After three consecutive snow days starting last Friday, we’re finally back to school this week on Wednesday and my STEM class will be exploring MinecraftEDU a second week. With the help of my 16 year old son, who is a Minecraft expert, I created three different challenges for students to try based on their past experiences and skill levels with Minecraft. Some of my students are experts, while others have only played Minecraft the 40 minutes we spent in the program last week. I added links to these resources on the MinecraftEDU page of my STEM curriculum resource site.

All three of these challenges are available as a three page, printable PDF file. I’ve embedded the YouTube videos I referenced in the basic and advanced challenges below. I converted each PDF page to images so they can be more readily embedded and viewed in this blog post. I created the first video with the help of my son, for the basic challenge. I completed this “basic” challenge but needed MUCH more time than he did, so I used a screencast recording of his Minecraft gameplay and I provided the voiceover narration. The second video is one I found online.

minecraftEDU: Basic Challenge

minecraftEDU: Intermediate Challenge

minecraftEDU: Advanced Challenge

Please use, modify, and share these MinecraftEDU challenge lesson ideas with others, and let me know if you have suggestions for how they could be even better.

I’ll also be sharing these lesson ideas in the Minecraft in Education Google+ Community and Minecraft Teachers Google Group. I’m eager to see how my students enjoy and are able to complete these challenges this week. Hopefully many will be able to post screenshots of their completed work on our class KidBlogs, which are linked at the top (under each grade level) on stem.wesfryer.com.

If you’re interested in learning more about what my students have been doing with Minecraft, join me this coming Saturday (December 14, 2013) at noon EST on Classroom 2.0 Live for a free webinar titled, “Coding & Games with Kids: Hopscotch, Scratch and Minecraft.”

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  • Mole555

    Interesting adaptation. I am curious why students are starting in single player instead of multiplayer, as well as why they are being asked to “kill” mobs and craft swords and other weapons. In EDU, you can “turn off” monsters to encourage students to work together on projects. The 21st century skills poster that’s posted in our lab states, “Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, and Critical Thinking.” How does singleplayer promote collaboration, and how does killing mobs promote Digital Citizenship? Just curious. I spend a lot of time helping students understand the difference between playing Minecraft for educational purposes vs how they play at home, where the objective is “kill or be killed.” I don’t allow the crafting of swords (yet, since we are still learning how to make basic tools to build, not to fight) since it’s comparable to bringing a weapon to school.
    Just some of the things that came to mind when reviewing your videos and posts.

  • http://www.speedofcreativity.org Wesley Fryer

    Thanks for the questions.

    The first week of MinecraftEDU we started in the tutorial world which comes with the software, making sure everyone was introduced to basic keyboard commands and game navigation. Even though many of my students have played Minecraft before, many of them have not played on a PC, they’ve played on a console or tablet. I’d estimate about half of my students in each class haven’t played at all, previously. I wrote a bit about this in my Dec 10th post, “MinecraftEDU Beginner Challenge: Craft 10 Basic Tools with Wood and Stone.”

    http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2013/12/10/minecraftedu-beginner-challenge-craft-10-basic-tools-with-wood-and-stone/

    I only have this group of 300 students for a combined total of 200 minutes or less in this semester, and last week and this week are the only times I could reserve the computer lab for us to use MinecraftEDU. After this semester these students will transition to Art next semester, and won’t have STEM class any more. So while I’d love to do some larger collaborative projects with them using MinecraftEDU, with the limited time we have (lessened further by snow days and holiday performance schedules, etc) these two weeks I’ve needed and wanted to introduce them to the basics of gameplay while also providing challenges for the more advanced students. I definitely want to promote and foster collaboration, as one of my goals for using the software, but I also want to help students develop their independent capabilities to play the game. So knowledge, experience and confidence with individual gameplay is important as well.

    Here are the main reasons I included the intermediate challenge as hunting MOBs:

    1- I gave an optional survey to all my students, but they had to complete it at home as we didn’t provide time in class to submit answers. Only 13 responded, and 100% of those indicated they wanted (after our 1st week of collaborative play on the server) to play individually:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/11347293166/

    Many students expressed a desire to play in survival mode, and many students have not had prior experience playing in survival mode. Since survival mode is an important part of gameplay, I thought it was important for students to have an opportunity to develop those skills. As it turned out, most of my students this week either opted for the beginner or the advanced challenges.

    2- I am still trying to work out ways to optimize gameplay when we’re connected to our server, which is my classroom desktop PC. Keep in mind this is only the second week we’ve been using MinecraftEDU software, so I am not trying to portray myself as an expert on Minecraft or the software… I’m just sharing what I’ve come up with based on ideas and suggestions I’ve heard from others, in the hope that I’ll get feedback that will help me make this experience better for students in the future… and possibly help other teachers wanting/trying to do similar things. Our IT department installed a fourth gig of RAM on my computer earlier this week, which should help the server performance, but we’ve seen a big difference in lag when more features are enabled in the server world compared to the tutorial world. So… I needed this week to create most of my challenges so students would be working independently, NOT on the server, to lessen the load on the server for those who were connected. By having 2 out of 3 challenges for single player gameplay, I hoped I’d have a majority of students in each class OFF the server, and those who were on the server enabled to have a “less laggy” experience because 29 students weren’t on simultaneously. Our school network routers are apparently configured to disallow peer-to-peer networking between lab computers, so the only way students can play multiplayer at present is to connect to my classroom server. So, issues with having all my students on the same server at once (I have between 22 and 29 students in each of 11 classes) are big reasons I setup the challenges this week as I did… and didn’t emphasize collaboration for everyone.

    3- A last reason I setup the second challenge as MOB hunting was because it can provide a way for students to “prove” (via an inventory screenshot) that they successfully completed the challenge. While I have listened to MinecraftEDU podcasts in the past few months, joined the MinecraftEDU teachers’ Google Group and G+ Community, and have spent some time looking elsewhere for lesson ideas, this was one of the better ideas I came up with brainstorming with my son about different challenges I could provide to my students given our classroom server and time constraints.

    I haven’t and wouldn’t claim hunting MOBs in Minecraft promotes digital citizenship. In my Dec 10th post, I noted in the first paragraph how using the open chat feature the first week when we were ALL in the MinecraftEDU tutorial world did provide good opportunities to discuss and practice digital citizenship.

    I hope those answers shed some more light on why I chose to setup these challenges as I did. Certainly at no time were students told they had to “kill” anything, they had and have 3 different challenge options and only one (the second challenge) involved killing MOBs. I’m certainly going to continue reading and learning about the different ways other teachers are using and encouraging students to use Minecraft and MinecraftEDU, and will definitely include more collaborative challenges with my students next semester when we have more access time in our computer lab. I’d like to have my students participate in some building as well as crafting challenges and probably will. At this point we are just getting started, and I’m learning as much or more every day than the students are.

    Is there a place you’ve shared some of your MinecraftEDU lesson plans and ideas? If so I’d love to check them out and see if they’d be good for me to adapt and use with my classes.

    Thanks again for your comment and questions.

  • Mole555

    Thanks for the reply. It makes more sense now as to what you’re doing and why. I have a YouTube channel with some vids of the builds kids are doing both during school, and in my after-school Minecraft Club: http://www.youtube.com/user/mole555/videos?shelf_id=4&view=0&sort=dd
    The collaboration piece is one of the most powerful parts of Minecraft, and even when students “forget” to work together, or build weapons instead of tools, it creates opportunities to have discussions about what it means to be a “digital citizen” and what 21st century skills really MEANS.

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