Saturday, 28 February 2015

Minecraft imagination and collaboration.

I have seen a few tweets about use of Minecraft in school some people seemed less that keen, here is why I would use it.

I had a lovely insight into collaboration via Minecraft not long ago there were four children in the house and not sure how many elsewhere connected online maybe 4-6 others. Aged 8-13 ish as far as I could tell. They were using desktops, tablets and a range of smaller smart devices. They were communicating via f2f, text chats and VOIP.  It was a Saturday and I was working but kept being drawn into their dialogue and being shown what was going on. They played for several hours journeying in and out of each other's worlds. 

To me it seemed like a great opportunity for them to show off / enthuse about / explain what they had made. It is important for self-esteem to display to others the things you are proud of creating. There is a lot of trust involved if you decide to unlock a world for collaboration as friends can then destroy anything you have made. To them that offer of trust was no big deal, it was just a thing they do. A great demonstration of friendship and trust with an undercurrent of adherence to moral values. All characteristics we want children to absorb via life in school.

I saw impressive self organisation of teamwork / use of informal democratic processes for deciding what to make, what to destroy, how to improve what exists, praise was offered where praise was due and there was occasionally a sort of humorous ragging along with helpful suggestions about things that were seen as less than good. Defences were mounted as to why those things were the way they were and the rationale was then understood and often agreed by peers or they joined in developing improvements. From my perspective it had all of the characteristics of an outstanding community of inquiry in action.

Amongst what I saw was a towering tree that appeared to be hundreds of meters high with a very imaginative and well kitted out multi-story treehouse. Peers were impressed, one went off to build one in his world, another suggested "What about we make a roller-coaster to get down from it?" A cantilevered extension was built, a roller-coaster with loops and twists was constructed, it became a sightseeing tour with a negotiated route that included several passes round a massive castle, a jungle treetop excursion and a 360 degree horizontal loop round a farm full or cubic animals. The castle was extended to include an arch over the roller-coaster track that turned into a tunnel. A sightseeing trip through the castle included what appeared to be hundreds of rooms, some full of treasures or massive feasting tables. Long dark steps led down to what I expected to be the dungeons but was a 'man den' that included a 'secret' cinema and gaming complex and an underground lake.

Most seemed to have built castles, forests, lakes, islands, farms, there were partially constructed places they would like in the real world - the inside and outside of "a brilliant school", a variation on our local park, ideal homes and great little villages, the detail and imaginative thinking was quite spectacular. Many had added logos such as giant Batman or Superman symbols, there were 3D constructions or bass reliefs of characters from shows like Sponge Bob, or their favourite superheroes/villains, giant King Kong like gateways and imaginative follies. There were several worlds with pyramids and one pretty good Sphinx. There were no cities, skyscrapers, motorways or other things that belong in the densely populated areas of our real world but then they live in a tiny rural village in Cornwall and Minecraft seems to have no limits on space so there was no need or interest in creating overcrowded places. I am sure city children could have fun imagining improvements to the environment they are used to inhabiting.

I could go on and on and on about what was there but hopefully that is enough of an idea. If I were still working in KS2 I would want a class world in which to let their imaginations run free, in which to develop sharing and caring and collaboration and all the other rich and positive characteristics that define a wonderful class team.  Lego is a wonderful tool but unless you have unlimited budget and space it has to be dismantled and put away. Minecraft offers the opportunity to create a long term world with huge dimensions, possible and impossible creations and deep engagement in independent or social construction. As yet there is no shoot em up element and that is a big plus as far as online gaming goes. 

Digital Lego may look a bit weird to an adult who has not lived in its world and it will not appeal to every child or teacher but that could be said of many other activities and resources used regularly in schools. 

Why wouldn't you?

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