Thursday, 29 August 2013

Farming Session 2 - 29 August

Unfortunately, I was away sick last week, and we had to miss an important session. So, here we were at Session 2, and with only one session left after this before I am on leave overseas.

After reminding students that I would be asking them who they had worked with, and who they had helped, they were underway.

There were a lot of technical issues at the start, but things mostly settled down until some students were experiencing too much lagging near the end. I thought we had ultra-fast broadband and had been snupped for fast wifi.....

I got myself into Teacher Creative mode, so was able to fly and have a look at the activity from above. But, I still caused a problem by being in the game and not sleeping in a bed at night, so eventually exited and just watched in the room. I hopped back in at one point, because Jg1025 wanted 12 planks while he was mining, so that he could help everyone with access to special tools. So I gave 12 planks to everyone.

Two students had missed the first week (NOCH and D1amond) and were a little overwhelmed at first, at being thrust straight into survival mode with others already underway. One fitted in quickly to another team, and the other felt they weren't able to join other teams that were already big, but when I asked, several students said they were very happy for this player to join their team.

Comments overheard during the session:

"Quiet! It's too noisy, I can't hear the chat." - nice that students want to hear themselves talking amongst each other....
"Don't take our crops!" I asked why someone would do this... The response was, "I bone-mealed them and they wouldn't have survived otherwise." Say no more.
"My pigs have been stolen..." They had been fenced in properly, apparently...
After 45 minutes I asked Ladder56 what crops he'd planted today, "Oh, I'd better get onto that." Hmmm, what is this project all about?

Crops planted or harvested today included pumpkins, potatoes, and carrots. There was also some cooking and eating! Roles evolved, with some students helping their team by doing specific jobs such as collecting seeds, bone-mealing (fertilising) crops, harvesting, mining, building expanded houses, exploring, cutting wood, or crafting sticks or making tools for other members of their teams. Diamond focused on surviving.

I will add more to this post when I have time. I want to diagram the relationships, like last time. But, I do note that every player helped others at some time.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Farming Session 1 - 15 August

The session got under way after I had gone through the Brief for this Challenge. It is farming-related, focusing on growing crops because this is the main theme for the school this term. Of course, my main interest is in the collaboration and engagement of the players - so I'm looking for ways to observe how players support each other, work together, and whether they build a community.

The game is being played in Survival Mode, on easy level. But, this seems to mean that I can't fly over and see what everyone is doing, and if I want to be on the Map, I am in danger too! Is there any way to change that (so students play in Survival Mode, but I don't). Changing my own player settings doesn't seem to help...

Springston Minecrafters Farming Brief

It was VERY noisy at times, particularly near the beginning, because players were entering the world that had been made last week, and it was almost dark so creepers were already attacking before players had a chance to get established. Of course, there was the excitement of finding out about the map they were on, too. My Principal, sitting in the office directly across the hallway, mentioned how loud the voices were and that the students didn't seem to realise. But this is largely a typical group of noisy boys anyway, and there was an awful lot of excitement happening! It was all completely focused on the game, and no one seemed to be at a loose end today.

Some players went off exploring, and as the session passed they found that they were too far from the other players, and came back to where the action was, where they could more easily establish themselves, and where they could be part of the larger group. 

With this diagram, I am trying to show some of the relationships and groups that developed during the first session. Each player has an associated colour, and you can see the lines of that colour representing the links they considered they had made with other players by the end of the game. At the start, everyone was working on their own, some being more anxious about that than others. But partnerships soon began to develop, once the creepers started to attack. Also, with some players helping others, they began to build a connection. Soon there were mainly three clear groups (with one or two still on the periphery to some extent). Some players had built their own farmhouses, but they were too far away, so they apparently destroyed them and eventually formed a larger group that seems to have Jg1025 as the leader. By the end, there were two main groups (one on the left of the diagram), and there was another smaller group (on the right). 

I asked students who they had helped during the session, and everyone had helped someone at some stage, sometimes many times - helping them survive, giving them materials, giving advice (OwlsRCute possibly not being quite skilled enough to help, but working collaboratively, and grateful for Jg1025's assistance when difficulties arose). In fact, Jg1025's assistance of practically every player was fantastic, and I could see the other players gaining a respect for this player's skill and knowledge, and being grateful to be included in his group. This was especially interesting because it was this player who had been banished by the group in the Kiwiana game, for disrupting the play and not focusing on the goals of the project. This change in motivation and obvious willingness to help has led to a noticeable change in his status and was a highlight of the session.

D1amond and NOCH were both away for this session, as was DOXINWHAT (but this player had unfortunately not returned the signed permission slip from a parent anyway).

There were a few technical glitches today, with a couple of players facing multiple freezes and restarts. Very upsetting for them and I don't know what the cause was.

Another problem that occurred (and, not being a player, I don't really understand this), but the players tell me that at night, a player can't sleep unless EVERYONE is asleep at the same time. So, they had to make sure everyone had beds, and then wait till everyone was in them...

I still had players asking to join the Minecrafters group, which is not possible at this stage, but they were welcome to come and watch during the break time.

Before this session I had done some Minecraft plant, crop, and farming researching, finding the following links to be useful (I have never planted crops)!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Kiwiana Project - final thoughts

A few jottings of thoughts, rather than anything coherent this time around. If I don't get the ideas down now, they'll be lost!

Questions I have:

  1. How far to set the boundaries of what students can do or must do in such a school project.
  2. Set criteria for success? But leave this open to choice, how it is approached.

Last week we didn't have a full session (most students were away at sport) so I just had the three senior students and our first job was to record their tour.

After that, I showed them the Minecraft EDU Tutorial...
OwlsRCute, D1amond and DOXINWHAT sped through what had taken me HOURS to make sense of and work through about three months ago! I thought I might have had an advantage, in that I have worked through it before, but no - they were much faster than me - in fact, they did most of it in half an hour. Talk about leaving me feeling inadequate...!

The team and I are keen to have teachers try this out in Term 4, so that'll be exciting to try - for those teachers who would like to.

We also discussed our new project and agreed on the following:

  • Farming (growing) theme as is the theme for the school this term
  • We generated a random world
  • Survival mode
  • Farming - must be crops - will specify number of crops? Variety?
  • Will only have 3 weeks to do this before I go away overseas for a holiday
  • Students will have a choice whether they work with others or not (some want to work with others - security? - others want to work alone)
  • Students may help others or work alongside and support each other
  • Form their own teams if they want to
  • DOXINWHAT pointed out some risks of survival mode - eg - running away from a zombie towards someone else's house, and having the house blow up....
I feel so lacking in skills that, I will have to play in Creative mode so I can fly over and see what's going on? Perhaps one of the criteria is that they have to keep me alive - now.... there's a thought! Ha! Not this time...

Points to note - different personality types?

  • DOXINWHAT prefers to work alone "I'm more of a loner"
  • D1amond keen to work on own too, but not so adamant about it - might like to be near-by, and help others or get help as suits?
  • OwlsRCute afraid of survival mode - agreed with me that you actually genuinely feel the fear - so this leaves me wondering about a benefit of gaming - ie - is this a good way to learn to overcome fears, and give things a go without worrying about real risk and failure? Certainly, in my younger days I was never a risk-taker, and always followed the rules. Then computers came along, and I started trying things out, exploring, trying again - I'm quite a different person now because of that.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

L & Pixels Tour and Commentary

Last, but not least, we have the final tour of the L & Pixels Team's section of the Kiwiana Theme Park. This guided tour was a joint effort, with navigation by OwlsRCute, and narration shared jointly by D1amond and DOXINWHAT (they took turns naturally, and helped each other out when there was a problem).

This is the senior team of Year 7 and 8 students - two very experienced Minecrafters, and one with a lot less experience. They've gone to a lot of trouble adding signs to explain the Kiwiana, and have built interesting theme items that perhaps show more of a food slant to the Kiwiana (and not the most healthy)!

I enjoyed their idea for the maze, with the glass ceiling - I wonder if they realise that getting lost in the maze was a typical Kiwi experience in some ways - as so many Kiwis (New Zealanders) get lost in the bush and need to be rescued!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Moas631 Tour and Commentary

Here is the Moas631 Final Tour, commentated confidently by 'Steve'. 

There were quite a few hitches along the way (some of which probably related to using my Macbook's unfamiliar trackpad for the navigation, rather than a mouse). Hence, you see a few things get accidentally destroyed. Never mind, it was still very interesting, and you can hear the other team members helping out along the way. Nice work!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Blocknchips Team - Tour and Commentary

The Blocknchips Team's final Tour, commentated by KINGFIRE, who did a great job in spite of a few things not going to plan. Still, a great tour of some very interesting Kiwiana construction. Well done!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Kiwifruities Team - Tour and Commentary

This first tour went really well, and NOCH did a great job of the commentary, don't you think!

You will hear the calm surprise in his voice over a few unexpected events, but he carried on quietly and smoothly!

Well done, Kiwifruities!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Minecraft Day 8 - 1 August

I have managed to extend the Kiwiana Project for another day, into Term 3. I sent letters to the parents of the students involved, asking if they are happy to allow their child to continue for another 6 sessions (I will be away overseas on holiday after that) - we will see how many are returned before next week's session, but many came back signed, the very next day after being handed out. I have also checked with the four classroom teachers of these students, and they are supportive of the project and losing their students for an hour a week for a little longer. Aren't they amazing!

The students are VERY excited at the prospect of being able to continue, because they know that I had originally intended to start a new group this term. I do have a lot of students asking if it's too late to be involved, but I only have the 13 spare MinecraftEDU licenses... I'm considering carrying on after school, one day per week - but it's a toss-up between Minecraft, and robotics! Decisions, decisions...

But we really need to wind up this particular project. So, although there was heaps of work to do, it's time to move on and I left the students to get on with the job while I took each Team out to record a tour and commentary through their section of the Theme Park. We got three of these completed (using Quicktime Player's record screen feature), and will do the final one (L & Pixels - the senior students) next week when the younger students will be away at a sporting event for the day.

One student from each team was asked to do the narration, others pitching in if they liked, and taking turns navigating 'me' through what they had made. I will publish these in subsequent posts. On the whole they were pretty good, and the students were keen to 'show me around'. Often they realised that there were things unfinished, and you will notice that the roller coasters weren't working very reliably.... Don't look too closely at the spelling on many of the signs; there wasn't a spell checker - so it's authentic!

I found it interesting to listen to the description of some of the Kiwiana features and 'props' in their projects, and to realise that their understanding about their country and what Kiwiana really is, was not as strong as I had expected. Perhaps they were more interested in the Minecraft and the rollercoasters they could make, after all it was pretty exciting to be using this at school. I think I'll tighten this sort of thing up in future projects...

There didn't seem to be any disagreements today, or at least not while I was in the room! There were lots of requests for Villagers to be allowed, but as they apparently might get in the way, I requested they be added at the end. However, during the tours, we did notice a few sheep had escaped from their pens; a pig appeared and was promptly killed...; a couple of dogs mysteriously appeared in one area (surprising the narrator at the time); and a similar situation occurred with some villagers.... Say no more!

I returned at the end, about 10 minutes before pack-up time, to find a group of VERY happy students, totally engrossed in (apparently) blowing up a wall in one team's building area - all allowed because the team had decided they didn't need something. (Where did that TNT come from..?! There was a look of sheer delight on their faces at this opportunity for legal demolition! It made me smile too :-)

Next week, we'll record the senior team's work, and I will discuss with them the next project, which will have to be short, and will be based on farming (in Survival mode - after many requests, although some are now expressing concern that they may not survive...). It'll be interesting to see if there is more collaboration this way! I also want them to enjoy the MinecraftEDU Tutorial - I hope there's time for all of this!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Minecraft Day 7 - 11 July

The Minecrafters were eager to get under way today. After another initial distraction with flares (boys love bright lights!), we were under way. Jg1025 appeared back after being banned, and was very quiet and humble, obviously having realised that his underground cavern had been discovered. He asked if we'd like him to fill it in. I said there was work to be done elsewhere, and no time to be filling it in. He worked well (after another momentary diamond distraction) building a food stall area in the courtyard, collaboratively with a team mate.

There was a pleasant hum for most of the session, although things got rather heated at one stage between members of the Blocknchips team. I know I should have left them to it to see what happened, but it was getting very angry - raging?! Hmmm, what WOULD have happened.... Anyway, up from the table and talk was my strategy. Sort it out democratically, vote (three members in the team, so majority rules), but make sure each member has something to work on and all have agreed before sitting down again. And boy, do they want to get back to work! So, a good opportunity to work on a strategy for resolving situations that they MIGHT apply again in the future in other aspects of their lives.

I tried to help out by filling in some of the spare allotments with grass rather than the current tiles. I was also called upon to destroy some accidentally placed information blocks. I found that, with this practice, I got quite a bit faster at moving around. I'm looking forward to having more time to practise and learn in the school holidays (over the next two weeks).

I don't think this theme park would meet New Zealand Safety standards - some of the stairways and ladders look very precarious!

I have discovered that there is a server log that I can view and print off, that shows the Chat log from the whole time the World has been running. It'll be interesting to read and see if I can analyse it. Should there be a log that also shows players' actions? That might be rather large to look through though, if it exists...

I have to check with parents and teachers, to see whether they will agree to us carrying on for another 3 weeks next term - we need time to polish a couple of things, time to play, let off fireworks, and explore each other's theme areas, and time to record the tours of each section with a commentary. Then I'd like to give these students the chance to try out the MinecraftEDU Tutorial. I have also asked our Principal if I can have a session after school on a Thursday, for those who don't have to catch the school bus. She was very agreeable, so I'll see if I can get this under way.

Students seemed keen on the possibility of playing in survival mode next term, and building crop farms according to the growth and science theme that will be the focus. Does anyone have thoughts on how to make this really exciting?

There was a bit of excitement as we began to disconnect at the end of the session, somehow an area got on fire, and the flames were beginning to spread - yikes! I think lava was involved, or somehow someone had accidentally started the fire in the cobbled area near the carpark. There was PANIC and urgent calls for me to unfreeze them so they could pour water on the fire. Phew, all was well. And this reminds me, I've noticed that the server does automatic saves (though DOXINWHAT says that's not what's happening, but I notice that when I sign out without saving, everything is exactly as it was when I return, and I carry on from the same position....).

Back in the staffroom, the teachers asked how the session had gone, and laughed when I told them about the panic with the lava and putting our fires etc. It had seemed so real!

I think that it might be fun to have a session for teachers later in the year, to have a bit of a play, instructed by the students.