Back in July, I talked about the Minecraft program that a coworker and I were offering twice a week during the summer. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that we’ve continued to offer this program once a week every week (with a short break for Christmas & New Years). So here’s what’s been happening:
– We updated to the latest MinecraftEdu. I forget what version we were running before, but we ignored all updates throughout summer and fall and the beginning of winter. We also kept the same worlds for those months, and kids were definitely running out of land to build on. Then came that fateful day in January when I had a full room of Minecraft fanatics and THE SERVER CRASHED! Luckily we were able to play in a single player world, so I wasn’t mobbed by angry kids, but it taught us the lesson that we should update semi-regularly and give the kids a new world to play in semi-regularly too. So now we’re up to date, and the worlds are still newish, and I’ll be sure to let IT know to update and build a new world prior to summer.
– We had several weeks where an invisible person (or multiple invisible people) was destroying houses and killing pets and basically just griefing all over the place. This was the most frustrating couple of weeks for me because kids would get very UPSET when something happened to their house or pets. But the person was invisible, so there was no way that I could figure out who it was. There were a couple of times when I had to freeze everyone in the game in the hopes that this behavior would stop, but freezing did nothing. And the worse part was that I wasn’t even sure if it really was an invisible person, or if it was some sort of glitch in the game. One day, I had a girl tell me that someone had flooded her house. And, sure enough, it was flooded. But 1) she was in the nether and a quick look around the room told me that no one else was in the nether, 2) we had literally just logged on and flooding a house like that would have taken more than just a minute. After a few stressful weeks of trying to manage this invisible nonsense, I ended up telling the kids that there was nothing that I could do, and that they’d just have to live with it and rebuild. Funnily enough, the mysterious invisible person stopped harassing others after that.
– This program is still insanely popular. We saw a slight drop in numbers when school started, but for the past two months we’ve not only been filling up the computer room, but I’ve had to turn anywhere where from 2 to 8 kids away per program! I’ve also been letting kids use my computer, just so we could get that one extra person in. Because of this, I haven’t been signing in as a teacher, which means I can’t TP kids or freeze kids. This has been working out well for me because constant TPing is a pain, and now I can walk around the room and talk to kids about the game and even bring some extra work to work on during the program. Kids are sad about not being able to TP though, so I think that I’ll start a policy where I will keep the computer for the first five minutes so that I can TP people to be by their friends before relinquishing the computer to the last kid.
– One of the things that I love most about this program is that I get to watch kids build friendships with one another. These are kids who might otherwise be staying at home and playing on the computer solo, so it’s great to see them become friends with each other. I see a lot of hugs in the hallway as they’re waiting for me to open the door.
– The kids are SO PROUD of what they build! As I’m walking around the room, I often have kids stop me to show me what they built or to tell me about how many diamonds they have or something similar. Every now and then, kids will work together to build something AMAZING and then put a bunch of TNT in it and call me over so that I can first marvel at it and then watch it burn to the ground.
– There are still A LOT of things that I don’t know how to do in Minecraft, but it’s okay because there’s always at least one kid who does know how to do it, so when I get asked a question that I don’t know the answer to, I can still just call out the question and someone else will have the answer.
– The last thing to note is that we’ve (and by we, I mean me, and maybe my coworker) have relaxed a lot during this program. We no longer write down the rules (our regulars know them, and when we see a new person, we tell them the rules as we get them started). We no longer take down names and user names, though we still try our best to learn names/user names as we go. We now allow survival mode, which we said we’d never do. We have two servers for kids to play in and one is in survival mode and other is in creative and they can choose which one they one to play in (about half choose survival while the other half choose creative). We generally keep monsters turned off, but allow TNT. I have gone from mostly dreading this program to actually kind of liking it a lot.
And that has turned into a novel-length blog post. I don’t know if any of you will find it useful and/or interesting, but if you do have questions about Minecraft, feel free to ask!