Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I love technology. I view it as a powerful tool that allows us to do a great number of exciting and impressive things. One such tool that technology gives us access to is virtual reality. I was first exposed to virtual reality in 2007 when at a Discovery Educator Network conference I was introduced to Second Life. Since then I have become familiar with Minecraft thanks to a very enthusiastic group of boys I had in one of my 3rd grade classes three years ago. I have read and heard about educators all over the world using Minecraft to teach and engage students, and I wanted to be able to do that same thing.
Since Minecraft is not an approved program in the Fontana Unified School District, I chose to take it upon myself to experiment with this tool. At the end of 2015 and as the practicum to my Masters in Educational Technology, I decided to give running a Minecraft server a try. I will not lie and say it was an easy process. There was (and still is) so much I don’t know about Minecraft and running a server that it would have easily frustrated the lighthearted, but I could not give up on this. I know there is educational magic to be harnessed with Minecraft and I won’t give up on that.
I started my server at the end of 2015 and invited 3rd through 5th grade students at Dorothy Grant Elementary (where I taught for 11 years before becoming a Teacher on Assignment for Linked Learning) to participate. I had about 20 sign up and had a wait list for 20 more. Since Minecraft is not allowed on district machines, I invested in my own hosted Minecraft server. My students and I access it remotely from our own home computers. We use Skype to communicate and Edmodo as our Learning Management System. Despite the steep learning curve for myself, I was thrilled to be offering such a unique game-based distance learning experience for my students.
About the time I left the classroom to become a teacher on assignment, I had to put regular meetings on the server on hold. I left the server up for students to enjoy, until my absence from it required I shut it down for a time. In that time I was able to acclimate to my new position and shop for a better hosting company. My server is up again and a few of my original students have returned to play on the server I have just for them. Feeling more confident about things I have chosen to open up membership to my server again. Membership will be open and ongoing, meaning I will always allow new students to join us so long as they meet the following requirements:
- They are in 4th though 8th grade
- They have a Mojang/Minecraft account
- They have an Edmodo account
- They have a Skype account
- They have access to a computer and Internet at home
If you have a child or know of one who is interested in playing on a secure, private, teacher-monitored server, please email me at email@example.com for more information.
In the time that I have had my server, I have focused on 21st Century Skills as outlined by the ISTE standards for students:
- Creativity and Innovation
- Communication and Collaboration
- Research and Information Fluency
- Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
- Digital Citizenship
- Technology Operations and Concepts
Moving forward I am focusing on the academic uses of Minecraft for upper elementary and middle school, as well as project based learning.
Here are some samples of my students and I in the early days of our first server. I hope to have more videos posted soon.