We play Minecraft together.
Minecraft, for those of you unacquainted with it, is an online co-op game in which you work with the natural world to build and create. Take trees and cut them down to use the wood to make all sorts of things. Three of us educators are playing Minecraft together on a server and we plan on starting Minecraft clubs with our students in the next couple of months. We have a wiki where we share tips, post photos and write journals of our experience playing. These are some of the things I've learned - about learning, Minecraft, and myself - as I've played this game.
1) Following your own interests make things more fun.
IRL (In real life), I like to scrapbook. In the game, I'm the player that takes the most screen shots. One of the other players created a gorgeous inukshuk-like statue near her online home. The third player is quite a tinkerer and just recently built a underground rail system with carts. The nice thing about Minecraft is that there's no one right way to play it and we can do all sorts of things there. Here are some "photos" I've taken.
|This is a screen shot of my character in Minecraft.|
I already mentioned that I'm a pretty weak video game player. This is especially true in Minecraft. On my first day of playing, I spent most of the time practicing how to walk. If it weren't for the kindness of my fellow players, I'd be doomed. Minecraft characters need shelter to hide from the spiders and creepers that come out in the night. I am not yet talented enough to build a house (or even a secure hole in the ground) to protect myself, but my fellow players have invited me into their homes to stay and be safe. They never mock me for my lack of crafting abilities - they applaud when I figured out how to feed myself or kill a pig for food. Despite the huge difference in our skill levels, we have fun playing together. One person built boats for us and we went sailing together. We learn from each other. We problem solve. We learn more when we're together - even our expert player is discovering things by interacting with us.
|This is my character's viewpoint while boating.|
One of the "gameducators" playing with me is keeping a list of all the different ways she's died in the game. It's a pretty lengthy one so far. I died my first few minutes in the game; I walked up to read the welcome sign and a creeper attacked me. I've fallen in lava, been mauled by spiders and destroyed by creepers. Sometimes when I die, I laugh. Sometimes I holler. Sometimes I curse. The follow-up is always the same - I respawn and keep going. No one's perfect and that's okay.
|This is a picture of me trying to kill a cow for food. I ended up hacking my boat to pieces in the process.|
If I don't know how to do something, I ask someone or look it up. My own children helped me with this when I was online by myself and got stuck in my boat. They read the Minecraft wiki and found out what I had to do to exit my ship. I tried the tips out and if it didn't work, I searched for more information or re-read the instructions. Isn't this the essence of research - having an authentic question, seeking answers by accessing information found in resources, and doing something with the found/processed information? I like research. I don't like writing long lists of references in proper APA format but I like discovering things I didn't know before.
|This was my inventory. I learned that I needed a crafting table with a 3x3 grid to make things.|
My husband doubted that I'd like playing this game because it's very different from the few games I do play of my own volition (like Just Dance on the Wii or Webkinz). However, he's noted that I seem to be enjoying myself even though this is something outside my comfort zone. (I'm taking Melanie's advice to "go to the places that scare you".) It's hard for me but it's been fun. There's something beautiful about a virtual sunrise and surviving the night.
|Sunset (or sunrise?) as seen from a safe house in Minecraft|