I decided it was time to break out of my safe zone of using pre-made worlds that other, more talented people than me have created. MinecraftEdu has all these helpful world-building tools, and here I am avoiding them like the plague. Why? Because I'm afraid I won't do it perfectly, so I'm not even trying to do it. (I'm one of those people)
Yesterday afternoon, I bit the bullet and gave it a try. I launched a new world - not perfectly flat, because kids don't seem to like that as much - and put myself in build mode. What I envisioned was making something like I've seen on YouTube with Elfie, Joel Levin and others with fantastic portals that transport you to other parts of the map. Yeah, that didn't happen.
I flew to a big body of water and used the build tools to make a huge rectangular layer of grass. Then I fenced in the perimeter of the rectangle with the border blocks, so the kids would have to stay on my island. Then I put fencing around the perimeter and created little build areas for students to create in, and gave each area a crafting table, a furnace and a large chest. I laid out big blocks of stone, coal, wood planks, and iron ore for the students to mine. (The build tool can be a dangerous thing if you're not paying attention. I accidentally created a huge block of fencing which took a while to undo. Too bad Ctrl+Z doesn't work in Minecraft!)
Luckily, Thursdays is when my Tech Club meets, and they're ALWAYS up for testing out Minecraft. We spent the first 20 minutes of the meeting testing out my new build area.
Here's what I asked them to try:
- Escape the island by any means you can think of
- Find flaws in my creation
- Use the materials and build areas to make something
Here are the results:
- My border blocks worked! Nobody was able to get off the island - not even by falling into the ocean and swimming underneath
- I totally should have made the grass layer more than one block thick, because I spent the next 20 minutes constantly teleporting people out of the ocean and back to the surface (until I remembered that I could turn on surfacing and they could do it themselves - push the letter M and click "teleport back to surface")
- The kids immediately started moving the crafting tables closer to the resources. When asked why, they said it was easier to use that way.
- I need to disallow building under my fencing, because some kids moved it around.
- Some people built structures in the build areas, but some kids used the now-mined resource areas to make houses. I hadn't thought of that, but it was a clever idea.
What the kids told me I should do differently:
- Put a layer of obsidian under the grass so it can't be mined through. When I pointed out that obsidian can be mined, he pointed out that I wasn't handing out diamonds or diamond pickaxes, so it wouldn't matter. Good point.
- Make the build area bigger. They said it was too crowded for all of them to use at once.
- Let them get off the island somehow once the build objective had been achieved. (This is something I intended to do, but ran out of time to try)
- Make it so that the crafting tables, furnaces and chests can only be used by the people who have ownership of those things. (I don't know how to do this yet)
My kids are so smart. They think of things that never occur to me! I need to make a separate club for Minecraft, because once we got started playing they didn't want to stop - not even to make stop-motion movies!