Friday, March 21, 2014

Cluster Conclusion: What Have We Accomplished?

One more meeting. That's all we have left. Our Enrichment Cluster is almost complete. Our Enrichment Showcase takes place next Friday, and we are ready to show off our work!

The enrichment program at our school is the whole reason I was able to bring Minecraft to the campus, and I'm so proud and satisfied with how everything turned out. Our 2nd and 3rd graders have been so excited to arrive on Friday mornings to get their world built and perfected. Their ideas and collaborative work has been so impressive - they think of way more interesting and creative things than I ever could. This group of students who barely knew each other have worked so well together to create such an interesting place for our showcase audience to see.

The "Hershys Kiss"

Today's meeting involved a lot of discussion about the technicalities of exactly how we should share our Minecraft world with the audience next week. The students had some really great ideas:

  • Log into the computers as ourselves, arrange our avatars in strategic places around the world, then use the teacher tool to freeze them in place. That way, audience members could use their frozen avatars to see the world but would be restricted from moving around and potentially destroying things.
  • Log in as ourselves, jump into a minecart and then freeze the avatars. Then the audience members could take a guided tour of the world.
  • Change the spawn point to the entrance of the minecart tour so guests could just hop into a minecart and be shown around, but would be free to exit and see inside buildings where the minecart doesn't go.
  • Put signs at the spawn point with the rules about how to behave in the world, but let guests freely explore. (One student even created a "punishment chair" in the forest where, if a guest was behaving badly, we could teleport that guest to the chair. The chair really was a hole that went down below bedrock, which would effectively "kill" the guest and end their session. I thought this idea was hilarious!)
One concern that Mrs. Shrull and I brought up was that if we let audience members play and explore our world, we would get a massive backlog of people waiting to take part. We talked about the ultimate purpose of the showcase, which is to give the cluster students a chance to show off their product and tell about what they learned. We all decided that in order to accomplish this goal, we would have our cluster students man the controls and talk to guests about their learning while showing their constructions. This way we are able to control how much time a guest spends visiting our table, and our kiddos get a chance to speak to a captive audience.

Once the discussions were complete, the students logged into Minecraft to put the finishing touches on their buildings. They decided, with ten minutes left in the session, to make a sign in the sky that said "The Great Minecraft Experiment". This was really funny to watch, because they didn't really make a plan beforehand. There was some confusion as to how the word "great" was spelled (was it "grate" or "great"?), so for about 5 minutes kids were transforming the "e" to an "a" and back again. Finally Mrs. Shrull intervened and made sure everyone knew how it should be spelled. While the kids worked on this sign, I backed my avatar far away from the city so they could see on the projector how the sign was progressing from a different angle. One student made a line of red wool to show where the bottoms of the letters should be. Great idea!

The Great Mine_______

We also tried an interesting experiment with fire and lava. One young man had made a fireplace in the mansion, and wanted me to enable fire so he could light it. I suppose I should have checked out the fireplace first but I didn't, so we all learned a valuable lesson. You can't make a fireplace out of wood, or it will catch your entire wooden mansion on fire! This was funny but so sweet to watch, because all the kids stopped what they were building and rushed over to the fire to help put it out and rebuild after the damage was done.

A few minutes after the mansion fire, another student talked me into trying to enable lava so he could make a lava pillar. This time I had learned my lesson, so I made him show me where he intended to put the lava. He assured me that the lava would be entirely contained in some iron bars, so we decided to see what would happen if I enabled fire long enough for him to place the lava but disabled it right after he was done. Would the lava disappear? It turns out that lava stays put even after fire is disabled. Good to know!

The lava pillar

9:00 came way too quickly, because they hadn't quite finished the sign. We are going to meet for about 15 minutes right before the showcase begins to give them a chance to wrap it up. Hopefully they can get it finished!

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