Monday, May 28, 2012

Our Server Has Arrived!

Ethan, Justice Lillian

The three students above hold a special place in my evolution as a teacher. They introduced me to Minecraft. In the fall of 2010 Lillian, Ethan and Justice agreed to teach me how to play and it wasn't long before I had my own account and was hooked. We began attracting others to our group and eventually had to shift to the computer lab because so many learners were interested. Our club, though, had 2 limitations: 

1. We couldn't engage in multiplayer.
2.  Not everyone had an account.

These problems have now been solved thanks to our Ken Spencer Award money and some of my husbands Humber College students.  We now have our own server!  It arrived today to great excitement.

Joel Attrell and Keinan Vella - Humber College students in the Network Support Technician Program
and their prof. Jeremy Brooks 

Keinan explains the components.
Joel gives the students a real world math problem: source the parts and find out the cost of our server.
Include HST.
Our first student logs in!


And then it became the wild west in my room. Shouts, hoots, laughter. Today, those who had their own accounts were able to access, but tonightI will purchase school accounts for our club members. They will be able to access the server any time during the school day from anywhere in the school.

Keinan instructed me on how to manage the server. I learned a great deal and am thrilled to have established this connection between college and elementary students.  More connecting needs to happen. College students have a wealth of expertise and this is a way for them to apply their skills in a meaningful, relevant and real world setting. My students are able to learn directly from highly skilled people. My role has been to facilitate the connection and Keinan and Joel will continue to keep an eye on our server.

What I appreciate about Keinan and Joel is that these are techies who can communicate. They provided clear explanations of complex technology in ways that we could understand. Both are excited about this project and the potential to assist more schools in bringing game based learning to the classroom. 

The server allows 100 players to play with no lag. It has the capacity to go much higher, but that is what we are starting with. It takes 1 second to log on. Info on the configuration of the server can be found on their Educrafting blog: They can also be followed on twitter: @EduCrafting. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Building Our Minecraft Server

We've begun spending our prize money for the Ken Spencer Award. 10 iPad2's have been ordered and the school has piggy backed onto the exceptional discount Apple is offering to educators right now; 20 more have been ordered thanks to the home and school and teachers purchasing for their classrooms.

My husband who teaches information technology at Humber College has connected us to some of his talented students who are building a dedicated Minecraft server for our club. We will be able to have at least 30 players on at a time. Once again, thank you Ken Spencer!  As I type, they are out purchasing equipment. You can follow the build in real time on twitter @educrafting

There has been intense discussion all week from the students in the club who range from grades 3 to 7.   The discussions have been sophisticated and thoughtful.  They've weighed pros and cons of various design options and are extremely curious about how the server will be structured. They've also identified risk factors and implications of decisions that we might make as a group and have begun to hash out conduct guidelines.  A chief concern is who will have administrative rights for the server. These are extremely knowledgeable and thoughtful students and I appreciate their guidance as I am, once again, the level 2 student in the group (well, if I'm being totally honest, level 1).

(cross-posted in The Amaryllis)

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Yesterday at Edcampto  I had my most interesting conversation about Minecraft yet.  A teacher described what happened with Minecraft in his classroom. It was a powerful story.

In his class students built a Minecraft multiplayer server and then spent the entire year building and playing in that world.  Their heart and soul went into it.  For non-Minecrafters I don't know if you can fully understand what this means, but players will get it.   For Minecrafters the world they create is as real as the world they live in.  In some ways it is more real because players have a level of power, control and creativity that they do not have in everyday life.

One student played  for the entire year but never shared with the rest of the class what he was up to. At the end of the school year they found out.  The student had spent the entire year collecting enough dynamite equivalent to the force of the bomb that fell on Hiroshima and then he used it.  He blew up their world.  It took over 7 minutes and the entire class watched as their creation was destroyed.

I am in shock just hearing it.  That day in class ... what was it like?

I am looking for some insight into this part of Minecraft and what happened. Could players comment?
Keep in mind this is an educational blog seen by students.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Grades 4 and 5 Arrive

Minecraft for grades 4 and 5 has begun. I'm just going to record what I hear.

How do I build?
Who's building? Go watch him.

Ready. I've got the TNT. Watch this. (and the pure pleasure of destroying and rebuilding)

Can you help me? I forget how to...

(and from everyone a running record describing their decision making as they play)

I just found lava.

What is that?

Hold down the mouse. Go to.... put the wood here ...

Several students suddenly get up and gather around one all chatting in excitement.

It's starting to get dark.

How do I switch between two?

You need to go to options.

You have to update the Java.

Dude you're in ... there's a brick that turns purple.
Maybe it's obsidian
No it goes purple up and down.

You're launching.

One boy gets up to help another make a portal. Everyone leaps up to observe and then try it themselves.

Constant questions, teaching, observing, learning and celebration when someone masters a new technique.

The ebb and flow of natural learning.

I've got a portal. I've got a portal! I'm going through.

I've found a duck taking a bath.
No, that's just a chicken clucking around.
(disgust) He can't even swim!

And one boy who tries computer after computer trying to get into the game. Finally a girl suggests that he's trying to load the wrong version. Success.

Friday, September 23, 2011

And so it begins ... again.

This is our first true day of Minecraft Club. We ended up splitting the club into two sessions: one for grades 6 and 7 and one for grades 4 and 5.  Most students in the club are already Minecrafters and many have their own accounts.  Several, though, are playing on the free version.  While playing almost all players are describing what is happening on their screens while they play. They verbally identify a course of action and even though many voices are speaking at once ... if an interesting plan arises, it is heard because neighbouring students will pause and watch.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Back at It!

This summer I took a break from Minecraft, but now that the school year has started, I am back at it. Clearly, my students' return to Minecraft has been eagerly awaited; the one question that I am asked most frequently when walking down the halls of my school is, "When is Minecraft starting?" often by students that I do not even know! 54 students have signed up to date. For a club, those numbers are staggering. I think our original group was 4 and we could play in my classroom. I now may have to run 2 sessions per week to accommodate everyone. Gaming is social though and part of the process is gathering in groups, discussing, problem solving, suggesting - the conversation is as important as the playing and creating. Not everyone needs to be at the keyboard at once. This weekend I am participating in a global classroom for Minecraft. I signed up for two reasons: 1. I would like to learn more about the game 2. This represents a new model of learning: students logging in from around the world to participate in a self-selected class. I believe the event is running out of Australia, but I could be wrong. The event targets adults who wish to learn more about the virtual world in which their children create. This event once again demonstrates the power of twitter. Thank you @MissionVHQ for tweeting it; I would never have known otherwise.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I am in the Club!!!!

I don't know what is more exciting: that 3 grade 6 boys invited me to join their team to design a mod for Minecraft or that I understood what they were asking!!!