Sunday, March 8, 2015

Minecraft for the Classroom?

I recently attended the IntegratED conference in Portland, Oregon.  One of the sessions I attended was presented by Diane Main who did a great job of showing how MinecraftEDU could be used in the classroom to increase student engagement and find new ways to address the common core in the classroom.  I was super excited but quickly became disappointed to find that MinecraftEDU didn't support iOS, only personal computers.  With a classroom full of iPads it was not going to be possible to use this great resource.  I was not willing to give up without a fight however.  Although nothing compares to the tools that minecraftEDU gives the teacher in the classroom, there is a less teacher/user friendly alternative for those with iPads. is a website setup by a 20 year old programmer from Spain who created open source software that allows anyone to setup a server to create a virtual worls accessible by Minecraft pocket edition.  I quickly setup the server on my home computer, got a static IP address and forwarded my ports to make my server accessible from outside my local network.  Before I knew it I was accessing my server from school and decided to tell my students about my plans to try to use it in the classroom.  Before I knew it there were more than 20 of my students who wanted to help me build a world for us to learn in.  I'm not a technology teacher but I suddenly had students researching how command line interfaces work, using commands at a prompt, and problem solving when coding didn't work.  The server software allows for a basic world to be created, but programmers who would like to, can create plugins that expand the basic capabilities of the Minecraft world like adding an economy, secure logins, chat censoring, and much more.  The only problem I had was not being sure how all the different plugins worked.  I put students in charge of figuring out how the plugins worked and how we could create a map for students to use.
 Soon I was placing kids in charge of virtual jobs, maps, shops, land ownership, and much more.  At this point I'm not sure I will actually use minecraft as part of my daily classroom, but I am sure that whether I do or not it has already provided an extension activity for students who want to engage with technology at a higher level.  By giving my students a real task with a real purpose have created a ton of logical problems for them to solve.  Whether it is as simple as finding the right plugin or figuring out why one of the plugins is conflicting with another plugin, the problem solving involved is happening at a very high level.  If you have experience with using pocketmine with Minecraft PE in the classroom please connect with me.  I would love to know how else it is being used.