middle school technology

Getting Started with #MysterySkype

After having experienced the engagement and learning thatcan take place with just a few sessions of Mystery Skype, I’ve decided to write up a piece on what I did with Mr. Nixon and his class to help prepare for our very first session. Hopefully, this will help others see how we got started, and give them a jumping point to get started in their own classroom. There are many ways to get started with Mystery Skype, and there isn’t just one correct
way to do it. Every teacher will find that it’s different in their own classroom, and so shouldn’t compare themselves to what they see online. Research what different classrooms do, and do what works best for YOUR classroom, not someone else’s.


-Skype account
-Decent webcam

-Laminated US or world maps (optional)
-Dry erase markers (optional)
-iPad or other device for students (optional)

If teachers are going for the bare minimum, then all one needs is a webcam and Skype account to get started. Anything else is extra. Skype accounts are free, and the Skype program is as well. A teacher will need to download the program to get started, and then follow the steps to install it to the computer. As for a webcam, it’s best to get one with HD quality video so that your students will be easily seen by the other class, and quick movement won’t create too much of a blur. We used the Logitech HD Pro C920 Webcam that I had on me for my TIS work. I love this particular webcam, and I also have the same webcam at home. It’s good quality, and picks up sound with its microphone fantastically.

Even though this is considered optional, I certainly wouldn’t forgo having a laminated map and markers for any Mystery Skype session! For our project, I found a copy of the map of the United States online that at least showed capitals. I also found another map that listed rivers in the country. Flipping these back to back, I then laminated them for repeated use. The same can be done with a world map if one chooses to connect globally. Students were then able to use dry erase markers to cross off guesses. All but one of the classes we worked with guessed down to state so it was a great way for students to visually see which states were definitely NOT the answer.

The last optional material would be an iPad, other tablet, or laptop for students to use. Our school has multiple iPad carts, so we just made sure to Skype during a time that this class had the cart. They used the iPad to search via Google maps, find possible questions to ask, and locate information based on the other class’s answers. It does make things easier.

Now that we have all of our materials, it’s time to move on to…


The first Mystery Skype session can seem rather daunting, especially when a teacher doesn’t know how their class will react, or how the entire experience will go. It’s even more daunting when the first Skype session is with a class that is very familiar with the process and has been doing sessions all year long.

Before scheduling any Skype sessions, teachers need to prepare their class to complete Mystery Skype. The preparation period will take more than just a day, so plan accordingly. There will be kinks and other issues to work out, and the preparation period is a good time to work through all issues.

First, introduce students to the concept of Mystery Skype. Explain what it is, how it works, and who is involved. Next, show students a few videos of Mystery Skype sessions in action. A quick search on YouTube will reveal many options to choose from. Once students have seen a few videos, or parts of ones, hold a class discussion and ask students to make observations about what they saw happening in each of the videos. Write down student answers. Ask students to locate things that seemed to go right or wrong.

Once students know what Mystery Skype is, and have made their own observations about the videos, determine how the classroom should be set up. This can be done with students if they are older, but for younger students, it may be best for the teacher to determine the layout. In the case of the class that I worked with, we had two chairs in front of the camera for whomever would be speaking, and then the rest of the class was grouped behind.

After a layout has been determined, teachers can have students begin preparing the material that they will share with the other class. Many classrooms make signs to use during the chat. Signs are great because if the other class can’t hear, or your class needs to pause, these can be held up to the camera. Here are some possible samples:

-Can you please repeat that?
-We’re thinking…

Students should also prepare the materials to share at the end of the game. Teachers can have pairs of students work together on this, or if students are too young, work together to create the cards. A card will need to be prepared with information about the state, information about the area in which students live, and information about the school itself. This doesn’t mean that students should give exact information about the name of their school. Good state information to share might be a picture of the state flag, facts on when it was founded, and state symbols. Good information about the area in which students live to share might talk about what type of area (rural, city, suburb), what the area is known for (farming? Sports?), and interesting events that may take place. Good information about the school to share might be the grade levels attending, how many students, and special activities done in the classroom.

Many classrooms choose to also assign jobs to the students. Some classes have a lot of jobs, while others have just a few. In the case of Mr. Nixon’s class, the following jobs were assigned:

Greeters: Two students would sit in the chairs at the beginning and introduce themselves and their class, usually telling the teacher’s name and grade level only.
-Questioners: These students asked the questions given to them, and held up the cards if need be.
Researchers: This was the job of most of the class. Based on the answers to the questions, they would research to determine a possible location, and come up with new questions to ask.

-Question Runners: These students would gather up the questions that their nearby tablemates posed, and then meet in one area of the room with Mr. Nixon. They would choose one question and run it to the Questioners at the front. Mr. Nixon made sure they all got to take turns doing this.
– Closers: These students read the cards on the state, area, and school. Only 3 students are needed, but teachers can pair up students for each card if they so choose.

After all of the materials have been prepared and jobs assigned, it’s time to practice for the Skype session. There are two ways that Mr. Nixon’s class practiced, and we found it did help. The first way involved pairing up students. Each student would pick a state and try to guess the other student’s state. Students were only able to ask questions that had yes or no answers. Over time, their favorite questions to ask were “Are you landlocked?” and “Are you east (or west, depending) of the Mississippi River?” Their teacher always tried to make them think about cutting the area in half each time they asked a question. Sometimes, instead of partnering up the students, he would pit himself against the class and see how they did.

The other way to practice was to set up a trial run Skype session. In this scenario, Mr. Nixon pretended to be the other class. His students were set up to complete the session just as they would be if it were real. Each class would introduce themselves, and then determine who would ask the first question. Usually this was done via rock, paper, scissors. The students would run through the session, asking their questions, until one side had determined the location of the other. The winner would then let the other side keep guessing until they figured out the location as well. After the locations were figured out, his class would share their information cards on the state, area, and school. Then Mr. Nixon would have his class point out the things that went well, and the things that needed changed for the next time.

Connecting with Another Class

Once practice seems to be going well, and all materials are prepared, it’s time to find another class to Mystery Skype with. There are two ways to do this. Skype’s website has a page where teachers can sign up and then communicate with other teachers on the site to set up a Mystery Skype session. I’m not sure how long it would take with this method because we never used it. The other way is by using Twitter and the hashtag #mysteryskype. This method is a very quick way to connect with other classes. You’ll need to set up a Twitter account of course! A sample tweet might be:

“5th grade class in WV (EST) looking to #mysteryskype with another US class on 5/15-17. Mornings are best!”

The tweet itself can vary, but should include the hashtag, the location, and possible dates. This makes it easier to set up dates/times later on. Make sure that you get the other teacher’s Skype username, and give them your own as well.

Do keep in mind that when scheduling a Skype session, each one will take about 30-45 minutes to complete, depending on how quickly the guessing is completed. Make sure that you schedule enough time for the session, and don’t schedule it around other activities, such as PE or recess. Your kids will immediately lose focus when they realize they are supposed to be somewhere else!

It’s Time: Your First Mystery Skype!

Now that everything has been prepared, it’s time to Skype with the other class. There are a few things to keep in mind before doing the actual session. First, make sure that you have connected with the other teacher on Skype. Second, make sure your equipment is up and running properly. Some teachers even do a test run with the other teacher just to make sure. One thing to keep in mind is that when you are Skyping with another class, make sure you have turned off your location and time display in your profile. Otherwise, this will appear to the other class, and can definitely ruin the fun!

As the session gets started, make sure to take notes on what is going well and what could be changed for the next time. Do not expect it to go 100% smoothly the very first time! It takes a few sessions to get things rolling. Make sure to take some pictures for later.

Once the session has ended, host a discussion with the class on what they’ve learned about the other class. You may want to have them write down their findings, do more research on the state, or even help contribute to a class book. After they’ve discussed their learnings, have them help contribute to how the session could be better the next time. Chances are, some of them noticed the same things that you did.


That’s all there is to it! After a few sessions, your class will be seasoned pros. Make sure to keep connecting with other classrooms and setting up Mystery Skypes throughout the year. By the end of the year, you’ll see a difference in your students’ geography skills and what they know. It’s a great way to get some geography lessons in without the same old boring routine. Are you ready to Mystery Skype?

Minecraft Makershop: World Download

I’ve finally had the chance to go over the world and remove any of the edu blocks that were used in game. It took me some time to do, since I also had training to attend and an illness to battle. However, I finally finished everything tonight and you can now download our map and load it onto PC Minecraft.

Download Link here

Here are the instructions I sent the kids to get it installed onto their computers:

1. Download the .zip file.
2. Click on the downloaded file and a new window will open. You’ll want to look for the option to extract all files and click that. I like to extract my files directly to the desktop.
3. Look for the Windows key on your keyboard. It looks like 4 squares together on the left side, just to the right of the ctrl key. Press this and press R at the same time.
4. In the run dialog box, type %appdata% and press enter.
5. Open the folder that says .minecraft.
6. Open the folder that says saves.
7. Now go to the desktop, or wherever you unzipped your files and copy the entire FOLDER.
8. Go back to your saves folder and paste the folder you copied.
9. Once the folder is pasted, you can rename it to whatever you like.
10. Boot up MInecraft.
11. Once logged in to your profile (not the game!), go to Edit Profile.
12. Change the launcher from the most current one you use back to 1.7.10
13. Boot the game the rest of the way and load the world to play.

Happy exploring!

Minecraft Makershop: Day 5

I sit and write this with a bit of a heavy heart. Today was the last day for Minecraft Makershop, and though it was a very busy and interesting week, I certainly will miss my kids and their creativity. This week everyone learned quite a bit, and the kids taught me a few tricks to use in Minecraft that I hadn’t known before. I am impressed by what they were able to come up with. They’ve begged me to make sure the world they created works in regular Minecraft, which I made sure of tonight. I launched it in 1.7.10. All I have to do is replace the border blocks with regular ones and they’ll be set.

Back on track though.

Today was the final day to complete their collaborative builds. We actually had a very quick and busy morning because we had some visitors right from the start. Shortly after the workshop began at 9, we had a reporter come from the local paper, the Hampshire Review, to interview myself and the kids about the workshop and take some images. He first interviewed me about the workshop, and then interviewed three of the kids about their experiences. They then showed him all of their hard work on their builds. He told me he would email me if he had any more questions about Makershop, and that the article would be in next week’s paper. I will definitely share the article once I have a copy!

After the reporter came, I had some time to meet with each group and discuss their progress.

I was still concerned with Group 1’s teamwork. They had done well starting yesterday, but had had issues by the end of the session. Today started off fine, but there were still some issues. One student in the group often got distracted and didn’t do all of his part, which bugged the rest of his team members. I often had to redirect him back to task. His group wasn’t happy with him at times, and I couldn’t blame him. Thankfully, the team meetings did help in the mornings, and his group had plans to complete their build. They completed all requirements, and though they didn’t get as much done as they would have liked, they had all improved overall since the start of the workshop.

Group 2 I wasn’t really concerned with at all, but I wanted to see what they were up to. This group was a really good mesh of team. They did have their issues from time to time, as they also had a member who didn’t always want to do what he was supposed to. However, they did very well with their communication, planning, and problem solving skills. I was actually very amazed. This is the kind of group any teacher would love to have working in class. The work this group was able to produce for their group build was fantastic, and they were proud of what they had accomplished.

Our second visitor of the day showed up shortly after I finished the group meetings. One of the English teachers at CBMS popped in to see what Minecraft Makershop was all about. This is the same teacher I often collaborated with during the school year. She took the time to visit with each group and let them tell her about their work and what they had done. I’m sure they talked her ears off! She also asked me questions about Makershop and how the game could be used in education. While I haven’t researched specific lesson plans, I was able to answer her basic questions and she was pretty intrigued. It’s not something she would use in class, but she could see the value in the game, and that’s what counted most.

Before the kids left for the day, I gave them their special gift. I had contacted Minecraft author Mark Cheverton, author of the Gameknight999 series, a few weeks ago on Twitter. It had nothing to do with Makershop at the time. I was just sharing with him how I told a kid that I knew his favorite author on Twitter. Mark decided to send me bookmarks for every kid in Makershop, and some extras for me wherever I end up next year. He also autographed the bookmarks. The kids loved their surprise, and I do hope they take care of them. Thanks for the gift Mark!

Here are some aerial views of the group builds. I will later on post an update that will have some more detailed images. I wanted to make sure that I shared these tonight.

Group 1 Aerials

Group 2 Aerials

Overall, Minecraft Makershop was a success and something I would definitely do again. I would make a few changes, which I’ve mentioned throughout this week as I’ve posted these updates. Having finally been able to experience the workshop itself, I will be able to make some more changes to my PDF book I’ve been writing on how to run a Makershop. I hope to release it before the summer is up. Beyond the changes I need to make based on this week, I will only need the definitely prices for Microsoft’s Education version.

Honestly, I feel that Makershop should be more of a year-round thing to have the most effect. As I’ve already said, it gives one the chance to focus on small build tasks, and then larger builds as well. Plus, since builds often take hours at a time, it gives more time. A weeklong workshop, though a challenge, is still very much worth the learning experience!

If you have any questions about Makershop, or just want to shoot me a comment, contact me on Twitter: @tisinaction

Minecraft Makershop: Day 4

Day 4 has come and gone, and for the most part, it was one of the most peaceful days so far, until the very last hour. Then again, that last hour is always the roughest. Today was full of a lot of progress, for the most part. Today the kids worked on their final group builds, and they also spent a little bit of time on their final individual builds. I’m actually pretty sure that they won’t finish their individual builds, but that’s okay.

We started the morning with the individual builds so that the kids could get focused for the day. We didn’t spend too much time on them because I wanted to give them plenty of time to get their group builds underway. The kids were also itching to work more on their group builds, so we quickly moved on to that. I wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to tackle the big job ahead of them.

Before each group could work on their collaborative build, they had a meeting with me. I wanted them to discuss a few things with me, and I had also planned to use this time to tackle some issues that Group 1 was having. I met with Group 2 first. We first talked about the pros and cons about their group. I didn’t say anything, just asked them to give me their own feedback. This group had many pros, and they were all things that I would have picked as well. From the pro/con list, we moved on to their plans for the build, which gave me a way to get them to provide ideas for themselves later on, should they get stuck. Next, we talked about how they planned to research their ideas and what they were using in their collaborative build that they had learned from the workshop.

Next I met with Group 1, and we followed the same procedures as Group 2. This group was much the opposite with their pro/con list. They were able to come up with more cons than pros. They also did the plans for their build, as well as their research and what they had learned during the workshop. The one thing I did add to their paper was a section on how to fix the issues that they had been having as a group. We sat and discussed what was wrong, and I told them what I had seen. Everyone provided suggestions to try and fix what was wrong. I sent them off to work on their project, and for a time, all seemed well for them.

The morning did happen to fly by while the kids worked. Often I explored where they were working and provided help when they asked for it. Sometimes things got a bit goofy. Check out the following images.

The cross reads “Memory to Mr. Cakerton, the best villager ever”. One student had built a bakery for her individual build and created a villager named Mr. Cakerton to run it. Mr. Cakerton escaped one day, and John killed him. The kids in Group 2 put up this memorial to him and I snapped this shot.

This student was trying to chase me and sit on me in the game. What he forgot is that I could instantly freeze him in place and he wouldn’t be able to move… stopped him in his tracks!

During one of my rounds, I decided to put on the zombie head for kicks. I was thrilled to find that it didn’t hide my glasses. The kids said that made me a “smart zombie”

Once again, our trouble area started after lunch. I had one kid in Group 1 who was deciding that he wanted to play around and go bother others rather than build. He is certainly a kid who has the talent and skill when it is applied. I think he was just unable to focus any longer and redirected his energies. Unfortunately, it also happened to bother those around him as well. I plan to do another Group Report tomorrow morning before the kids get started on their group builds so I can address it during that time.

I have noticed though that Group 2 works very well together and has gotten a lot done. Looking at their build, you can definitely see that they’ve planned things out. This group talks the entire time and communicates exactly what they are doing. They make sure to ask permission before assisting another team member, and they’ve gotten really good at compromising and accepting ideas from others. If I could record video and post it of their work ethic, I totally would.

Group 1 is rather the opposite. I will give them credit that for the rest of the morning after their group meeting they did attempt to work together and communicate. They were doing much better. After lunch this all went out the window. They know what they need to fix and how to fix it, but it does take time to get them to the point where they can actually together. I don’t think I can expect any kind of miracle, but I do expect them to show improvement, and they gave me that, so I am thankful.

Tomorrow the newspaper is supposed to come and see the Makershop so they can do a write-up. I had also invited the superintendent, but I don’t think he will come. I sent him a reminder email yesterday, but heard nothing back. That’s okay though. I know that with summer in swing, he’s got a lot on his plate most likely.

I will showcase final collaborative builds tomorrow so be on the lookout!

Minecraft Makershop: Day 3

Today marked the midway point for Minecraft Makershop. Today was a pretty good day overall, and we did get a lot accomplished. I know that not all of the kids were fond of some of it, because they just wanted to build, but I had to remind them that this was part of the workshop and they did settle in once they got started.

Some of my kids arrive shortly after 8:30, and have a half hour to wait until the workshop begins. I’ve set most of them to doing research for the first part and checking things I’ve sent via the email list. If they finish all of that, then they are able to work on any of their builds. It’s worked well for the most part, and keeps them occupied until we start at 9, which is usually when the last kid arrives.

Today we started with researching examples of the type of final individual build they were completing. For example, one kid was looking up office builds, while another was looking up examples of jails. The kid with the jail actually came in and told me he’d done his own research last night and had ideas to incorporate into what he had started. I told him great, and looked forward to seeing what he ended up building.

Once 9 o’clock rolled around, the kids began working on their builds. I was pretty impressed with what many of them were doing with their builds. I knew that most would not finish before we had to start working on the collaborative group builds, but I figured they could always work on them by themselves when they had to wait on their group members. Some of the kids were still having trouble with the concepts we had been learning about, while others were really making strides. I knew that I could not bring every kid up to the level I wanted in the short time that I had. The skills I was trying to teach about are not concepts that can be learned overnight. They are learned and improved upon over time, and if I can observe a build and find the key points that were different from when the workshop began, then I have accomplished something.

At 9:30, we took a break from our individual builds to refocus on Redstone and the ways it could be used in the game. I wanted the kids to take a closer look at the ways others had used the material in the game. I already knew that some of the things they would find would be simplistic, and others would be very complex. It also gave them practice with their research skills, but don’t tell them that! Each kid spent time developing a list of ways to use Redstone. Once they had had twenty minutes to complete research using both the internet and the books I had provided. Then we all gathered at the tables in the center of the room to discuss what they’d found. We created a large list of ways to use Redstone creations in the game. Some creations are best used in survival mode, but others are great for builds. Our list has 37 items, though I think a few things are repeated on there. Check it

Once we had our list, we talked about the connection to circuitry and how the Redstone had to be connected just so in order to work. We did this with a simple discussion using a lighting system as the visual aid. It was one of the easiest projects for the kids to understand, and one that some had already used in their builds.

The kids returned to building their own projects at this point, and worked until lunch, when they were supposed to be finished. However, they didn’t get finished, though some were close. Therefore, I’m not going to post any pictures of those builds yet because they’ll have time to work on them in the mornings and at lunch during the remaining days that we have left. There are quite a variety of buildings being created though, and I’m pleased about that. It does help that I told them they couldn’t build a house for this project. I did provide them with a Builder’s Block list to help them decide on what to build if they couldn’t come up with anything on their own.

After lunch, I split the kids off into their final project groups. The final project requires each group to design a city or village. There must be at least six types of builds, but they can certainly have more. Every project must have a road system to connect everything together, and must use Redstone throughout. Each group was given a 200 x 200 area in which to work out their project. Originally I had planned on a 300 x 300 area, but that was
far bigger than what I wanted so I downsized.

I finally decided to just do two groups. One would have 3 kids and the other would have 4. I had observed the kids all week and their levels of experience. I tried to mix up the groups a bit, and pair up kids who could teach each other new things. I also had some kids who didn’t mix well together, and did try to keep them apart for this project, due to limited time. I believe I ended up with a good mix of abilities. Each group is very different. One group works well and talks through everything they plan to build. They also provide assistance if their partners want it, but don’t interfere with their build otherwise. The other group doesn’t talk to each other much, and they have trouble communicating. I’m going to have to really pay close attention to this group and work together with them for this particular project. I want them to talk through and plan things, so I’m going to have to provide support.

Group 1 hard at work. The one student is separated because the computer to his right was having issues.

Group 2 working on their project. Each student was working on a separate build for their community at this point.

We’re ready for Day 4! I’m eager to see where the day takesus, and what ends up in the final project build.

Minecraft Makershop: Day 2

Another day has come and gone, and it was definitely a busy one. There were many more learning experiences, and definitely things I would tweak if I did the workshop again in the future. I will say that the items I mentioned yesterday were taken care of today, and they did make a big difference!

We began today by researching houses in Minecraft so that the kids could see a variety of ways that others have used the tools to create. The kids also reviewed the building PDF from yesterday. While they were doing that, I was meeting with each one to discuss the feedback form I’d written up on their builds from yesterday. For a few, I do believe this was pretty eye opening. The kids were told that once I had gone over their feedback form with them that they could do a rebuild to improve over yesterday’s design. I made sure to start with the kids who had been researching the longest, and moved forward from there.

After I had been through every form with each kid, I began to visit the building sites around the world to see what was being created. I was very surprised at the immediate improvement over what had transpired yesterday. Okay! We were getting it down a bit better. The kids worked hard all morning, and most even chose to take a short lunch break so they could continue building. Everyone was able to finish their rebuild, and I made sure to put together some before and after images to compare the differences.

Student one chose to rebuild a similar style of build on Day 2. She has attempted to vary the types of wood used, as well as the style of roofing. She’s added minor details, such as a chimney with smoke. Inside of her build, she has also attempted to vary how each room is decorated. There is definitely room to grow when it comes to building upper decks.

Student 2 chose to redesign her build completely. Instead of build that more resembles an office building, she has chosen to create a modern style of housing. This student knows her basic furniture designs and found that they worked better in this build. She’s also tried to landscape the backyard with a pool and glowstone.

Student 3 is not used to using the PC version of Minecraft, and the version she does play on her iPod is a knock-off version because she isn’t allowed to get paid apps. For her particular needs, we took a close look at basic housing designs and shapes, and then she went from there. She has attempted to use a non-square design, as well as design her own roof. Unfortunately, she was not fond of the windows that were originally in the front so it doesn’t look as visually appealing to the average viewer. However, the strides she has made from the simple square design above are big.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Student 4′s build is that this top layer is meant to only be for show. He has placed most of his home underground. You’ll noticed that he is attempting to use different shapes for his build, and he has worked to add some detail. He still needs work on this area, as his underground build walls are all stone bricks.

It’s hard to tell, but Student 5′s Day 2 build is a definite improvement over Day 1. He worked to move away from the basic square design with the Day 2 build, and he also tried some new things with his landscaping. This student is one is can quickly develop a base build and then will spend the rest of the time adding the details.

Student 6 was another one who got away from the square design in Day 2. He liked the idea of trying to do some landscaping, and included this in his second build. He chose a different style of glass this time, and has more of a laboratory setup inside of his build, using the villagers as his workers.

Student 7 prefers to go for more of a fantasy-style of build. He started off well with a set of stairs and a raised platform, and then created another secret lair type of build. While this wasn’t the original point to the project, this student has worked to incorporate different materials into the makeup of the build, versus the mostly oak materials that he used in Day 1′s build.

One thing I did learn today was that the kids are very weak when it comes to Redstone. We did have to go over this very quickly today, and quite frankly it was not the original lesson, which I should have stuck to, but was short on time. Based on what I saw though, we are definitely going to redo that lesson tomorrow morning. The kids are not as up to par on it as they think they are, and one of the kids has no clue about it, so I gave her some help with her work.

By the time 12 rolled around, the kids were beginning to get a bit tired. They were still building, for the most part, but I could see more of the silliness starting to come out and some were getting frustrated more easily. This is definitely something to keep in mind as well. It may be better to do a 3 hour workshop, rather than a 4 hour one, especially since they like to take short lunch breaks.

Tomorrow we continue with the final individual build culmination, which is going well for some, and not so well for others. Some of the kids were quickly forgetting the new things they had just shown in their previous build. I’m going to have them take a look at some examples online and go from there. The students will also be placed into groups tomorrow for their final build project. I’m still not sure if I want to do one group of 3 and another group of 4, or 2 groups of 2, with 1 group of 3. I know which kids I’d like to pair up to work together, and which kids may be better off in different groups. Most likely they will begin their group build around 10:30 in the morning after taking time to continue the work from today.

Reflecting so far on this particular workshop model as a whole… it’s a great idea, but it’s very hard for these middle school kids to pick up everything in the limited amount of time that we have. I don’t expect them to either, but I will push them to try to do their best. I think that if this workshop was made into a yearlong club model instead, that I could definitely get more results by having them build small detailed projects with larger culminations throughout. I am definitely keeping this in mind for the future because I feel that it’s an important piece to remember.

With that said, bring on Day 3!

Minecraft Makershop: Day 1

Today was a very fast-paced day. It was exciting to finally see my grant idea being put into action. I definitely did not have as many kids as I wanted originally sign up, and of the 12 who did turn in an application and were given all the necessary information for today, only 7 showed up. Some dropped, and one had actually moved. That’s okay because 7 makes it easier to give some more one on one time. There were many good highlights for today, and
a few things I definitely want to change for tomorrow. Most are things I didn’t anticipate, and most likely could have only learned from experience. Let’s dive in!

The kids showed up on time for the most part, and we waited a little bit extra before getting started. I introduced the purpose of the workshop, and then each kid introduced themselves and their favorite thing about Minecraft. All of these kids are from the same middle school, so they all knew each other in a way, even if it was just in passing in the hallway. After explaining the basics of the EDU version and going over the different block
types in 1.7, each kid set to work building a home, the first activity of the day.

There was a definite different in the type of build appearing as the morning went on. Some of the kids were uncertain of what they wanted to do, or they were getting distracted. Others were quickly on to an idea and building away. Some came up with more of a fantasy build, while others chose more realistic builds. Here are the final builds for Activity 1:

Admittedly, Activity 1 took longer than I expected, and I did expect that to happen. The kids finished up after lunch so we could do the next activity. Activity 2 focused on them giving constructive feedback to each other on the build. I had created a form for each to fill out on one other student. The feedback wasn’t that bad, but it was very limited because most of the builders were pretty novice. From what I had gathered, most were more familiar with survival mode and building something to get by in that mode. Since I only had 7 kids show, I decided that I will also complete a feedback form for each build tonight. I think it will really help provide a more advanced perspective, and hopefully give some more ideas to the kids.

After Activity 2, we took a look at a building guide file, along with the Hacks for Minecrafters: Master Builder book. I am pretty sure that some of the kids skimmed these, especially since it was the end of the day almost for our workshop. We are going to go back tomorrow morning and review some of the concepts in these guides, and since I plan to write the feedback forms for each build, I can hopefully point out where in the guide or book to refer to work on the provided feedback.

Our day ended as we were ready to begin Activity 3, which was probably a good thing because I need to revamp the directions. Originally for Activity 3, the kids were to either rebuild or redesign their original build. However, most were trying to just redesign, and I think it’s going to be better if I force the rebuild instead. I really want to see many of them move away from just a plain square base, and a redesign isn’t going to help that for the most part.

Tomorrow I plan to do the following:

-Revisit the idea behind the workshop, and explain to the kids that the goal is to become better, and how we plan to accomplish that. There are a couple who would benefit from this.

-Start the day with the revamp of Activity 3, and a closer look at the book and the guides that are supposed to help the kids improve. The goal will be to add the little details that make the design pop and stand out in the end.

-Go over the student feedback form with each kid
and refer to where they might look to help assist them create a better second

-When I start day and have the kids log in, make sure they are teleported directly to me and that they are frozen in place. This will keep them from trying to build or do something else during our discussions.

-Set a decent time limit on Activity 3 to keep them on the clock, especially since we will still need to do Day 2’s activities as well. Day 2 is less intense on building, since it explores Redstone.

Let’s see how things go! Stay tuned for the next update!