Minecrafting for Mastery

image Minecraft

William Mangum is CIC at Lamar Middle School. He teaches Video Game Design I and II, Keyboarding, and is Yearbook Advisor. He draws, grows plants, and reads.

Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE) is a game-based learning platform that promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive digital environment.

M:EE was used in my Video Game Design classes to an enthusiastic crowd of middle school students. The students were to demonstrate mastery of the concept of systems, a concept we speak of often in game design, by creating and labeling either a static model or a working representation of either a natural or human-made system. They were told that the systems should function as educational models for early elementary students, and so the individual parts should be labeled and the function of the system should be explained through signage. This requires understanding the difference between natural and human-made and a mastery of a particular system, in addition to mastering the creative tools within M:EE to complete their build. Students were also required to submit a written explanation of their system design in BLEND, where it is located within our M:EE collaborative world, what the parts of the system are and why they chose to represent the system using the particular blocks in their build.

When using M:EE, I wanted students to use higher order levels of thinking, to demonstrate thinking not only in the visuals they create in the game, but also as a written survey in BLEND.

Students were required to:

Create

How can you create a model and use it to teach this information to others?

Evaluate

How would you improve your build?

Synthesize

What makes your build similar and different from your chosen system?

Analyze

How would (a group of 3rd graders) see this? Why would they be able to understand your model?

Apply How would you develop a set of instructions about how to use your chosen system?

Understand

Why did you choose these particular blocks/items to represent your chosen system?

Remember

List the parts of your chosen system in order.


Some tweaks I would incorporate next time:

  • ask for a particular kind of system. A lot of students got stuck not knowing where to start.
  • I was surprised by how many students had never used Minecraft before but did not tell me until the project was late. I believe that providing an intro assignment that requires teaming students of different skill levels would solve this issue. I did a week of intro before we got into the Systems build, but a different approach is necessary for everyone to be successful.
  •  I would also like to pair students in groups to create larger builds. I did have students self-select groups and this worked out very well in most cases where one student was very good at using Redstone and another student was knowledgeable of the particular system. These groupings created more complex working systems that blew me away.
  • There were many issues using M:EE with students on-campus and remotely at the same time. This should be seamless for this kind of digital collaboration, and created many frustrations not only for myself trying to keep students engaged, but the students wanted to be building instead of dealing with networking issues. I will plan accordingly.

For any educator that may still be on the fence about using M:EE, lessons are available on the M:EE website for all core classes, as well as for Visual art, CTE and computer science. As a teacher without a PLC, I can tell you that splitting the work between 3 or 4 teachers would have been nice. Having to create this unit from scratch as well as teach myself to use the new tools in M:EE was a lot of work. My hope is that the District implements professional learning over the summer to draw in core teachers.

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