Last week, I (at last) got around to working in Minecraft with my class. It really is an exciting milestone for me as it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Also, it’s related to a writing project (The #20WC/#30WC/#50WC) that I started with my class, and which has grown over the course of the year. You can check out what my class has done here.
Basically, kids write about the stuff we are doing in class, share it with an audience, and we get feedback from there to help guide us in what we should do next. I try to give my students a writing focus, but mostly this focus is to be interested in learning and writing. The kids have their own blogs, and these are commented on by kids from all over the country and around the world.
I love them all, but am particularly stoked on this one by a visiting kinder kid who came to my class this week for just two sessions.
The way it works is that students tell me what they plan to be building in Minecraft, they write it down in their books, I help them edit it, then they draft a post before checking it, correcting it and publishing it. After they have done this they get some time to work on their builds in Minecraft before coming back and writing another post about what they have been doing.
It’s been very engaging for both myself and the kids as I like to be in Minecraft building with them also. For instance, the kids kept getting lost when going between each others buildings, so I built a cobblestone pathway between them all and placed signs displaying who was building where – scaffolding at its best! You can see some screenshots of our fledgling K/1L World below.
Something quite amusing happened this week, which was actually also quite serious form a six year old’s (or a teacher who knows anything about Minecraft) point of view – one of my students decided to spawn a wither! For anyone who doesn’t know what a wither is, it’s basically a three-headed skeleton boss mob which floats around shooting exploding skulls at anything it sees. They actually take a bit of effort to spawn – you need to find soul sand, place it in an upstanding ‘T’ and then place a wither skull on top. This kid knew what he was doing!
You can see the destruction they are capable of below. I spawned one in my own personal world and it went around shooting at all of the NPCs and other mobs that were hanging around. I tried to kill it with a diamond sword and the fight went on well into the Minecraft night – lulz.
The incident in which one of my students spawned a wither actually provided an opportune ‘teaching moment’ in regards to digital citizenship and the effects that your personal online/virtual behaviours can have on the others with whom you are sharing that space. Immediately upon hearing, “Mr. Hewes! Student A has spawned a wither!”, I rushed over to the computer, shut Minecraft down and gathered students together to have a class discussion on digital citizenship.
I explained that withers are very destructive and that spawning one introduced the possibility that all of our hard work building could go to waste. I explained that no one would be allowed to reenter K/1L World until we figured out how to get rid of it, knowing fully that all I had to do was switch Minecraft over to peaceful mode and then back again. We discussed how what we do within K/1L World has effects on everybody else in the class and that we have to act responsibly. We discussed how the wither had already caused damage to another student’s home.
The kid who spawned the wither apologised to the class and we told him that we forgave him. He agreed to write a blog post explaining what had happened, that he realised it was a bad idea and to write what he had learned from the experience. In his post he is going to explain:
Why it was not the best idea.
What I have learned.
The beginnings of that post is below:
I spawned a wither and it killed T’s home.
The wither destroyed some of the world.
I am currently about to start pushing kids a little bit harder for a greater quantity of writing. So I might get him to write at least 3 sentences for each section to make it his most epic blog post yet (I’m a meanie). Then he can get back in and play!