New Projects & CYM Server

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Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on October 25, 2012

We were fortunate enough this year to have our Minecraft proposal accepted by Crafting Young Minds organization which offers free space on Minecraft servers for educational projects. Although I have been using our MinecraftEdu server at school, we could not place it outside our network and we needed a server that would be available 24/7 for students to access to complete their projects. We also wanted the ability to work in different worlds which could later be available for download, so we needed a Bukkit server that could use the Multiverse plugin. The game system console is easy to use and I have been very satisfied with the host. I recommended it to any teacher who would feels comfortable with managing their own server and would like 24/7 access for their students.

Our main projects for this server are to re-create Civil War battlefields for the students’ Social Studies class. Before they got started on their battlefield projects, I assigned a small project to make sure all the plugins and configuration changes worked. Our Manor Challenge is a contest challenge taken from a Minecraft roleplay server. The challenge on the roleplay server was to create a manor for the main character in the storyline, but I modified somewhat for our class. On our home world, I built a small message board with signs for students to use to change their gamemode and with warps to their areas once they established their build site. You can view the requirements for the Manor Challenge at our wiki site. Once the students are finished with their build, they are required to record a machinima tour. The tour will take the viewer around the build and highlight how they accomplished each of the requirements.

So far, the boys have really been enjoying the challenge. A few started on their machinimas and the completed ones can be viewed at our wiki (see link above). We are using Bandicam’s free version to do our recordings. It gives the students ten minutes recording time which is perfect, since we want short, concise videos. The only drawback for the free version is the Bandicam weblink that appears at the top of the frames. I chose Bandicam over Fraps (another game capture software) because Fraps tends to be a bit of a CPU hog which may have been an issue for our school computers.

Stay tuned for more videos and more project progress!

UPDATE:  See our student Manor Challenge tours at SchoolTube.

Readjusting Goals

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Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on October 1, 2012

I think my enthusiam for my new Minecraft elective class got the better of me! I had to reevaluate the goals I set for my students after I realized they were having a difficult time meeting my expectations. Our elective only meets twice a week for approximately 45 minutes at a time, so many of the assignments I gave them had to be completed outside of class. Our 8th grade students have a very rigorous curriculum and so they have limited free time to devote to “extracurricular” activities. Our elective classes do not figure in the student’s grade point average, and therefore, their academic classes always have to come first. I certainly do not want to stress my students, so I decided to step back and reflect on which goals I think are worth pursuing that are challenging, but not overwhelming.

The ultimate goal I had for students was to create custom survival/puzzle/adventure maps, but I believe that goal might have been a bit lofty. For a custom map to be considered great or even good, it should have an engaging story, a realistic setting, and/or challenging puzzle or traps, and should give the player a good 45 minutes to an hour of play time. Yet to accomplish this, you definitely need to invest a good bit of time and you possibly need to have skills with redstone or Worldedit. Some of my students have some redstone skills, but not to the level they would need to build the type of contraptions we see in good custom maps. The other factor is how can I make their time worthwhile in terms of school credit.

In rethinking the goals, I decided to reduce the number of blogs post from two posts a week to one. Next, I decided to approach a few of their teachers to see if someone would be willing to let the students develop Minecraft projects for projects required by their curriculum. Both the Social Studies and the Science teachers were both willing to collaborate with me on projects that would work for their class. The English teacher was willing to include their blog writing as part of their grade for writing across the curriculum. All in all, it was a good day for collaboration!

So it’s a beginning. As I move through the course, I just need to remember that this is the first year and there will be lots of adjustments!

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