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K-12 Learning with Minecraft Literature Review Synopsis October 31, 2014

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Overchoice of blogs was the experience this week while researching for the “Learning with Minecraft” Literature Review.  The open educational resources (OER) were the primary source of information accessed.  MinecraftEdu is the preferred search term, but as it has been in existence for only three years, much of the writings centered on the original Minecraft.  The other focus was K-12 learning.  References in the review are penned by a variety of authors, including students, parents, teachers, researchers, gamers, and other experts in the application of Minecraft in the K-12 classroom.  Some names kept reappearing in the literature: Joel Levine, Henry Jenkins, Eric Walker, Dean Groom.  The number of teacher blogs mentioning Minecraft was overwhelming.  The number of blogs mentioning Minecraft was overwhelming!  Sifting through it all was truly tedious.

Learning with books, or learning with pencil and paper are similar to learning with MinecraftEdu.  Books, pencil, paper, MinecraftEdu are all learning tools.  MinecraftEdu is a digital learning tool for collaborative, student directed work.  The classroom using Minecraft is that of a participatory culture in a blended learning environment.  Benefits of learning with Minecraft vary from cognitive, motivational, social-emotional to collaboration and teamwork.

How is learning with MinecraftEdu measured in cognitive, social, and emotional domains?  How do we measure learning  motivation, engagement, collaboration and teamwork with Minecraft?  Other than student reflection and teacher observation, open education resources searched  mostly identify who is using Minecraft and how it is being used, but very little reference about how learning with Minecraft is being measured.  What about effectiveness?  As a tool, do we ask if MinecraftEdu is an effective way of learning?  Is it the right tool for the job of learning?

Here are some fun quotes unearthed in the search:

“I mean, I’m deeply enthusiastic about all of this stuff that’s taking place outside of school, but if we leave it there as sort of the way we create feral children of the Internet, you know, and the idea that just let them be, they’ll learn on their own, I think leaves a lot of kids behind and it leaves us — those kids without adult guidance, without engagement and skill, validation of those skills that would prepare them to move up to higher levels and to get recognition for what they’ve accomplished. They don’t need us snooping over their shoulders, but they do need us watching their backs.”  Henry Jenkins,  (2013, May 7)

“In short, Minecraft is a non-linear game that allows for non-linear learning.  It is a system that can adapt to any interest or skill set, so it is inaccurate to say Minecraft does one thing OR the other.  It all depends on how it is used.”  (Krouse, 2014)

“There is no score keeping in Minecraft, no levels to beat, no “save the princess” narrative.  It is learning at its best: frustrating, messy, open-ended.  Learning is not an algorithm.”  (Watters, 2014)


Reflection Week Seven October 19, 2014

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Little things I am learning:

  • what a banner is
  • this class is easier because of all I learned in the first MOOC
  • about the Google apps like groups, docs, and such
  • I need to continue to get better in MinecraftEdu.
  • I am less frustrated with the game now, and have actually felt good after playing instead of totally inept
  • a better way to read the online text
  • I am a danger unto myself by going off on thinking tangents and “over researching” topics, consuming unnecessary time
  • I am still on the fence about gamification (keep reading!)

Bigger things I am learning:

Love the game development insight posted by Mrs. Pickrell.  While watching the short clip she recommended, Extra Credits: Gamification (2012) I took notes.  Gamification was defined as: ways to improve education using game design techniques.  The author of the video said the big idea is to use games to make learning more engaging, and elaborated on it a great deal.  The video stated that the world is facing a crisis of engagement.  It also stated that with the variety of recreational activities we have today, we are accustomed to a lot of engagement per second from media devices. The message also professed that we must “gamify our lives” to be successful, and that “all work is play, and all play will enrich our lives.”  What is it about this statement that makes this old lady cringe?  Don’t know why I am such a skeptic about the work/play statement.  I believe there is a LOT of difference between work and play.  Yes, work can and should be fun and rewarding.  However, I know too many jobs that MUST BE DONE in order for human’s basic needs to be met, and they are far from being gamified.  How does one “gamify” routinely caring for livestock, milking cows and shoveling out stalls, in the baking heat or blinding cold? How about replacing a leaking roof in the wind and the rain?  One could make a game of it, I guess, but it is hard to equate most of what I call work (hard labor) with an engaging game.

In the same video, another comment caught my ear “thirty years of making video games”.  Thinking back…yep, my 35 year old son had his first Nintendo about thirty years ago.  Although I have never been able to play the games (not coordinated enough nor interested), all of my children were raised with video games in the house.  Limits were set and none became addicts.  They did benefit in many ways from knowing how to play video games.  We were never a television watching family (never have wanted cable TV), but there was a TV for video games, and, in the mid 1990’s, after many years without, we finally added a VHS player to the tube for an occasional family film night.  Which brings me to a point made in her blog: balance.

This segues into Mrs. Pickrell’s noble words:  “the modern student is used to a particular quality within their game”.  In addition to balance: model and expect quality.  I am privileged to work with such an amazing team.  We continue to concentrate on the process involved in the learning, as well as a quality product.  As with all endeavors, the formative process, over time, will reveal strengths and weaknesses of the plan, what to do better next time, what to change, what to omit.  For now, we are all doing the best we can, and getting excited is a bonus!  Someone recently said, “I don’t stay connected 24/7” and we all need to remember that for the balance of which Mrs. Pickrell speaks.


Week Seven Progress October 17, 2014

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This week, I completed all the blogs and assignments up to Week Seven!  It feels good to be at the same place in the class as the others.  I met on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with the group.

Monday afternoon was my day to play the game.  Because we were banned from Minecraftedu, I played Minecraft PE (pocket edition) on the ipad, and loved it.  As a beginner, it seems much easier for me.  I did learn a lot from my four hours.  First, I built a dirt house complete with chest (where I stored everything!), crafting table, furnace, etc. and while out exploring for a mine, promptly lost the house AND all its contents.  During the exploring, I fell in a hole where I was stuck for about 45 minutes trying to learn how to get out.  Finally, I found a boxed in cave and started digging.  I wanted to dig straight down for fun (and hopefully die and stop the misery), but my dear ten year old teacher said I had to learn to mine the correct way.  The way to mine is to build steps in a somewhat horizontal direction.  Well, the mining proved to be incredibly prosperous and somewhat fun!  While stuck in the hole in the ground, I learned to mine coal.  I had lots of it and made lots of torches which came in handy for the real mining.  I managed to build another chest, furnace, and crafting table inside the entrance to the mine, and spent some time going up and down the stairs in the mine shaft making deposits in the chest.  I found lots of coal, iron, redstone, gold and diamonds which allowed me to make cool tools by smelting, etc.

On Tuesday, I posted a really rough draft of the handshake meeting and possible beginnings of a teacher packet, which need lots of input and feedback from the group.  I either helped or hindered the team by playing in the GiverCraft world on Wednesday.  The world is amazing and I learned a lot.  I also read this article, Gamification’ Is Dead, Long Live Games For Learning  which tampered with my acceptance of gamification.

Thursday, I did some editing on the handshake and teacher packet info, and met with the group.  Sadly, my partner dropped the class (this is an obstacle), so now have asked others for help.  Also, I got sidetracked while searching for #givercraft .  Don’t even remember the reason I was searching the hashtag, but found a couple interesting videos. Perhaps, they are what we can expect from students!!!!  Note, the language is French, and I heard no swearing.  However, some of the “talk” is displayed in which there is a considerable amount of swearing (in a variety of languages), FYI.

givercraft video 1

givercraft video 2

Today is Friday, and I have contacted four team members about advising on the pending posted documents, and am composing this blog.  As far as obstacles go, I think it is unfamiliarity with chats, hangouts, and how google docs, drive, and groups function.  Hopefully, I will eventually come to an understanding of how these tools work and how to get them to work!


Week Five Reflection October 13, 2014

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My feeling is the themes in this week’s class blogs ranged from aimless to gung-ho.  As commented to one team member, I almost sense an undercurrent of buyer’s remorse: have we made the right choice?  We all have trepidations.  The team is undertaking this endeavor with our eyes wide open but with the safety goggles firmly in place, keeping the welfare of the learner in sight at all times. The project does seem to be nebulous and intangible, but doable just the same.    My hope is we are focusing on one standard in depth, rather than lots of standards in breadth.

Roles seem to be evolving nicely for GiverCraft and we have benefitted from ongoing formative assessment. I trust the process we are using, but I most definitely trust our team members, a group of proven winners in my view. One team member stated:

Each learner walks in with their own set of knowledge, experiences, assumptions, fears, skills, and expectations.  Our role is to facilitate a learning process that accommodates each learner and elevates the group as a whole.

These words are applicable not only to our team of learners, but to the group of learners who may participate in the project.

Granted, this first of its kind collaborative project does involve some risk taking.  Right now it seems like a jigsaw puzzle, we have all the pieces, just need to figure how they fit together to form the big picture. As a team, we are strong.  The sum of the parts of #edgamify is one lean mean thinking machine! As a team we have the knowledge, expertise, AND fortitude to complete the task. We are here to lift each other up to a successful accomplishment.  Is that an oxymoron?


Week Four Reflection

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Although I do realize each team member has their strengths, as the runt in the pack, it is doubtful that anything I have to contribute has much impact on the learning of others in this course. We all have our strengths, as does every student, gaming is not one of mine! I so appreciate the caring and commitment of the #edgamify GiverCraft team because no matter how bad my attitude is, folks have been very supportive and encouraging!   The team has a wealth of talent to offer the project and to those willing to learn.

This week’s brain expansion spanned from the simple to the complex.  Using a list posting format is a method to be tried. Also am gathering other posting format tips for temporal titling so we all know what is what and how to better reference my resources.  Lots of authentic assessment methods were mentioned which would evidence learning.  As educators, the best evidence that learning has occurred may be observable, but is not necessarily measureable. A team member said it quite plainly: learning has occurred when students can connect what they’re learning to everyday life or to other subjects.

On a personal note, having a science teacher son-in-law, am looking forward to sharing the idea of using MCedu to teach about cell biology.

Finally, want to re-post a comment made by me on a classmates blog, warned him it was going to happen!

I read a blogpost about Minecraft in Sweden too.  It had a wonderful graphic I wanted to use, but it was all in Swedish and was a .jpeg file so not able to translate the text. L

So much mental floss in your blog this week, I am going to include every inch of it in my reflection:

*Education is meant to be revolutionary, not evolutionary

*Gamification is being undersold as engagement

*Take as much time as you need to complete the task and move to the next level.   If you can’t do it the first time, try again, get better and master.

*We have an opportunity to make education function more like a game, not a game function more like education. Better than those who try to treat education as a business!

*Complexity without purpose will not be effective.  But if done well complexity will foster increased thinking and cognition.

*Mastery is the stars, growth is the moon

These are the questions spawned from reading your post:

How does the philosophy of education should function more like a game compare to the philosophy of education should function like a business?  Is this a fair comparison?

Is gamification crafting systemic change in education? How about gamification plus MOOCs, are they the catalyst needed for systemic change in education?

It is late, and my brain is about flossed out, so these questions could probably have been framed much more coherently.  Thanks for the thoughts.



Week Three Reflection October 12, 2014

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Nope, not enjoying Minecraftedu yet.   There is a complete lack of joy thinking about playing video games.  Perhaps the key word is play.  Play is something to do when the work is done…and my work is never done.  Therefore, no video game time for this old lady!  Guess I would rather be creating something tangible: cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, gardening, anything productive.  Back in the day in Montana, to obtain an undergraduate education degree, student teachers had to demonstrate proficiency in piano and guitar.  I can barely play the radio and it is rarely in tune.  Somehow, I managed to plunk out a song or two on piano without too much trouble.  The guitar was a whole other story.  It was very painful and I was miserable, but I managed to strum a song or two, just enough to qualify as proficient.  To this day I hold guitar players in high esteem and my fingers are grateful for never having played a guitar since.  I think that is my goal with Minecraftedu: suffer the discomfort long enough to become proficient and then hope my grandchildren don’t invite me to play video games with them!

Here’s the bulleted version of week three reflection:

  • student created worlds!
  • both teachers and students use creativity with Minecraftedu
  • “what is the point of Minecraft?” “pointless”
  • no multitasking while engaged in the game
  • “exploration, discovery, creation, collaboration, and problem-solving while allowing teachers to shepherd play toward any subject area”
  • important to make goals clear and make progress transparent
  • contrast between creativity in MCedu and the lack thereof in The Giver
  • have to stop allowing myself to be distracted by the research because I take off on too many time consuming learning tangents!
  • prediction that gamification will be a permanent fixture in the future of today’s students.
  • MCedu wiki is like my bible, and is always open in my browser now and have just added the google group link
  • virtual legos making virtual diroamas

In a rut

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Minecraft textOregon trail text Oregon trailOregon trail floppy










I love to play games: card games, board games, sports games, any games.  But, I have never played video games, ever!  Over twenty-five years ago I was an undergraduate in an instructional media course.   Although the paper is not in my possession anymore, I am most certain the assignment was something like:    How can we use Oregon Trail to create a sound and robust learning experience for students?  Substitute the game Minecraftedu, and voila, we have this week’s #edgamify MOOC task.

In an attempt to fit gamification into my schema, my brain started an informal comparison of the two games, old and new.  As with the Oregon Trail (MECC, 1988), “simulation application”,  Minecraftedu (a sandbox game) has no advertisements, an unusual trait in today’s gaming world.  Unlike Oregon Trail (OT), it is not possible to look on or in the Minecraftedu (MCedu) game box to find the instructions for game play.  Actually, OT had a fair amount of rules, whereas MCedu basically has no rules. Neither of them have a “leaderboard”.   OT, at that time, was a stand-alone game stored on a 5 ¼ inch floppy disk (maybe two disks?). Maybe a couple of kids in the same classroom could work together to survive (the details have faded from my memory).  MCedu requires bandwidth which enables it to be played simultaneously with multiple players anywhere in the world.  They both are problem solving games.  They both challenge players to stay alive by overcoming obstacles to survival.  Inevitably, in both games, failure results in death with do-overs to try again for improved performance.  The goal in OT is to reach Oregon alive, because MCedu is an open-ended game, the goal varies with each scenario, but the object is to stay alive.  Feedback in both games allows students immediate self-assessment by keeping track of an inventory of supplies and ….. I cannot remember what all else. This is about as deep as my mind delved into the compare/contrast of the old game and the new.  Although, I do believe, because of informational technology of this day and age and because of social media, MCedu is experiencing a high degree of popularity that OT did not.  OT was more or less just educational software, whereas MCedu is not by any means restricted just to the classroom.  Actually, the use and play of MCedu has almost no restrictions for distribution around the world.  Oh, I just realized, I think they both use the same antiquated text font!

Had a lot of fun composing this, but realized early on it had nothing to do with the assigned task, so tucked it away for another time.  Thanks to my colleague Tiffany for inspiring me to actually post this stroll down memory lane.


Week Two Reflection October 11, 2014

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My first foray into the world of blogging was a result of joining a MOOC.  Agreed, the blog truly is a way of purging your “brilliant” thoughts and rantings.  I spent two hours watching the two Blog Talk videos, and agree they are good, but, because it was my second open class, there was really no new material for me.

I am definitely challenged, not by the MOOC, but by Minecraftedu, an activity that “involves uncertain outcomes due to variable levels, hidden information or randomness.” Challenged to the point of incapacitation, am I! I still have no clue what to do, how to do it, and especially have no clue about strategies to use in Minecraftedu.  If there was a vocab test right now over Minecraft terms, I most certainly would fail it!  Not sure the four principles of intrinsic motivation – control, challenge, curiosity and contextualization – are enough to get me out of the Minecraftedu rut in which I find myself!  I am sold on open connected courses, but no verdict yet on Minecraftedu.  Maybe I have to know darkness before I can understand light!

From the reading the GiverCraft blogs, I also sensed we are not all at the same level of acceptance of the concept, some of us are overwhelmed and a bit frustrated, and others are smooth sailing.  One colleague made the analogy to the social learning aspect and collaborative use of technology as being similar to the need for a variety of ingredients tossed into a mixing bowl, working together, to create something good.  As a baby boomer, I have a lot to learn from the experienced gamers in our group and am grateful for the knowledge they are sharing.

Now for a few good words about the game.  Following are some factors of the effectiveness of Minecraftedu (MCedu) for learning.  A member of our team emphasized an attribute of Minecraftedu which I have been mulling over: the great potential it has for cultural responsiveness. Can’t you just see a Whaling Activity in Minecraftedu?  Gotta love it!

One factor is that it allows both students and teachers to be creative.  Activating higher order thinking skills with hands on collaborative challenges is certain to be engaging.  Other merits of MCedu are that it facilitates the differentiation of instruction and reduces the need to ask the question “Why do I need to know this?” or “When am I ever gonna use this?”  Students these days all know how playing video games are going to help them!  Another bonus of MCedu is it enables students to be both challenged and successful.  Additionally, several of the blogs mentioned the importance of feedback and fun for learning to occur.  The game also has the ability for globalizing learning through teamwork, or to borrow a phrase, enables global collaborative tinkering.


Week One: Reflection

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After reading the blogs of all classmates in this MOOC, Gamification and Open Education, #edgamify, it seems we have a good working definition of gamification.  We seem to understand that gamification is the current trend in instruction, that it is a tool for learning, and it not a panacea for education.  In general, we feel learning should be fun, and we are all anxious to see our Minecraftedu project’s success, as well as success implementing gamification in our practices.  There seems to be a consistent thread of passion for teaching and learning which flows in the veins of the class.

It was most interesting to read what video games classmates referred to from their childhood/school days.  I still have no video game references in my life.  The option of learning from failure in video games is appealing.  We do learn from our mistakes.  The value gamification places on feedback is very appealing to teachers in this class. Using Minecraft to teach content to ELL students is very appealing.

One article I read on the introduction of technology in learning referred to how educators went through the same thing we are now, only it was with radio and how to use it to engage and motivate learners.  Again, we all know radio was a trend and is one more teaching tool.  My remaining question is how long will the gamification trend last?


Team GiverCraft

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How has your team approached and documented the design of your game?

The first thing I want to address in game design for our team’s GiverCraft project is communication.  We are all telelearners, not meeting altogether in one place, and not necessarily at the same time.  But we are meeting.  One of the points stressed most in the readings for this assignment is the importance of communication during game design.  For the project design, our team has used the usual communication methods: hangouts, email, google docs, wikispaces, minecraft chats, tweets, and even telephone.  These three questions from Chapter 9 have helped our team focus during the design process:

What have I done since the last meeting?

What do I still need to do?

What obstacles have I encountered?

 According to the author, Karl Kapp, for learning game design, the most effective process is a hybrid approach between ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation), a step-by-step process, and Scrum, a team approach based on an iterative and incremental agile methodology. The first step in the hybrid method is to determine what we want the learning outcome to be, and we have.

Because our team is using the pre-existing game, Minecraftedu, the GiverCraft approach is modified from the hybrid method, but a deliberate process has been followed.  First we chose the game to use (Minecraftedu) and then brainstormed how to use it to address learning domains to teach the content.  Learning objectives were established.  A blend between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was determined.  The team determined a storyline, reward system, and in-game activities for the concept to be taught.  A rubric for assessment of learning based on the reading Common Core Standards was developed.  The team worked on these things to reach a common goal, not necessarily in a sequential order, but all together to advance the project in a flexible manner, not having to wait for someone to finish their part before we start our part.

There is an advantage to using Minecraftedu.  It has already been tested for playability, engagement, and learning.  Although we did not need to create a paper mock up and play it, we did play a sample scenario to create a similar situation to that the students will experience.  And, the team has been playing a lot of Minecraftedu, both individually and in groups.  The hours spent playing the game provided the team with feedback to help the team improve GiverCraft.  Feedback enables us to determine how closely instructional objectives will be met, to give an insight into how teachers might envision using the game, to identify obstacles to using the game, and to test the reward structure established by the team.

Taking into consideration the author’s suggestions for the ideal gamification design team and elements of a design document, some of his suggestions were implemented, and some were not applicable.   Regarding roles within the team, we seem to be practicing “aces in their places”, letting people do what they do best, because our members have different levels of understanding of Minecraftedu and ability to play the game, as well as different teaching experience.  For our project for the gamification of learning and instruction, these roles seem to have evolved: project manager, instructional game designer, subject-matter expert, information tech representative, and representative from the learner population.  Although the roles may not be exactly defined or implemented as Kapp does, they are approximately what we are doing.  Roles which are basically unnecessary for the team because we are using Minecraftedu are: artist, programmer, music/sound, animator, level designer. There was no need for storyboards and art, but game play challenge scenarios were created.

Since this writing is tardy, I know how the game will be presented, documented, and marketed.  The game is being presented in Minecraftedu.  The group will use a website for marketing, and a weebly for commucication with registered participants.  The website, GiverCraft, open to the public, will have an overview of the project, registration forms, and other pertinent information.  The private weebly, for registrants only, will be used for keeping track of progress, posting screenshots, and other project sharing.  A Google group has been created to address questions and issues from teachers who are participating with their students in our the game.

Although we have been collaboratively working on the Minecraftedu challenge project, not all the answers are clear.   The design document, to help with planning and resource allocation,  is a work in progess.  It includes an overview of the concept, statement of the expected learning outcomes, instrucional objectives, game environment, reward structure, look and feel of the game, technical description, and a project timeline.  The timeline contains start dates, end dates, estimate of how long each phase will take, and a time for celebrating and sharing.

In closing, I want to summarize one of Eric Milks’ Tips for Managing the Gamification Process: gamification should be a balance between fun and pedagogy; keep players interested (fun), yet educate them (pedagogy).1 Ultimately, this is the goal of GiverCraft.

  1. Kapp, K. M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction : Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. Chapter 9, p. 215.


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