Minecraft: Education Edition – ideas from the Dubai Minecraft Training Partner Summit

This is the second post in a series of posts about using Minecraft: Education Edition in your classroom. (The series of posts can be accessed at: http://bit.ly/2pRigwJ). In this post Megan Rademeyer from SchoolNet reports back on her experience at the Minecraft: Education Edition Training Partner Summit in Dubai where trainers from around the world were certified in order to run Mincraft Education Edition training sessions with schools

Between 28 February and 2 March 2017 Megan Rademeyer, SchoolNet
SA Programmes Manager and Microsoft Fellow had the opportunity to attend the
Minecraft: Education Edition training partner summit in Dubai. Sessions
included “Learning how to play Minecraft”, engaging in a “Build Battle” (where
teams built structures together to try out-build other teams), and exploring
“Classroom Mode in Minecraft: Education Edition”. The aim of the training session
was to certify trainers from Microsoft Training Partners who will them be able
to run Minecraft: Education Edition
training sessions with schools. 

South African attendees

In addition to Megan, representing SchoolNet
SA, Dominique Cave and Jethro MacDonald from Computers 4 Kids and Elsabe Hart,
a Microsoft Teacher Ambassador were the other South Africans in attendance who
are now certified Minecraft: Education Edition trainers.

Favourite sessions

Megan’s favourite session was Minecraft:
Breakout Edu
which involved going through a Minecraft world and following
clues to unlock various puzzles. This activity provided teams with an
opportunity to collaborate with others, and use Minecraft and thinking skills
to work through an engaging challenge. This session would be a good one to run
at schools as teachers and/ or learners who have some Minecraft skills could be
grouped with novice Minecraft players. The challenge required a range of skills
and someone who is not a Minecraft expert could still help solve puzzles whilst
being exposed to Minecraft at the same time. 

Other worthwhile sessions involved
learning the basics of Minecraft by working through the Minecraft:
Education Edition Tutorial World
. This activity would be a good place for
teachers and students who are unfamiliar with Minecraft to learn the basic
controls and features of Minecraft, such as gathering and crafting resources.

Benefits of using Minecraft in your classroom

Minecraft: Education Edition is similar to Minecraft that
many of your learners may already know and love. What makes Education Edition
great for teachers is that it utilizes Office 365 to assign Minecraft accounts
to students – making it a cost effective way for schools to access the game,
and in a way that provides a safe, closed environment in which to play.
Features such as the camera and portfolio resources make it easy for learners
to document evidence of learning or of structures they have created. Even if a
teacher does not have Minecraft: Education Edition, the Minecraft: Education Edition portal
provides free access to range of lesson plans, pre-built worlds and ready-made
activities that make it easy for a teacher to integrate Minecraft into a
lesson.

Lessons learnt at the Minecraft Summit

Before heading for Dubai, Megan was a complete Minecraft
novice, but she is happy to report that spending after spending a few days
playing Minecraft she is no longer accidentally destroying quite as many blocks
as she did at first! More importantly, she has realised that one does not need
to be a Minecraft whizz to use this tool as part of a fun and engaging lesson. 

Below
are some lessons about Minecraft that Megan learnt during the training summit.


Children will
generally out-pace adults

My daughter (now 11) has been playing Minecraft for about
two years. My sole contribution to her interest in the game was providing my
credit card details so that she could download Minecraft: Pocket Edition to her
tablet. Every so often, she would me a hotel, or a dream house or a stadium
that she has created and I would say something like “that’s lovely sunshine,
now how about you go read a book or do some homework.” Now that I have actually
tried to make my own house in Minecraft I am in complete awe of the structures
she has been able to produce. Without having been on a course, with no instructor
and with no manual to tell her what to do. Kids take to Minecraft naturally –
maybe because they aren’t afraid of failure and are willing to just give it a
try.

You just have to
start – you will get faster

I can touch-type. I can produce professional looking reports
using Word far more quickly than if I were to write them out by hand. Did I
always type quickly? No! I type quickly because I have spent just about every
day of my working career typing on a keyboard. Hours and hours of practice has made
me a good typist. Years of putting together reports has helped me to figure out
shortcuts for formatting them nicely – and quickly. I don’t know why I thought
I would be a whizz a Minecraft on the first day. My daughter is great at
playing Minecraft – but she also has a two year, 5 hour a week jump-start on
me. Of course if you aren’t willing to even try Minecraft, you will never get
good at it. And if you try it once, decide it is too tricky and abandon it, you
will think that it is impossible to master. The trick to becoming good at
Minecraft is committing yourself to spending a few hours muddling through the
basics and slowly but surely getting a bit more skilful and a bit more
confident.

There is no undo
button – but this teaches resilience

At the Minecraft: Education Edition training session we
worked our way through Tutorial World – which teachers use the basic ways of
moving yourself through the game. Because I had kept confusing my left and
right mouse buttons I kept accidentally destroying blocks when I should have
been creating blocks – and as a result had to go back to the beginning of the
world three times. Whilst this was frustrating – on each successive attempt I
got faster. I got better and better each time I did something. When I destroyed
half our team’s structure in the build battle I apologised to the team and they
quickly put back what I destroyed. I felt bad, but at other times other team
members made silly mistakes. We had a laugh and moved on. Sure, we wanted to
build a nice structure and win the challenge – but really Minecraft is just a
game.


Start small – take
baby steps

Just like you weren’t doing conditional formatting and what
if formulas the first time you used Excel, chances are you won’t be lighting up
your Minecraft structure using Redstone (Minecraft’s “electricity”) in your
first world. This doesn’t really matter. The Minecraft: Education Edition
contains a wealth of prebuilt worlds, so a teacher who is a complete novice can
just download someone else’s creation and use that as a starting point. Or a
teacher can just say to the learners “I really don’t know how to do this – but
I thought of a fun activity that we could try together”. Since when does a
teacher have to be the expert at everything? Telling kids that you don’t know
how to do something, or giving them an opportunity to teach you is not a sign
of weakness – it is a sign that you are a life-long learner with a pioneering
spirit. (Your kids may think you have NO Minecraft skills – but they will think
you are cool for having given it a try!)


It is worth checking
out Minecraft: Education Edition

Check out the official Minecraft: Education Edition website
for resources that cover curriculum and give learners an opportunity
to play a game that they love at the same time. If you are interested in
purchasing Minecraft: Education Edition for your school – please see here for more information. If your school already has Minecraft: Education Edition
contact Megan Rademeyer (megan@schoolnet.org.za)
for more info about professional development workshops for staff.

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