Saturday, 20 October 2012

Quick Update

Okay, so first off I'm sorry that there wasn't a MinecraftEdu lesson blog post this week; I had a short day and a dentist appointment so for convenience my mum ran the whole lesson. I don't have any screenshots, however from what my mum said, everything went better than the first week, but not as good as the second week.

Now I have a few weeks break from lessons. This week is our school's autumn break and after that grade 1 will have two weeks were they won't be using MinecraftEdu in their Tuesday morning maths lessons. When they do get back to using it, our new topic will be sorting. I have a few brief plans for these lessons involving different coloured wool blocks and chests where the students must work together to break down the blocks and put the different colours into specific chests. More information will be out nearer the time.

I also have a bit of good news to share. At the end of the school year there is a project fair where all grade 9 students get to show off their projects that they have done throughout the year. At this fair, I was hoping to make a video of what has happened over the course of the year's lessons but I was having some trouble recording. I know that I will buy a professional recording software called 'Fraps' but I didn't know how to get the resolution correct for a video. I have now downloaded a free program called 'Sizer' where you can set up different resolutions and when you have it open in the background, you right-click on the window you want to resize in the bottom left corner and it opens up a menu with the different resolutions you have set in Sizer. I have now set a 1296x758 resolution for Minecraft so that in-game, Minecraft can be recorded at a resolution of 1290x720 (the excess pixels is for the window outlining which I don't want recorded).

Then, another problem I had with this is that when I wanted to record, I set my 'Record/Stop' hotkey to F8. Unfortunately, this made the game go into some kind of smoooooooooth play style which wasn't normal. What I didn't know was that in Minecraft, F8 already is a hotkey, which puts the game into this state. If you want to know what I am talking about just go into Minecraft and press F8 (you'll see what I am talking about). Thankfully, I have now changed my 'Record/Stop' hotkey to F9, which doesn't correspond with any hotkey in Minecraft so I can now record as I want to.

Now all I have to do is sort out voice recording. I talked to another teacher who uses MinecraftEdu - Stephen Elford (Twitter: & Youtube: - and he said that I should try using an Ipod or a phone and just place it in the middle of the class however our students are too spread out and our computer lab is too big for this to work. We could try a skype call (or some other voice call service) but then to record everyone's voices, everyone would need to have skype open and be in the call (which might interfere with in-game FPS) and need to have a microphone (which is slightly inconvenient but also - as 1st graders - might distract them as they would probably meddle with it). I guess I could try this for one lesson to see how much lag the students get and to see just how inconvenient it is.

Other than all of that, everything has been going fine! I am waiting for the new MinecraftEdu update to come out so that I can have 'Quiz Blocks'. This will make building the arenas much easier and will also help with taking the students to the next area. Before, when each student had finished their task, my mum and I would have had to teleport the students into the next area. Now, we can use these Quiz Blocks to trigger a redstone pulse, then I can hook up some 'AND-gates' (will be shown in a video later) and then pistons which will open up the next area automatically when the students get the answers right.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Round 2!

Today I had the second third of the class to teach and I must say, after some changes that I made, this group was amazing! Last week, we had an all boys group and they were very excited because they were playing a popular game that some of them play at home. Also, last week they could see each other, which for a few caused a bit of a distraction. This week we had an all girls group and they concentrated really well, understood what they were doing and were silent (which for first graders is awesome)! In addition, this week I made some structural modifications.

As you can see, I added walls around the whole arena so that the students couldn't see each other and were, therefore, not distracted by their friends. Also, under certain strips of blocks, I added 'Build Disallow' blocks so they couldn't place or break blocks in places they weren't supposed to, which is something that happened a lot last week (mostly accidentally).

In terms of how well prepared I was, I logged each child onto the server before the lesson, put them in their individual strips and then gave them all the blocks they would need in advance. This actually saved between 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the lesson because of how long it takes them to log on and so on.

The only thing that probably didn't go as well as planned was the final area with the house in. I don't think anyone fully understood that one block in the game (on the house) was the same as one square on the worksheet they had in front of them. Then, we gave each student three different colours - brown for the wood, silver for the windows and yellow/orange for the door - just as we did last week but the students didn't seem to see where each kind of different block was in relation to the others. I think more work needs to be done on the perspective side of this unit (Pattern & Perspective).

The students about to get started!

What the arena looked like around the end of the lesson.

On the fun side, I found an NPC village just outside of where the arena was built so I decided to move the fun area out to that. I just planted a few trees around it and replaced the chest of axes and put it there. Sadly, no one got there this week either as many got stuck on the final exercise. Hopefully 'Mr. Axe Chest' will get more attention in future...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The First Teaching Lesson!

I had the first lesson where the kids were actually able to take something away from the lesson in terms of knowledge yesterday. It seemed to go okay but I didn't feel like everyone understood exactly what the point was. I am hoping that in the later maths lessons this week a lot of that will be explained. I guess as I only had one third of the class I will be able to see if it was just that group of kids and that I just had a bit of bad luck or whether it is the style of teaching and the structure of the map I built. If after next week's group I have the same problem I will look at changing the map and the way I teach the children about it.
As you can see everyone had the same original pattern and the goal of the first section was to recognise and repeat the pattern. Some got right into it and others took a while to get used to the controls again. At the end of the 45 minute lesson some people still had nothing while others had either done it correctly and gone onto the next area or then had something but it wasn't correct so they weren't allowed to progress like here:
This was taken about 5 minutes before the lesson was due to end. As you can see a few had got it correct while others either had something incorrect or barely anything at all. The two strips at the far end had no one in them which is why they are fully empty but they rest were being worked on. 

In the second area (with the white blocks) the students had to look at  the shape in front of them and based on perspective think how many blocks were used to build the shape in front of them. They were all made differently so that they wouldn't be able to copy answers and everyone's had a different number - between 5 and 10 blocks - to complete the shape. Then in the final area there is a house. In front of each side of the house there are signs saying :
  • View 1
  • View 2
  • View 3
  • View 4
On a piece of paper that we gave them, they had to colour in squares to show what each side of the house looked like. Each side had a different pattern of wood and windows so each drawing should have been different.

Sadly the outside area (although one student was close) was untouched and therefore the chest of axes was unused, leading to the chest becoming very sad! I hope it gets used next lesson!


I went to my student councellor today and talked to her about starting my project early (most people will be starting in November when the supervisors are chosen). It seemed like she wasn't so keen on the idea at first as it is to do with video games however the more I got into the subject she became more comfortable with the idea. After everything was explained she was actually quite excited to see the results (so it seemed) and pretty much said that it is okay for me to start early and that she would also send me - and the rest of the year - the essay/report structure help sheet. In practice, this means that I can start working on my project fully and then I can start on the essay too! The only thing I won't have is the supervisor but at the beginning of the project that isn't such a big deal... It's nice to know I can get right into this now full speed!!!