Minecraft - Where Everybody Knows Your Name


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The opening song to the 80's sitcom, Cheers, reminds us that we all need a space where we're welcomed, valued, and part of a community. Ray Oldenburg calls these Third Places. For many of our students today, Minecraft and other multiplayer online games, have become that third place. This year, I launched a 24/7 Minecraft server for our district's students. This presentation shares how it has become both a third place and a world that fosters powerful, informal learning!

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Minecraft - Where Everybody Knows Your Name

  1. 1. Lucas Gillispie @lucasgillispie
  2. 2. www.edurealms.com
  3. 3. Constance Steinkhueler Senior Policy Analyst Office of Science and Technology Policy Executive Office of the President Asst. Professor UW Madison Twitter: @constances Much of this presentation is inspired by the work of Constance Steinkhueler. Check out her work at http://website.education.wisc.edu/steinkuehler/blog/
  4. 4. Today, I want to show you some ways in which, I think, games like Minecraft can function as a rich third place that fosters some really powerful informal learning and how we as educators might begin to build and foster these spaces for the benefit of our learners.
  5. 5. (Learning the content) is very much the 20th century idea around education. But in the 21st century, it’s learning the tools and the skills of remaking that content and becoming the creator and the producer. We know that the learning outside of school matters tremendously for the learning in school…How can we be more active about linking those two together? -Diana Roten, Director of Digital Media and Learning Project I think Diana Roten of the Digital Media and Learning project “nails it” when it comes to why we as educators should pay attention to these spaces and why we should not only be creating these spaces, but I believe, active in them, alongside our learners.
  6. 6. The PCS Minecraft Community Server In the Fall of 2013, we took our district Minecraft program in a new direction, launching one of our district servers as a 24/7 community server. The things I’ve observed have been amazing...
  7. 7. So, to get started, let’s talk about this concept of “third place.”
  8. 8. A place where people congregate other than home or work. Ray Oldenburg http://purposeeconomy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/RayOldenburg.png Urban sociologist, Ray Oldenburg, is an advocate for informal public gathering spaces. He distinguishes these “third places” from other important places in our lives, home (first place) and work (second place).
  9. 9. In his writings, he argues for the importance of these third spaces for healthy communities and suggests they fill a critical role in democratic societies. http://youareagrownman.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/bwrays-barber-shop-cd-01.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Bowlerbowling.JPG http://www.thevervelife.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/nbc_cheers_081012_ssh.jpg http://www.ncsudining.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/port_city1.jpg
  10. 10. A place where students congregate other than home or school. Ray Oldenburg http://purposeeconomy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/RayOldenburg.png Due to their very structured lives and lack of mobility and financial means, students are turning to the digital world to create their own “third places.”
  11. 11. Many people, especially our students, are using digital game spaces as this critical third place.
  12. 12. Characteristics of a Let’s take a look at the Oldenburg’s characteristics of Third Places and I’d like to show you how I’m seeing these play out in powerful ways in our district’s Minecraft Server.
  13. 13. Neutral Ground Our server is a completely optional space. Participation is optional. If a player wants to invest a little or a lot of time there, that’s up to them. This voluntary aspect is critical.
  14. 14. Leveler Your appearance, socio-economic status, grades, etc., don’t matter here. This aspect is incredibly empowering to many of our students who might be intimidated in a typical classroom.
  15. 15. “I am a naturally introverted person, so I think that Minecraft is a good way for me to be able to communicate with people in my area without putting myself out there. I am not uncomfortable when talking to them, as I would be if I was talking to them in person.” -Kay_519 Consider this quote by a member of our community...
  16. 16. Conversation is the main activity Communication is essential in a multiplayer gaming environment. The primary medium for our players in the chat window. The conversation isn’t limited to the activities around Minecraft either. I’ve seen conversations about current events, personal interests like favorite foods and music, and more.
  17. 17. “I enjoy playing with other people. It is a great way for friends to be able to play, learn, and communicate without the complications. Minecraft is great way to do activities that are and aren't possible in real life.” -Aidan2533 “...without the complications.” Think about the challenges of simply being a middle schooler. Their poor hormone-wrecked brains are always dealing with new things. It’s a wonder they learn anything during middle school. The community of the Minecraft server, however, helps them overcome these challenges in some ways.
  18. 18. Accessibility and Accommodation Taking our server 24/7 was a big decision, but it’s definitely something our students wanted and the parents have been supportive. Likewise, giving students a sense of ownership of the environment and a voice in the direction of the community has been important. I’ll explain some ways we do that later on...
  19. 19. “I like our server because, right away, you are welcomed and supplied with what you need to get started, and the overall atmosphere of SpringHaven is welcoming...I think that we should have more communities, so that we can live alongside each other, and make the server larger.” -jackinferno
  20. 20. The Regulars Third places also have “the regulars,” the ones who are there often and set the tone. These are the ones who are often encouraging and helpful to newcomers and even recruit them.
  21. 21. “The server community is great. They are nice and help out whenever you need it. Even if you don't actually know the player, they still treat you like a friend. The admins are fair and help out even if they are doing something else.” -Snowtiger56
  22. 22. Low Profile Third places are never snobby, but rather have a wholesome, home-like feel to them. In our space, the work of long-time Minecraft architects can be found alongside that of novices. Our players create the space that is custom-tailored for them.
  23. 23. The Mood Is Playful The conversation is typically light and humor is valued. Players often gather to build things like castles, art, and their own mini-games together.
  24. 24. “We talk and have fun, a lot, even though I don't know who they really are.” -jasondinokid
  25. 25. A Home Away from Home Since the world has been built almost entirely by our student players, there is a huge sense of ownership and rootedness. It’s their world. It’s what they make it. And, this gives them a strong sense of belonging.
  26. 26. “I enjoy building massive structures and intricate houses on Minecraft. After slaving away for weeks I get to step back and admire my accomplishment. I try to make structures as realistic as I can, and I enjoy putting architecture and brains into a video game.” -Jinxniffler196 Players invest hours into their creations. The Minecraft space gives them a place to do that in which they can actually see the fruits of their efforts. To be able to stand back and say... “I did this,” is powerful. Being able to share it with fellow builders, even more so.
  27. 27. Fostering The To Unlock So, how did I foster the community and help it evolve into what it is today? Well, it didn’t happen over night, I can assure you. There’s been a great deal of trial and error, however, I can share some insights that I think have been key...
  28. 28. 1. Involve Your Learners from Day 1. From the beginning, I’ve involved the student-players on the server. I’m always open to their suggestions. They spend more time in Minecraft than I do. They’ve played on other servers. They know what’s out there and what’s possible. Why not leverage that expertise? From day one, this server has been a cooperative effort. I handle the technical side of things and work to keep the space functioning, but they are largely responsible for the community aspects.
  29. 29. “What rules/guidelines should our community have?” “How should we handle it when people break the rules?” “What sort of activities do you want available?” First off, I let them establish the community’s norms. Once the community decided, it was settled. Again, they’ve been on other servers. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.
  30. 30. 2. Make them Do The Work! This doesn’t have to be a tremendous additional workload. Over time, give them increasingly more responsibility and guide their decision-making, but let them do the work. Let them fail, too! It’s OK. It’s powerful!
  31. 31. Guide Program Students who demonstrate maturity, selfless willingness to help others, and commitment to the server community. Don’t make them “the police.” Part of the work I didn’t want to deal with was supporting the influx of newcomers along with the “my stuff was griefed” and “someone stole my stuff” complaints. They’re going to happen. I saw this as an opportunity to leverage my more experienced, mature, and helpful players, allowing them to be a helper (and investigator). I never want them to hand down consequences, though. They should always be viewed as support. I’ll do the jailing and banning.
  32. 32. SERVER RANKS Create a ranking system that is attainable, but increasingly requires them to contribute to the overall server community. The next step was to create a server ranking system. This was the gamification of the community. Beyond simple levels and badges, however, I wanted to players to have to both invest in the community and do some content creation at the same time.
  33. 33. SERVER RANKS Recognize ranks with titles, accolades, and of course, perks. The ranks would then be recognized, visibly, among the other members of the community, and minor in-game perks, like being able to use colored chat, or set up their own store would be the reward.
  34. 34. SERVER RANKS Engagement in our Edmodo community (district-wide). Participate in a monthly community event. Create a YouTube tutorial and share it. Plan, organize, and run a community event. Contribute content to the server wiki. The sorts of community investment ramp up with successive ranks.
  35. 35. 3. Don’t Spoon-feed Them. “How do I make a YouTube Channel?” “How do I do a Google Doc?” “How do I add a screenshot in Edmodo?”
  36. 36. “Figure it out.” Have you seen what they can build? Where’d they learn to do that? They can use those same tools to learn to do other things too! This is the Internet, kid. Figure it out. Tough? Maybe. But guess what.... They will if they want to. After all, that insanely complicated automatic sugarcane farming machine they built in Minecraft? Yeah, they watched a YouTube video to learn how. They can do the same with learning how to update a wiki, too.
  37. 37. 4. Embrace failure as an iterative process! Failure is OK here. I’ve failed often. They will too.
  38. 38. Failure You’re going to fail. They’re going to fail. We’re all going to learn! Failure is a great opportunity for learning. We embrace it.
  39. 39. 5. The Play’s The THing Creative, imaginative play is so important. Minecraft gives our kids that.
  40. 40. Don’t Underestimate Play There are no grades. There are no lessons. There are no high-stakes tests. ...and they’re learning, anyway. I can see them learning. They are sharing their learning with me. No grades, no lessons, and no tests.
  41. 41. Questions?