Friday, March 21, 2014

Area and Perimeter World - Check it Out!

I finally made a decent walk-through video of the 3rd grade area and perimeter world! I used a better desktop computer and the trial version of Camtasia, and that seemed to do the trick. Now the hardest part is walking around smoothly enough to not give the audience vertigo.

Take a look at these homes! The kids did an awesome job of creating and calculating area and perimeter. (Warning: video is about 17 minutes long!)

**Edit** If the below video does not show, click here to view on YouTube.

Mrs. Smith's Class - Area and Perimeter City

By the way, did you notice I successfully embedded a video into my blog? I learned that you won't see an embedded video until the post is published. I figured that out after an hour of trying to decipher HTML code and then giving up and hitting "Publish". Always something new to learn!

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!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Cricket in Times Square

Today I spent some time in Ms. Ferriola's 2nd grade TAG class teaching the basics of Minecraft so they can begin a really cool project. The students just finished reading A Cricket in Times Square, and they want to recreate the main settings from the story within Minecraft. One student even suggested they reenact the story once the setting is built!

Ms. Ferriola and I spoke a couple of weeks ago about beginning this adventure, and she did a great job prepping the 2nd graders. When I walked into the room today, they had already mapped out exactly what was going to be built, who was going to construct it, and who was the "project manager" in charge of each building. In addition, they had agreed upon rules of conduct and consequences for breaking those rules.

We spent most of today just learning the controls, although a couple of the students had already played Minecraft on the PC and were able to begin constructing. I watched one 2nd grader figure out the perimeter of the floor of his pagoda. Math AND reading integration!

Times Square begins!

I'm excited to see how the world turns out. I've taught Ms. Ferriola how to run the server, so she's going to be heading this project while I just check in from time to time. Minecraft is starting to spread around our school. Awesome!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Meeting with @JoelLevin and @EduElfie!

I was super lucky to get to attend the SXSWEdu convention this week, and my co-pilots (does this make sense if we are all piloting Minecraft together?) and I made sure to attend the MinecraftEdu session hosted by Joel Levin (who started the whole MinecraftEdu thing) and Stephen Elford (an Australian teacher who started with Minecraft early on).

Although I have pretty much mastered gameplay and the MinecraftEdu teacher tools, I still came away with some good information and insights:

1. Whenever you get a group of people together who are interested in learning/playing Minecraft, inevitably there are a bunch of them who have never played. This seems to be true for both kids and adults.

2. Adults are just as noisy when playing Minecraft as kids are. Maybe even more so.

3. Minecraft can be used with pretty much any age level, and within almost any subject area.

4. Even the pros only use Minecraft a little bit during the year. Teachers are still responsible for teaching tons of content, and we can't get it ALL done in Minecraft. Stephen said he only uses it maybe 10 hours total for an entire school year. That's really not that much.

5. Joel made a Hunger Games-based world, and it's really cool. I'll need to play it more to get a better idea of the mechanics.

6. The World of Humanities map is amazing. It uses an NPC mod to make characters that you can interact with. I'll need to take a look at both of these some more.

It was great to meet these Minecraft role models!

Recording a World - Not as Easy as I Thought?

Last Friday I spent quite a while touring the area and perimeter world while recording my trip using Jing. This turned out to be really frustrating because:

- Jing only allows you to record in 5-minute increments. This isn't going to cut it. I suppose I'll need to invest in something like Camtasia Studio?

- I was doing this on my laptop. When I was in-game, it was smooth and the graphics loaded nicely. When I watched the published video of the walk-through, though, it was horribly choppy. I am wondering now if I need to use a better computer? If that's not the problem, I am unsure what to do next.

I know it's possible to make great recordings of Minecraft gameplay, because I see them all the time on YouTube. Now I'm off to Google some solutions...