Thursday, January 16, 2014

Enrichment Cluster: Day 1

The first Friday back from the winter holiday was an exciting one. It was the first meeting of the Minecraft cluster, comprised of 16 2nd and 3rd graders from different classrooms.

I am running this cluster with a co-teacher, Mrs. Shrull, who is one of our TAG teachers and who also has a Minecraft-obsessed son.

We began the meeting by taking roll and introducing ourselves and our two 5th grade helpers. We then asked each child about his or her personal Minecraft experience and proficiency level. Here is what we learned:

  • All of the students have played Minecraft before.
  • Almost all of the students had only played Minecraft Pocket Edition (PE), which is the version available for tablets.
  • A few of them had played on Xbox 360.
  • Only a couple had played on a PC.
  • Most students described their proficiency level as mid-level, although a few were self-described "Minecraft Gods".

We showed a teaser video about the cool things people have created within the Minecraft environment, as ultimately the goal will likely be to have the students collaborate on some kind of creation. (With enrichment clusters, the end product is supposed to be student-driven, so it's difficult to predict what the kids will ultimately decide to do)

Then we began a draft of our group's rules for behavior, which we can modify in the future as needed. The rules the kids decided on were:
  • Always sign on with your real first name. (This was the only rule written by the teachers, but was necessary for management purposes)
  • No griefing. (This means no messing around with other people's stuff)
  • Don't kill each other.
  • Help each other.

Based on the data we gathered about the students' experience, we decided it would be best to begin with the MinecraftEdu tutorial level. Playing on a PC is VERY different than using an Xbox or tablet, so this would help level the playing field.

With 15 minutes left of our meeting, we had the students move to their PCs and showed them how to log into MinecraftEdu. This involved explaining how to go through C: to Program Files (since I still haven't had a chance to figure out how to fix that), but they did great. We also had to explain what an IP address was and why they needed to type it in. 

Signing in

(Management note: because students are not using accounts, their preferences and work are saved based on PC rather than user account. To combat this, we made sure to assign a computer to each student. They will use that computer throughout the cluster. What will happen once these machines are replaced during our computer refresh? NO IDEA.) 

Learning the controls

Once we got everyone connected and in the tutorial world, we let the kids start exploring. A few kids needed help with the controls, but everyone quickly mastered the basics. We did not get to progress very far in the level, but will continue where we left off at the next meeting!

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