Sunday, 30 April 2017

Minecraft Education Edition: Terminology and Tips for Educators


This is the fourth post in a series of posts about using Minecraft: Education Edition in the classroom. (The series of posts can be accessed at: http://bit.ly/2pRigwJ) In a recent post about Minecraft: Education Edition, we explained what Minecraft: Education Edition is all about and why educators should use it in the classroom. We outlined some of the benefits that teachers who use Minecraft: Education Edition have found, namely:
1) Minecraft: Education Edition promotes engagement
2) Minecraft: Education Edition promotes collaboration
3) Minecraft: Education Edition promotes creative exploration
4) Minecraft: Education Edition promotes learner-centred outcomes
We also explored the encouraging statement made by Katja Borregaard, an educator at Skt Josefs Skole in Roskilde, Denmark, that one doesn't have to be a gamer or expert to get started.

Today we look at some of the Minecraft: Education Edition  terminology and some tips for educators.

Terminology

Block
The Minecrasft world comprises solid and liquid blocks. Each block is very interesting and distinctive. Here are some of the characteristics of the blocks
  • sandstone is opaque,
  • glass is transparent,
  • glowstone emits light,
  • some blocks ignore gravityMost blocks are 1 metre cubed, except for non-standard ones such as slabs and stairs.
  • most blocks have static textures on each face,
  • some such as lava and water have animated textures.

What happens to these blocks? They can be moved  and placed wherever one wishes to put them, and they can also be destroyed if necessary. The only limit in a Minecraft world is the player’s imagination.

World
The players create worlds. Worlds are made up of the Overworld, which is split into biomes, and the Nether, which is a single biome available through a Nether portal.The Nether has plenty of environmental hazards, such as lava and flames, as well as unique mobs. A world is generated by chunks, which are 16 x 16 x 256. A player can fly through the world and  control how many chunks are loaded at any time by adjusting render distance. A world can be:
  • old, which limits it to 256 x 256 blocks,
  • infinite which is the traditional way to play,
  • flat, which generates an infinite plain of grass blocks on top of a few layers of dirt and bedrock.

Biome
A biome in Minecraft is a climate zone or region, from cold and snow-covered to warm and dry,  used within the world. They could be jungles, forests, and deserts.  These regions  contain specific geographic features, flora, foliage, and even what animals breed within it. Types of biomes would be:
  • Taiga as a snow-covered forest, 
  • Plains as an expansive, flat, grassy space,
  • Mesa with its striped variants of clay and desert features.

Players
A player is a character that can be controlled. There are two default player skins, Alex and Steve. Aplayer in Minecraft can change their skin to any of the available Education Edition Skin choices. A player is 1.8 blocks tall, and walks at a rate of 4.3 blocks per second. Players in Survival mode have health and hunger meters, and they can walk, run, sneak, fly, or swim throughout a Minecraft world. Another fun fact is that in Minecraft, the sky rotates directly around the player, which includes sun, moon, and stars, so you can truly say “the sun revolves around me”.

Game modes - Survival and Creative mode
There are two of the main game modes in Minecraft. Survival mode is the standard game mode.
In survival mode:
  • a player must collect resources
  • eat to keep from getting hungry
  • try to stay alive
  • prevent damage from the environment and fight hostile mobs in order to survive.
  • The player also has health and hunger bars with 20 points. At full hunger, health can regenerate, but if hunger drops too far a player can starve and lose health.
  • Additionally, without using commands players cannot fly in Survival mode.

In creative mode the players have the ability to easily create and destroy structures.
  • Players are given an infinite amount of blocks of all types, as well as no health or hunger bars to hamper them.
  • Players are able to destroy all blocks instantly.
  • Players can fly
  • Finally, are neutral and will do no damage to the player.
  • This can be controlled further by setting the world to always day.

Tick
As mentioned worlds are made up of the Overworld and Nether.  The Overworld has a day-night cycle where a day consists of 24000 ticks, equivalent to 20 minutes of calendar time. 
  • In Creative mode, a player can set a Minecraft world to be always day, but in Survival mode, a player must use commands to reset time to a specific spot. 
  • Of the 20 minutes of a Minecraft day, daytime is 10 minutes, dusk and dawn are each 1.5 minutes, and nighttime is the remaining 7 minutes. If a survival world is set to anything except peaceful, hostile mobs will spawn during nighttime as the light level is at its lowest point.
  • There are even phases of the moon in Minecraft during an eight day cycle, so brush up on your waning crescent and waxing gibbous definitions. 

Griefing
Griefing and griefers are a part of Minecraft. Some players like to do the opposite of what they are supposed to do and destroy a classmate’s creation or go their own way and ignore the learning objectives. The best thing to do with these players is to give them responsibilities and leadership opportunities within the game. This focuses their energy to be more collaborative. Minecraft provides an excellent opportunity to discuss digital citizenship, and how destruction of digital creations is no different than tearing up a classmate’s painting or ruining their classwork.

How much control does an educator have in Minecraft: Educaton Edition?

Here are a few of the ways educators  can be part of the game and have some control over what is  happening.  

A simple login using Office 365
Students and educators use Office 365 Education accounts to log in to Minecraft: Education Edition. This ensures secure access to the game and student data privacy. This also ensures 'wherever, whenever learning.'

Tutorial
A full tutorial experience is available for educators and students who are new to Minecraft, or those who need a refresher on controls, crafting, and basics of the game. This includes introductory & detail videos

Lessons
Minecraft: Education Edition has provided lessons spanning primary, intermediate, and secondary school for use with students. Existing curriculum could also be adapted to use Minecraft: Education Edition.


Education edition skins
Students are able to personalise their avatars by using one of the available skins. This increases student engagement and enables the educator to differentiate between students who are playing together.


Classroom collaboration is possible
 A whole class  can play together. The “Friends” tab enables students to collaborate in small or large learning groups and create and learn together.


Allow/Deny blocks
Educators can make use of these to set editable or read-only areas of the world – allowing, or denying students the ability to build and focusing the learning to specific spaces.

Border blocks
Border Blocks help eductors define areas in the game that their students can build and play in.  

Fixed inventory slots
Fixed Inventory Slots provide educators with an opportunity to define specific inventory available to students, such as a camera, portfolio, or other blocks or tools.

Non-player characters

A Non-Player Character, or NPC, can be placed in the game to provide information to students, give direction, and link to other resources.

Chalkboards
Educators can use 3 different sized chalkboards to communicate learning goals, or challenge students with problems to solve within the game.

Classroom mode
Classroom Mode is a partner application that empowers educators to interact, monitor, and facilitate purposeful learning for one or many groups of students.


Monitor portfolios
The portfolio is a place where students can save the screenshots they’ve taken with the Camera and add notes.


Why not introduce Minecraft: Education Edition at your school?

Think about entering into the world of your learners and introducing Minecraft: Education Edition into their space at school. In South Africa the best way to get Minecraft: Education Edition for your class is for your school to sign up by registering for Office 365 for Education (hyperlink: (which is free) and then buying Minecraft: Education Edition from a Microsoft Authorised Education Partners (AEP). These are current partners who can assist you:

Partner Name
Contact Person
 Email
Computers 4 Kids
Russell Pengelly
Scadco
Mitchell Struwig
ITech Solutions
Daryl Duncan
Onsite IT
Clayton Campbell
Masterskill
Roelof de Bruyn
GACS
Brian Carl Brown
Dial a Nerd
Warren Morton

Technical requirements for Minecraft: Education Edition:

Operating System: Windows 10 or macOS 
Identity: Office 365 Education account for each player. This is free for schools and your Authorised Education Partner can assist you getting this set up.
Network: Internet access required for login and multiplayer

Further reading:

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