23 januari 2015

It's okay to fail!

It's a busy time right now as we have Open House, trying to recruit new students to next autumn. Today there will come like 600 students from high school to have a look at our school and our educations. Yesterday when we was promoting our Business Information Technican education (datanom/datanomi) one colleague surprised me talking very warm of Minecraft and ComputerCraft (I'm still not welcome at his lessons btw) as a good introduction to what this profession really is about as you have to be a troubleshooter, either you're IT support or a programmer.

As I thought it's better to actually show what we're doing, or more precisely how I use MinecraftEDU during my courses, I made a videoclip. Of course that was something doomed to fail according to my dear colleagues. Really? A clip? No, you should use a PowerPoint...

Have in mind, this is my "PowerPoint", my words, thoughts and opinions about the education when I try to talk about it and promote it, not my school.

Yesterday there was some groups only with girls and they were a bit afraid of the computers so I told them a story, when I started with my course with ComputerCraftEDU, programming basics, and there was this guy telling me it was too hard. At that lesson also my daughter AquaVera 6 yo attended, and she showed the guys how to use MinecraftEDU and ComputerCraftEDU. And I saw the girls smiled as they understood, it's all about the mindset. She, my daughter, was working as a good example to get the high school girls interested in the education.

My daughter also happen to unfortunately be a perfectionist, failure is not an option! Therefor she surprised me this morning when I told her about this, using Minecraft to learn and she told me:
"Dad, it's okay to fail but you have to try!"

Strange don't you think? It's okay to fail when it comes to games... so why do we not use games in education more???

My on going ComputerCraftEDU course has been very funny. Half the group has been running home as fast as possible and the other half I have had to kick out... Even if the server have had lots of lag, they still sit there. The day before yesterday, Wednesday evening, we couldn't even move around on the server, did it mind this young men? Not at all. It was some delay on the code but he refused to give up.

"The course ends 19:00, it's now 18:49, I still have 11 minutes to go!" And 19:10 I have to drag him out...

18 januari 2015

LEGO Friends in Minecraft

As I started the other day what will happen if you start play computer games together with your children you could learn of each other I will continue on that track. For an example, last year my daughter AquaVera (by then 5 yo) participated in the first project I ran with Minecraft in School. As most of the building was in the evenings and from home she could, and later also demanded to, join.

As I thought Minecraft would be a hard game to play (I was so wrong!) I told my students they had to build their school and as a creative part, build an own house. It took less than 36 hours to build a minor city and I had to have a second thought about it. During those 36 hours Aquavera also entered the game with an own account and also start build on her own house.

But as it's very fun to build together I asked her what she would like to do and she picked Olivia's house (3315) from Lego Friends.

She had just gotten the Lego kit and we had just built it, therefor she also wanted to have it inside Minecraft. I told her I'm not going to build it alone, she has to help me. We sat together and had the instruction book between us and followed the steps together.

After the house, we also built the Heartlake City Pool (41008) with the water slide, complete with the heart in the bottom of the pool. We also had some discussions about the water and the flow, that you actually can create a slide and play with it inside game.

During these building projects we had done lots of learning, from math and physics (the water slide) to technical drawing (interpret a drawing in 2D to 3D). Both had been troubleshooting where many of the solutions came from her because she wanted to have it exact as in the real LEGO model.

Later she has also been improving the pool with lots of other activities and opportunities for playtimes, like secret underwater tunnels that connect different pools...

16 januari 2015

Reflection of gaming

I'm preparing my next MinecraftEDU ComputerCraft course and have some thinking going on that I need to get out, clear the system sort of :)

When I play Minecraft with my 6yo daughter (AquaVera), the first thing I can't help think about is all learning that is going on. But, with a second thought, all that enlighten learning wouldn't take place if she were playing alone. And this is not a boy girl issue, it's when you play over generations and learn from each other. 

How can I be so sure? 
Well, best example is "Everyday Minecraft" with Adam Clarke and his son Django. There's no epic mission to slay the dragon and conquer the world, instead there's small epic missions for the day: create a bed (you need to find sheep), start a farm (you need to eat), create better tools, create a proper nice base camp. 

"Everyday Minecraft" should been watching every once in a while of parents and kids as it's very inspiring what you really could achieve with a computer game if you are aware of it. 

We have the same epic goals; yesterday we went out to try find horses so we could start breed puppies and of course, create a stable to them. Now we happened to find sheep as well, so we "had" to take care of them...

In our acquaintance 
there's parents who don't know, understand or even care what their kids play. These kids have most often one primary goal, the epic mission: slay the dragonThis is pity as you could use a game to so much, for an example "The Minecraft Student - Minecraft Mod Review" a great way of learning math!

To be able to "slay the dragon" you sometimes (in games like World of Warcraft) have to collaborate with others, who you trust can do their part as professionals. You have to communicate to be successful. But in the very end, you do it for yourself, to get better gear or whatever. In games as World of Tanks you are a part of a team, where the group is more important but here we talk match and series, as ice hockey or soccer. 

But as long as no one enlighten you, there's no consciously learning going on because you also feel bad when you play more than your parents want. It doesn't matter if it's about kids in my daughters age or my students (+10 years), they still need someone to enlighten the learning to be able to achieve it.

This is kind of my problem at the moment.

There's another side as well (of course): how our students work and behave. I'm sorry, but they really suck at information retrieval. When they hit the very first wall of adversity they give up. If it's not a game... 

I have for a couple of weeks having this course using both MinecraftEDU and ComputerCraftEDU, with a goal to reach out to the first years students (16-18yo) and get them more interested in code by gaming. As I know they're brilliant what comes to problem solve when gaming, I hope they also understand that's an important part during class when you're doing code (or school tasks). Don't give up if it's not working on the first attempt! Besides get them interested into coding I also want them to understand you can (and must do) information retrieval when you code!

This course when using ComputerCraftEDU in classroom has been a truly success! Many students refuse to leave until the lessons end, no matter if the Internet are not working (happened!), when the server is too laggy (happened!) or even if we have problems with the tech (happened!). When I'm ready to give up and tell them it's okay to go, half the class stays with the argument "the course ends at 19:10, we have another 45 min to hope for a miracle!" 

When has that ever happened before?
We have all started the day between 8:00 and 08:30, 10 hours later they still have energy to require we end as scheduled 19:10 (and then I have to literally kick them out!)

They buy the explanation to use a game to learn something, and I can see that information gives them the aha-feeling: I am really learning something useful when I play and when I have played (Confirmation. Enlighten.)

The problem I usually have is when some students who runs own servers comes and want admin, operator access and want to install their own favorite bukkit mods. They have very hard to understand (and accept) there's actually a learning environment, an EDU-version, to their favorite game.

This time I have given them the tools to make code but nothing else as I assume they're lazy enough to want have turtles doing the boring work for them. In the following courses I will have some more specific quests for them like math, thanks to Shane Asselstine (Hawaii) who opened my eyes with thoughts like these ones:

Have them calculate how much wheat they would need to grow to survive for a day. It is harder than it seems. Then how much for a week? How much for a month?

Are there better sources of food that would be more effective? How do you measure the effectiveness? Can you give it data and compare the numbers?