Colin's Sandbox

#gamifi-ED + #etlead Minecraft Group Project / Process

by on Mar.28, 2014, under #etlead

It’s really hard to describe the boot strapping of this game design process, other than to fire off words like: confusing, cohesive, scattered, fun, feeling lost.  Starting off this project a few weeks ago there was some confusion as to what it was we were actually trying to produce and what were the target goals we were going to be assessed by, etc.  One thing was pretty clear – it was going to be a game involving “The Hunger Games” in some fashion, creating the environment of Panem or pre-Panem, and focusing on guiding students on how to avoid Panem.  The group was to be focused on creating the environment using a certain version of Minecraft, the popular indie sandbox game called MinecraftEdu.

Getting the Group Going

We started with a few sessions where varying groups of us have been in the world to explore the features, get a feel for what we can control in the game, see what is difficult / easy.  To do this several of us created structures in the game to represent symbols appearing in the series of books such as the Bakery, the Meadow, the Hob, etc., and this served as an excellent learning tool for many in the group.  Some of the participants were held back due to technical hurdles (still being resolved) but I think everyone has a pretty good idea what’s involved, a general feel for how the game works.  I gained a lot of XP guiding the teachers through the environment and figuring out what motivated all the different styles of learner.  My favorite to date was setting up a quest for Tiffany to get through in order to get a saddle for the horse she tamed.

All of us have our own favorite communication tool; we’ve been trying to make meetings work through Google Hangouts, and communicating primarily through Twitter and the comment facility with Google Docs with the occasional email or IM this way or that way.  While in game we’d use the chat feature, oftentimes Google Hangouts would make Minecraft performance laggy.

One pressure is of course the schedule.  This time of the year is pretty busy; many teachers had crammed schedules ahead of spring break and the week just after.  Making sure we have a project that is manageable and not left half finished by the time school is out is important.

The Game Itself

The original idea is to demonstrate civics in the world of Panem through a game and then somehow tie this in with current and past cultures and institutions.  Thomas brought up the idea of exploring something like Hammurabi’s Code of Laws within the game and the more we have dove into the game and talked about it, the more we are sure that we could emulate the environment of Panem and create the same pressure to skirt the unjust laws at the risk of drawing the attention of the Peacekeepers.  There’s a lot of room in this process to explore concepts of civics; exploring institutions, creating a simple system of economy (buying / selling goods, taxes, penalties, incentives).  There’s lots of discussion about individual mechanics such differentiating a character’s items and attributes and group, and we’re on the right path there.  The hard part which remains is: what defines winning?  Or do you just run it a certain time period, examine what happens, and reflect upon it afterwards?  Does the game just get played over a couple short sessions, or does it keep going in little snippets over the semester?  The big questions you might say 🙂

Teachers and Their Students See the Game Differently

Teachers and students play the game differently.  We’ve heard about Bartle’s gamer types before, but I think in a mixed, somewhat semi-formal environment adults tend to not display their “killer” personality.  Students have no fear in this department, feeling quite free to blow up buildings and mix it up.  I intentionally left the world open and free (sans mods such as MyTown or WorldGuard), and Vicki has had a discussion with students about what the expectations in the game world itself should be, respecting everyone’s creations.  Great stuff!

The Next Few Weeks

I’m looking forward to coming up with something really fun with the group that students (and teachers) would really want work with.  As we work more and more with the students I think the real civics lesson will happen as a consequence; having to actively construct the world of Panem and consider the larger issues of disparity, dysfunctional institutions of government, could be a great opportunity to critically examine past and present cultures as examples.

In the next week we need to nail down a snapshot outlining the game mechanics, portions of the narrative, such as how a game starts and finishes.  Perhaps a return back to the original Educurious unit is warranted here.

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A Review of the CyberSavvy Approach

by on Mar.18, 2014, under #digitalcitizenship

“Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology,” while defining bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time” (, 2014).

Nancy Willard cites key differences between cyberbullying and bullying. With cyberbullying, the behavior can continue well after face-to-face interaction.  In addition, the power structures can be different; “sometimes less powerful young people are using the Internet to attack more powerful people or groups of people” (Willard, 2007, p28). (continue reading…)

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#etlead week 9 reflection

by on Mar.17, 2014, under #etlead

Working with #etlead+#gamifi-ED #Minecraft crew

griefer-level-1We have a great team lined up for the #gamifi-ED Minecraft project in the #etlead class.  Over the past week there have been no fewer than 4 hangouts between various members of the group to get our feet wet with Minecraft / MinecraftEdu, and an extensive amount of that time was spent discussing ways that we could create a game within a game to set the stage for students to learn some concepts of civics as it relates to preventing Panem.  It’s a pretty compelling idea and I hope that Vicki’s class is into the idea.  It’s a concept that can really be expanded out as big as you like: comparing and contrasting governance in Panem with various examples current and past seems pretty compelling.  There’s a lot of thanks to go around here: I’m thankful to Chris Stegall and Tiffany Pickrell for really lighting the fire for me and reviewing the initial Google Document and coming up with some great ideas for the world as well as potential quests relating to The Hunger Games and how they might look in Minecraft.  Tomas Andersen came up with the idea of incorporating the Code of Hamurabi within a quest.  Sara Lambries came late to our group, but I’m excited to work with her here as I have done in the EDMA693 course.  Nicole Fuerst has more knowledge stored up about games and gamification in her crippled X-Box thumb than I have in my whole being and I’m excited to work with her in this endeavor as well.  Our crew got thwarted by Thomas Mellen during the tutorial session, as he went around and tried to block everyone while they were finding their way to the campground on more than one occasion, and so hereby earns the “Griefer Level 1” badge.

Geeking out with My Son

I spent some time this past week geeking out with my son, who’s very interested in Minecraft.  I had the most rare time the other day, just sitting back and watching him explain his creation to me within the game.  It was quite exciting listening to his design thoughts – he built this neat indoor garden inside his house.

He loves flowers!

The Importance of Powering off

With all this new attention on learner collectives, and 24/7 learning its easy to stay powered up and engaged at almost any time of the day.  We have to remember to make time to get outside the digital sphere at times, and with that note I need to power off for the night myself.  It’s been a busy past month, I have spring break to look forward to, and want to spend a good portion of it with my loving family.  I’ll never be completely ahead on all the work, and I always have a better perspective after hanging out, messing around, and geeking out with them.

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A shift in focus from factual to tacit knowledge

by on Mar.16, 2014, under #etlead

This week’s #etlead essential question asks, “what are the challenges in shifting content from ‘what’ to ‘where’ and ‘how’?”.  The big challenge it would seem is the letting go of the old notion that the person in the front of the room is the ultimate authority when it comes to all things learning.  With the power of always-on connected learning at our finger tips we’re entering into an era where it matters that you know how to do something and where to look up resources for help during its implementation.  Learning facts is not as important in this view.  Computers allow us to bypass much of the mechanics of certain tasks, freeing us up to answer more and better questions, while being connected together (Thomas and Seely Brown’s “geeking out”).  Approaches like this become talked about as a way to understand the roots of asking questions and solving real problems (from the acquired tacit knowledge), and focusing less time on the calculation:

Tacit knowledge, defined as intuitive knowledge as defined by ScienceDaily, is that of knowing a skill without having “rational/analytical thought processes” mediating between the “knower and the known”.  The renewed focus on tacit knowledge over explicit knowledge (facts) and is one of the big shifts in the learner-centric, mastery learning environments.  Thomas and Seely Brown (2011) characterize tacit knowledge, as that “which grows through personal experience and experimentation, is not transferrable” and is therefore acquired only through learner engagement.  With the rise of mobile computing, and the 24-7 connectedness with learning collectives this enables encourages this shift. (continue reading…)

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Tools for teaching digital citizenship

by on Mar.12, 2014, under #digitalcitizenship

Due to some professional (ASTE) and personal (hockey tournament, course-load, family) life busy-ness I am having to go back in time a couple weeks and revisit the question about how to incorporate tools that concern themselves with digital citizenship into schools.

Since I do not have a classroom of my own, I approach this topic primarily in the shoes of a father of two preschoolers as well as a graduate student involved with more than a few learning communities.  With the hindsight that I’ve gained after critically reviewing Commonsense Media’s curriculum, reviews, and educator and parent resources, and in some very relevant discussions I was a part of at ASTE I believe that so much of what we do as learners online has a social component.  It’s possible to lead a project that addresses digital citizenship and stresses the importance of digital portfolios as a beginning to your personal learning network. (continue reading…)

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