Monday, January 21, 2013

Minecraft Project: Setting The Ground Rules

When I introduced this project there was a buzz in the air. Some kids were squirming in their seats just trying to control their enthusiasm, some kids perked up - interested and eager to learn, some kids rolled their eyes and let out a small sigh, but all kids felt the excitement. It was probably radiating off of me a little bit.

So I brought the kids to the carpet and we sat in a cluster to talk about the Ground Rules.

I introduced the project as a Ratio, Proportion, Scale and Spatial Awareness project. I explained that Minecraft can be a game and/or a tool for building things. I made it clear that we were going to use Minecraft as a tool in this scenario. Yes, it would be fun. Yes, it would be creative. Yes, it would be interactive. Yes, it would be challenging. I explained that I anticipated the biggest challenge being in store for the "crafters" (experienced Minecraft players).

"Why would it be harder for us?" Asked one of the pros with a confident doubt. 

"Let me explain the ground rules." I replied. "Imagine I give you a math task and everyone gets a calculator to help them do their calculations. The project is not about how well you use the calculator it's about knowing what to do with the calculator. It's just a tool to help you achieve a goal." Then I proceeded to ask the class, "Do you think it would be fair if every student got to purchase their own caliber of calculator for this task, or should everyone use the same one?" The class agreed that to be fair everyone should use the same one. I used this analogy to help the students see why we were all going to use the same "Ground Rules"in Minecraft. I did get a few moans from the crafters, but ultimately they approached the project differently. I often repeat, Minecraft ccan be a tool or a game. And this was starting to make sense to them.

1. Everyone builds in Single Player mode - offline
2. Everyone builds in the following modes
Creative: allows you to build using hundreds of different materials almost of which are identical cube formation, save for doors, windows and decorative pieces
Peaceful: This is the difficulty level. Peaceful means there will be no threats to the players (ie. creepers, spiders, etc.)
Super Flat: The world is generated as a flat grassy landscape
Cheats ON: Allows players to change the time of day and the weather (important when building for more than 12 minutes to force daylight and stop rain)
Generate Structures OFF: Just to stop the blobs and villagers from distracting you while you build 
3. No modifications or 'mods' - keeps an equal playing field for all 
4. Each student will have 200 minutes of class time to build and absolutely no building can be done outside of class. This could be flexible depending on certain circumstances, but is a general guideline and goal to work towards.

It took a little while for the ground rules to sink in and there sure were a LOT of questions. Eager to start, everyone quickly realized this was a much more complicated endeavor than they had originally thought. There would be quite a lot of planning and preliminary work to be done before anyone got their tapping little fingers into Minecraft. And this wasn't going to be a free pass to play, play, play whenever they wanted. 

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