I had the opportunity to participate in a podcast/google+ hang out last week with Teachers Teaching Teachers about Minecraft (thanks to @liamodonnell for including me and @MzMollyTL). It was interesting to talk to other educator about Minecraft in the class, and share ideas and experiences. I wish we had more time to talk, and really dig into what we believe the educational value of the gaming is, and debate our philosophies on game based learning in general. That being said, there were still great things discussed. One of the topics we touched on has been bouncing around in my head since then. We came close to discussing the idea of planning activities for students to do in game vs. allowing students to explore on their own and it stuck with me all week.
There were some interesting points for planning structured activities for students and one of the scenarios discussed appealed to me. However, generally speaking, I am in the ‘just let them play’ camp. The discussions, problem solving, team building and discovery that come out of the exploration of the game is amazing (just letting them play). The writing that the game inspires gives opportunities for students to write about something they are interested in, and have it be authentic too. In the case of the wiki we are working on with students in our Minecraft club, it give students a place to vent, ask questions, share what they are doing, and the resources they have found that have aided them.
One of the interesting things that was said about planning activities for students to do in Minecraft was that there is a segment of the student population who get into Minecraft and say: ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Hence the need to have a structured environment with tasks the teacher has set to complete. I get that, and it reminds me of a discussion I had with another teacher who came by during one of my club day and was observing what students were doing. He expressed that he didn’t think this game would engage students for a long period of time because there was nothing to do in the game other than kill sheep. My counter argument was: there is everything to do! The possibilities of Minecraft are as endless as your imagination. Something I, and the educators hanging out on Wednesday at Teachers Teaching Teacher, saw as we toured @MinecraftTeachr’s server. (I am still geeking out over the replica of the Enterprise).
Which brings me back to the students who log in and say ‘I don’t know what to do.’ This is not an unusual comment to hear in class when students are faced with a blank page in their journals. Being given a blank slate can be very intimidating. And I think the problem is roughly the same in writing as it is in Minecraft: the number of possibilities is too much and sometimes you just don’t know what to do or where to start. This got me thinking about what we do in language to address that problem: we generate lists of things we can do/write about and refer to it when we are stumped. It would be interesting to see the kinds of lists students produce if given the same task to do for Minecraft.
I think I’m gonna try that today in my club. (I’ll post pics here for now).
Decided to put them here too.