stop, that he was being rude. He apologized, rebuilt what he'd destroyed, and went back to constructing his house.

The whole incident lasted less than 30 seconds and I doubt any of them gave it a second thought, but I was extremely impressed. They self-regulated to enforce good citizenship and the vandalizing student responded positively. If they only acted that way during lunch!

We finish this activity today, and Wednesday we move into cooperative survival mode.


Monday, October 15, 2012

It's happening!

I lead a boy's club at school, and all of the boys are into video games. Within the last week or so, our meetings have comprised of two parts: Playing Minecraft and discussions centered around Extra Credits videos.

It is fun.

I currently have everyone in a small playground world building the best houses they can. Screenshots and a better writeup to follow later this week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I'm still waiting for the game licenses from MinecraftEdu, so things haven't moved forward much as of yet. My plan is to teach a Minecraft after-school class starting in five weeks. That class, part of the after-school program at my school, will serve as a sounding board before I launch the actual class itself. There are two main issues I hope to resolve through the after-school class: How to differentiate for the 'experts' and novice gamers, and any and all technical issues that may arise. Particularly since many of my after-school students are experience Minecraft players, it will be a good venue to run smaller modules and experiments.

In the meantime, let's talk money.

Minecraft isn't cheap. Even excluding hardware, if you go through MinecraftEdu, 25 game licenses and their custom mod come to $376. I was able to raise around $100 more than I requested. The surplus will either go toward more licenses or a wifi router dedicated solely to running a Minecraft LAN. I'm going to keep it in my back pocket until we start running it and see whether the router is necessary.

I fundraised by working through Paypal. Some other options are Donor's Choose or Kickstarter. Below I've outlined the pros and cons of each.

A 'Donate' button from Paypal is probably the easiest and most straight-forward method. It's also the one that requires the most trust from your donors. As far as I know, there's no way to display a tracker for how much money has been donated. I updated my blog with the current total once a day but, again, this relies upon the trust of my donors. You can learn how to use Paypal for donations here.

DonorsChoose is probably the go-to site for educational fundraising. The only problem -- Minecraft isn't on its list of trusted suppliers. If you want to raise money for Minecraft through DonorsChoose, you have to have already completed at least three other projects through the site.

Kickstarter is probably the other well-known fundraising platform. Kickstarter focuses on creative projects with a specific output -- documentaries, murals, computer games -- as such, you'll need to get creative and thorough with your Minecraft project proposal to have it approved. Here is an example of an educational Minecraft project that was approved and successfully funded.

I'm sure there are many other ways to go about fundraising, but those are the three options I explored. I'd love to hear other ideas.

Hopefully my post next week has good news about moving our project forward!