19 Oct 2016

Using Minecraft to Teach Citizenship

During 2016 I took a leap and decided to take my year 9 Social Studies classes in a very new direction. I leant heavily on experience based learning activities.  Teaching citizenship skills was the overarching goal as in the New Zealand Curriculum. I used Minecraft Mobile on the school iPads as the activity.

At the beginning of the year there was no support in the app for multiplayer that I was able to control for the entire class (there was limited iPad to iPad multiplayer).  I used PocketMine which is third party server software.  This came with heaps of features missing from the game but gave a platform that the whole class could get onto.  

It was a world that they could make their own choices in.  For good or bad with limited real world impacts.  Year 9 boys need to take risks, this world was a way of enabling that.  The biggest real world consequences were relationship related, and it turned out the choices they made in the game reflected their relationships in the class in general too.

The brief was to create a community and practice their citizenship skills.  There will be meetings in the classroom that are led by the class to resolve problems and plan ahead.  There will be compulsory reflection on your experiences in the game relating to the citizenship skills we learn about in the classroom.

From the end of Term One

“I learnt that my feelings are just the same as everybody else's and that no singular person on earth is any more important. For example Barack Obama is just the same as a hungry kid in poverty, we are all humans we are all part of one society and we're all living life. Things that you say or do can affect people in good or bad ways, especially if we continue to say these things. I learnt this from Minecraft when everybody was fighting and trying to make a one high power.”

Over the year things evolved, but not as I expected them to. They made heaps of mistakes in relation to what would constitute making a civilised, positive, and productive community. In one class a gang mentality was forming and was becoming the norm. The first Term was dominated by fighting, whenever someone tried to build or get ahead they would get blindsided and set way back.

"In the game me and a few friends decided to make a group. Our name was YOZA group. We made the group so we could recognise us all as one community. I was outlaw_yoza. We created a group headquarters where we could meet and do stuff like that. We were so dominant that other people started stealing names or naming themselves EC_yoza or psyosa and tried to join or tried to kill us so we changed our name to power and called the house power house. We are the most dominant group in the game and we wrecked people.

We made our own community to smartly outdo the opponents and create peace in a small section in our world. I learned the work of team work and working together so much that we became the best group in school.

We could build more bases and expand our land until we have so much that everyone will listen to powers commands and we could create a community.

Teaming up is not challenging at all the only challenging thing is that some people might not pull their weight and might betray the team.

A message to anybody in 9B or the school. If you think your group or yourself can take us on come to power house and we can arrange something to happen (?v8) because we are the best in the whole school and you don't sand a chance so try us. 

Im making this statement to prove we are the best POWER HOUSE!!"

This did continue into Term 2 but did start to change. There were more voices talking about creating order and how to instil law to manage the bad behaviour. The discussion here were great. One class were talking about government type behaviours and ended up in a debate between having a king that had control or over everyone having control of their own lives, the majority started on the side of a king and his order and as it was talked out, entirely by the students the majority moved over to the everyone can do it their way approach. The fact still remained that one or two people could really upset the balance of things by doing dumb stuff and stealing, killing or otherwise bringing others down.

In did get a bit more hands on, by organising a class doing capture the flag (great teamwork reflection but that was it, very limited). I also got classes focussing on what sort of community they wanted and doing some vision stuff (very successful) and another class doing work on the problems they have and trying to solve them (some great thinking but not much transferring to the game).

In Term 3 MineCraft servers came out and I switched. This meant we all started again. But the game has the full features. I implemented a clan group approach that was across classes and the worlds were open 24/7 for those keen to carry on at home. In the end on clan dominated as a group of them spent a lot of time over a weekend building up their strength.

I am developing this learning programme this year. The potential to learn about citizenship skills through it is huge and unlimited. The hardest part is get the balance right of game time and class activities to draw and frame the learning. This year I will be developing the front-loading and reflection aspects of the unit. For example I will first this year being organising elections, using a classic metaphor or landing on a new planet and needing to organise a colony. The students will be electing a Prime Minister and their cabinet and then as many people as each portfolio needs depending on how important the class thinks that area is, then we will go into the MineCraft world.

All with the aim of getting more and more reflections like these from end of the year:

What happened? In the farming world the Swarm made a few basses around the world and I made a house which had nothing in it but it was a fishing dock so I could gather fish for food for the others.  What did I learn? I learnt how to solve conflicts because someone came and killed me and I ask politely for my items to be returned and after a little discussion he did, and that's how people should face problems with other people in life because it works without violence.  How can I apply my learning? In life I can just ask for things that have been taken from me instead of retaliating badly as it might get me into trouble in the future.

I learnt that communication is a definite part to a successful community, you need to communicate frequently in order to manage your team well. Team work is working as a team, meaning helping each other and cooperating, e.g, always looking out for each other and helping a brother in need, we also need to set high standards and living up to them, making good judgements and possibly taking risks, we are always making judgments but in a community we need to be thorough in our decisions and have great trust towards our team members. I think all of these are key components towards life in general and we need these to survive in the outside world, we always need to look out for each other, use communication, make great judgments, trust in each other and always strive for the best.

This is what happened to the spawn area when someone got admin rights and used TNT

Well done for getting this far, here is a special treat for you, just in case you can't get enough of this story.

I did some writing on this during the year as well, so if you are super keen here are the other blog posts I wrote:

If you are interested in the technical difficulties of pocket mine I recommend the Nov 2015 Post (I wish I had found something like this at the time).  If you are interested in how it was going halfway through I recommend the World Without Order Post. 

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