My 16 year old son, who is a Minecraft expert, is helping me develop several short, simple MinecraftEDU challenges to use with my 4th and 5th grade students as we continue exploring and learning with Minecraft in our STEM class. Last week I had students explore the “Tutorial World” which comes with MinecraftEDU software, running on my desktop PC in my classroom. With 29 students connected to this server simultaneously from our computer lab it definitely lagged at times. My classroom PC has “just” has 3 GB of RAM. For that reason, and because I want to differentiate these lessons / give students choices depending on their knowledge/skill level with Minecraft as well as interests, I’m wanting to create some challenges which will not require students to be on the same server together. The “tutorial world” in multiplayer mode provided a great way to introduce my students to Minecraft, since many have never played before. It was particularly good to have the open chat enabled, since it gave us opportunities to practice as well as discuss digital citizenship in text chats.

I am working on developing several different challenges for students which can appeal to both novice / complete newbie players, as well as intermediate / advanced players. Some of my students are self-professed Minecraft experts. This is one of the beginning challenges Alex and I came up with that I practiced tonight: Crafting ten basic wood and stone tools.

Creating 10 basic tools with wood & stone

In the screenshot above, you can see I’ve created these objects in my inventory: both wood and stone shovels, axes, pick axes, hoes, and swords. The Minecraft “recipes” to craft these items are pictured and detailed on the “tools” and “sword” pages of the Minecraft wiki.

Stone Tools in Minecraft

Stone sword recipe

This task may seem like a simple series of things to do, but there were a bunch of different skills and steps I had to learn and demonstrate to complete this challenge. These included learning to:

– Press and hold the mouse to gather resources / dig. These included wood and cobblestone.
– Dig “stairs” down into the ground so I could find cobblestone.
– Build with dirt so I could build steps when I dug too deeply / didn’t dig steps for myself following a “two blocks forward, one blog down” pattern
– Open and close the “crafting and inventory” window by pressing “E”
– Use the default crafting window to make wood into planks (just put wood into the crafting area)
– Build a crafting table (putting four planks into a 2 x 2 square)
– Move items around in my inventory by clicking on them and dragging them
– Dropping single items in my inventory by secondary-clicking in an empty space when I am holding multiple items at the same time
– Crafting each of the tools mentioned above and the swords using the recipes
– Taking a screenshot within Minecraft by pressing function-F2 on my MacBook Air laptop
– Finding the folder containing in-game Minecraft screenshots (in Library – Application Support – MinecraftEDU – Minecraft – Screenshots

Tomorrow is our third snow day in a row, so I’m going to continue receiving some Minecraft lessons from my son and developing these challenges. My plan is to create single page PDF files I can print and provide to students with some details about the challenge requirements as well as hints for how to complete them. I’ll be adding them to the MinecraftEDU resource page on my STEM curriculum website.

To learn more about Minecraft, check out my son’s 2012 presentation for the K-12 Online Conference, “Creating and Playing in Minecraft.”

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