Thursday, 22 December 2011

New Version, New Video, New Post, New Year?

Greetings, today I managed to get hold of the newest release of MinecraftEdu, version 0.975. I have one word to describe the new features Aleksi has added. AMAZING!!!!!!!

There is now a very advanced 'build menu' in which you can toggle between more powerful map building tools than I could have imagined being put into the game of Minecraft. I know that there are many map editors out there that are super powerful, but I have not had the time, or inclination, to learn them. The building features of MinecraftEdu are just like using standard Minecraft but supercharged, so I don't need to learn any new 'stuff'.

I was so excited by these new features I had to record a tutorial video on what they can do. Here it is.

Another outcome of this new version is a new blog post, of which there have been few lately due to end of year celebrations coupled with sorting out the timetable for next year for my school.

And where you might ask does the 'new year' fit in? I am not entirely sure it does fit into this post, other than me saying: I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a wonderful start to the new year. I would also like to thank you all for taking the time to read my ramblings and hope you continue to enjoy reading them.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Classes are Over.

I haven't posted for a while so I thought I probably should. This is going to be a very quick and mostly boring post.

Why is it that students like to create something, but then are desperate for me to turn fire and TNT on so that they can destroy it at the end? I enjoy the destruction TNT can cause as much as the next person who plays Minecraft, but a friend and I spent hours upon hours creating a 65X65 sandstone pyramid, in survival, not using the /give command and I could not imagine destroying that work. So why after spending a couple of hours creating do they need to destroy too?

I guess I will never understand. I have been super busy creating the timetable for my school ready for the new year so there have been no new videos (or posts), but now that the timetable is almost sorted, hopefully next week I will be able to find the time to record some new tutorials on redstone and also on how to get my 21 question map ready for use with students. If you can think of anything else you would like to see a tutorial on let me know.

Aleksi has been working on squashing bugs and getting another release ready, follow him on twitter (@kulttuuri) for more regular updates than I provide but the one bug that he has fixed that I am super excited about is the minecart/boat bug which made them unusable in multiplayer. So now for some epic rollercoasters for students to ride. He has also worked on a new feature called 'spectator mode' which makes you invisible and doubles your movement speed, sometimes I think the stuff he does is more like magic than programming.

Well there is a post that is all over the place, but at least you know where I am at now, and where I am headed next.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The End of Classes :(

For the first year of my teaching career I actually do not want classes to finish, I would like to spend more time testing MinecraftEdu with students in class. But unfortunately, whether I want them to or not, classes are going to end for around 6 weeks over the summer holidays.

So for my final class for my year 7s I was thinking about a competition for the kids to take part in (if they want). So my plan is to start a brand new world, no night, health or monsters. Each stack of blocks will be worth a certain number of 'points' and they will have 30 minutes to gather their blocks.

They will be allowed to work in a team if they choose and hopefully the winners will be a group of students who worked well together, if there is one thing I want to get across to the students it is that when you work together you get more done, so 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts' or something like that.

So what are my plans with the edu mod over the Christmas holidays? Map making mostly, whilst testing out all the new features that the devs add in that time. At this stage I have no idea what maps I am going to create, or what they are going to teach but as I go through my courses for next year I will be thinking 'how could I use minecraft to help here' or 'how can minecraft be used to help make this concept clearer' or maybe even 'how could the kids create something in minecraft to demonstrate their understanding'.

I have had a sneak peek at my timetable for next year and as a Science/Maths teacher I also have been put down to teach Humanities, which I am super excited about, I think the possibilities of using Minecraft to teach Geography, mapping, History and whatever else is is the course are going to be huge, so I hope I can keep that class then I can bring a whole new faculty into the MinecraftEdu fold.

I also need to make time to sit down with a couple of other members of staff at my school who are interested in using Minecraft to teach. As part of this I will be doing a fair number of tutorials on the features of the edu mod. I will also be recording more tutorials on Minecraft, probably mostly on redstone and some of the cool stuff that you can do with it and what applications those have in a classroom setting as I think this is one area of need for teachers using Minecraft in their classes.

I am hoping to get the time to work some more on my 21 question map, I need to create a script of some sort that will make putting the questions into this map much quicker than the current timeframe of around 2 hours. After talking to a couple of people I have a much clearer understanding of what I need to do to make this work. I am leaning towards using Excel as it is multi-platform, while Access might be easier and faster to generate, it will only work for those on Windows machines. Once I have this working I will put my map up for download by anyone who is interested, with a video tutorial on how to adjust the answers so they are correct in game.

I feel like this is a bit of a boring post, there are no screenshots or links to videos, so I hope you stick around because there will be more of those coming soon.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

New Take, Old Experiment.

Today I used MinecraftEdu to perform an experiment that I have used several times in previous years, but in a different way. Usually I use rulers in a classroom and get the students to measure their reaction time under different circumstances. Today we did it in Minecraft.

The experiment itself was fine, some disruptive students caused me some trouble during the experiment but tactical ignoring and a 'grumpy face' kept most in line.

Again the edu mod performed perfectly, allowed me to teleport students to where I wanted them to be, freeze them so that I could get their attention in real life, flipping creative mode on and off on the fly and the new long build feature was also super useful. To create this map I even had a couple of students help, which coupled with the even newer placeamount command meant that this map was created in record time, just under 2 hours.

Here is the edited footage from the lesson itself.

Now for the reflection.

  • Students that would not normally concentrate in a classroom were asking other students to be quiet and listen.
  • The experiment got done.
  • I felt that I had more 'control' over the students than I have had in the past when using rulers in the classroom. (Odd but true, maybe because the students couldn't move around the room)
  • All students were involved.
  • No rulers were harmed today. (Some have been in the past)
  • I now have a visual representation of their results that I can use to generate discussion.


  • Many students just wanted 'free time' in Minecraft and kept badgering me about it.
  • I feel it might be harder to 'write up' the prac.
  • Disruptive students were distracting others (would have happened in a class anyway so probably not relevant)

So overall how do I feel? To be honest I am not sure, I plan on discussing the results with the class in our next lesson, so in that sense it has changed my teaching procedure as normally I would have made the students write up the experiment and no discussion would have happened.

Would I do it this way again? Probably, but as I did this time, I will most likely do an introductory 'ruler drop' in the classroom the lesson before.

Honestly I am not sure that this was a roaring success, so I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas on the footage I have uploaded, as it might clarify my own thoughts.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Thinking in 3 Dimensions

So after seeing the students create me models in my previous lessons that were 2 dimensional, I thought maybe I needed to be more explicit in my instructions. So my year 7 class had another go at creating me some models. This time my instructions were along the lines of 'create me a model of a human eye in 3 dimensions'.

They started in a clean version of my 3d modelling map, chose their groups and these are the results.

Needless to say I was impressed with what they created. As you can see in the top photo, they even got the eye to 'cry' using a sticky piston and a lever. So students can think in 3 dimensions if you push them into it with explicit instructions.

On a non-class related track, I have attempted to explain the basics of redstone and how to use it to get students to answer questions in-game and uploaded these to my youtube channel. If you are interested you can get to them here.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Journey is Still Going

OK, so I thought between reports and end of year I would not get much of a chance to get more things happening in MinecraftEdu for my classes. But boy was I wrong. I spent almost my entire day in the computer room yesterday working with kids on MinecraftEdu.

I used my 3d modelling map with year 9 in the morning and year 7 in the afternoon. The year 9 group had the task to build a nerve cell, the year 7s had to build me a cell. Here are some screenshots of the work they produced.

Year 9

 Year 7

As you can see the interesting thing is that the students are still thinking in 2 dimensions, even though I used the phrase 'make me a model' most still built them mostly flat.

So that was yesterday, today I yet again got my year 9s onto MinecraftEdu, this time I had build a very quick, in principle map, to teach them the concept of neurotransmitters, synapse and receptors. So they all were put in a room, they couldn't get out. Then I stood on a pressure plate that opened a door for them and they could spill into the 'synapse', then they needed to go and stand on pressure plates 'receptor' to try and send the signal on.

I think it worked quite well, I did record the lesson from my view, as well as the audio as I worked with students, so I will go through the footage and if it is worthwhile I will upload it to my youtube channel. (EDIT: I think it was worth it, check it out here)

This is going to be a fairly long post, I got the new version 0.97 yesterday, which adds functionality with Minecraft 1.0.0, and also adds the '/placeamount' command which allows the placement of up to 30 blocks with 1 click, and, wow does that make building maps quicker, it does make a mess if you click the wrong spot though, so that brings in the '/undo' command, which at this stage only undoes 1 placement, but I was on a server with one of the devs last night and he is hoping to add an unlimited undo.

I think that has brought you up to speed with where I am with my journey now, I have given the year 9 group the task of creating a 3d tour map, but they need to work as an entire class. I will update you on how that is going, as it has not started extremely well, but I think with more prodding they can do it.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Where am I?

Just a quick post to update everyone on what is happening. I am in the middle of writing end of year reports for all of my students, so time for Minecraft has been overruled by reports. I have however been in contact with the writer of this blog, another teacher using MinecraftEdu to teach students. He has mentioned that he doesn't fully understand redstone and how it can be used to get student responses.

He also asked for a copy of my 21 question map to see if he could work it out, so that has been sent off, if anyone else would like to see it just leave a comment and we will go from there. I am also hoping that Andre and I can get together on the school server and I can run him through how the circuitry works.

But while there are plenty of tutorial videos on youtube about how to use redstone, I am planning to do a tutorial on how to use redstone in a classroom context, so keep your eyes here or my youtube channel if you are interested in that.

The big shame of all the end of the year coming up is that all of my classes end in a week or 2, which means I have plenty of time to generate maps that I can use next year over the holidays, but will not be able to test them on students until classes start back next year.

That is pretty much it for now, more updates to come soon if I can get my reports out of the way.