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!