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Minecraft-MOOC, tumbling down the world of cubes

Final reflexion:

What is fun in this game? Of course doing something together. It may be a boat tour (see picture below) or a mining day in an unknown area. A good neighbourhood as well. In this place also thanks to Robert and Mircea, who offered me support and stuff. I am sorry we didn’t include a beer mod yet. Otherwise we would have built a beergarden, I guess.
And of course exploration – even if you do it on your own. After the village became very sophisticated I tried to explore some new islands (called savanna land as I was told lateron). This was the place to become familiar with branch mining and get more ore. But the surface was beautiful as well. Just walking through these landscapes and finding something new around the corner was fascinating. If only the days were longer …

Dangers come from weird creatures of the night. Most of them are warded by walls and fences. A bit like a

Klick on the picture to get to my survival-video on YouTube.

Shooting at a skeleton with my bow. Click on the picture to get to my survival-video on YouTube.

middle age situation of constant danger. (You could study european maps of middle age cities after playing a while. Kids would understand better why the walls of former european settlements were higher than any in this world.) Hence the village part of the „new world“ turned gradually into a world of walls and fences with houses like castles, protected by closed doors. Too much fences for my feeling. A strange parallel to the real world as I find. The place for free movement became smaller and smaller. This world also appears like a mirror of ourselfs somehow – no?

After I entered one week too late into this „new world“ (as I described below) I wondered how it would be to start from an „untouched“ place. So after learning how to use a boat I just entered one and started exploring the sea. A compass and the coordinates made sure that I would find my way back to „my beach house“. After cruising and landing on some small islands I found one with a nice bay that seemed to fit. Also to find this bay again I once decided to build a new home, I built a small lighthouse too. Just to be seen from the distance while entering the island reaching it in the dark. Later I put a platform on it to view over the landscape and the bay. A good place to defend this settlement by bow.
This bow is the weapon I like most. Sure, fighting monsters with a sword is effective. And after dying virtually so many times I must say in the end I fought effectively against almost every kind of creature – including wiches and this black tentacle thing that can disappear in magic (no, I didn’t harm a pigman). But shooting a bow is just cool. After I got an enchanted bow with double power it just took one good shot to get rid of pale skelly neighbours. That’s the next thing similar to the real world, alway some kind of grade up to be richer, more powerful and so on.
By the way I saw videos like an automatic chicken breeder and roaster that made me feeling strange. O.k. animals get killed to get resources. But isn’t this view to the world a touch too much adapted to the spectacle of resources? Aren’t we just learning in the real world by the hard way that our world is more than a mere resource? Am I moralizing here in the wrong place between bits and pixels? I miss something in this game, this model of the real.

So at the end of this MOOC am I a survivor after all? I think so, although I get slain from time to time when I do not pay attention. But I need to thank all MOOC participants for the good tipps in the chat. Most of all I thank Rose for a lot of teaching in how to craft things, mine effectively and better survive with a bow! Thanks Rose for beeing my teacher! Our situation showed me that it is much easier and better to get things personally explained than to run around searching for hidden clues. Thanks also for showing me new places like the nether land. I had never reached there alone by myself.

I have learned a lot in this game including frutstrations and yet a high fun factor. And it makes me eager to get to know even more. I still feel like a beginner when I see the complicated mechanisms that are build by Linda or Rose. No chance to compare with these results! But on the other hand this wasn’t my goal this time. I wanted to get to know the basic features and be able to survive in the monster-wilderness of this game. So far so good. Now I am curious for using a programming mod to teach my younger students in computing science and programming. And learn how to get things enchanted like the „magic bow“. And how about a coffee mod? Didn’t someone just invent it? Hm, no. Some things should be reserved for the real world.

A boat tour with virtual friends along the beach house, in the boats behind me Rose and … Oh my god, where is Linda? Liindaa!!

Who is it in the morning hour knocking at my window? An early bird? No, rather a late zombie… Good to have a breakfast knife.

A new challenge is waiting, navigating east, having an eye at the block coords.

A light in the dark. My lighthouse showed my the way when arriving from seaside.

A view over savanna land from the platform above.

And looking west to the sea, it is obvious why i chose this bay for landing. No?

A skeleton trying to reach the land in my bay. Shooting with the bow is like a touch of the middle ages.

Monster in the morning but moving in the water it’s too slow. The bow as a weapon of distance makes the defense much easier.

Week No.5: Saturday/Sunday 13./14.02. – What an entrance into the „new world“ in survival mode, after spawning and leaving the building, I „died“ running down the alley hit by the darts of a skeleton.

Still enough lifepoints, but meeting a skeleton at night can dramatically shorten your "lifetime".

Still enough lifepoints, but meeting a skeleton at night can dramatically shorten your „lifetime“.

Moaning creatures showed me the hard way of living in this MOOC-period. A virtual , cube shaped horror trip.  Is this the game I long for? Lost, hunted and all alone? No. Just after respawning I was protected and safed by friendly MOOC-Members that happened to be online. Here my special thank to Rose Bard, who invited me and helped me survive by supply and special tricks I learned from her. After beeing chased and killed it was so nice to be in a secured home and get a humane introduction into the game.
In her fortress like home I was trained in the basic functions of crafting and got an Idea of how creative this game can be out of the creative mode. Rose gave me a lot of tipps like always having a bed with me to skip the night or always caring about my food supply. Chatting during the night time is a cool thing to exchange and using the stuff and support prepared by others gave me a touch of virtually feeling at home.

So well supplied and fed I started searching for a building area for my own house just to see that the best places have  already been „sold out“. Walking through the new world I mentioned that advanced miners all have farms to be supplied by food. Animal sounds are to be heard passing by the herds of cows within fences. Well soon an area in a hillside situation seemed to fit. And here I started realising a new working plan (see pictures below).  Until my first room with door was finished I was allowed to be guest in Rose’s castle, where I spent some nights in safety and both virtual and real company.

So what have I learned? I don’t like moaning zombies and monsters, neither in the virtual nor in the real world. Meanwhile I slayed some of them (in Minecraft of course) and with an iron sword in my cube hand, they don’t appear so powerful anymore. I found to me this game is not a hunting area but rather a place for creativity. I knew this before, now I know it very well. I also learned that friendship, hospitality and good communication are helpful wherever you are. And it’s a good feeling to be in a hospitable and cooperative company. Farming is cool in cooperative neighborhood – just as in real life. Without the helping hands – pardon: cubes – of Robert, Rose and Linda my fence would still be empty I suppose.
I also learned that playing Minecraft has some potential of addiction. Why? My answer: You get easily into some kind of flow, because after the first obstacles are taken acting in this game is both easy to handle and yet a challenge – due to your own goals. Trial and error is a natural behaviour for humans and a basic idea of the game.
But here lies the next thing I learned: Minecraft has no goal itself (apart from survival at night), you have to set your own goals! These points bring me to reflections of how we as teachers may handle a medium of fun to teach something precious. I see both potential and also frontiers of this game.
And: Beeing all alone among zombies you can turn the game into a survival environment, but playing together you can help each other and paticipate from the benefits of others. So there is a social aspect as well.

New world, new home – a cube – what else?

Safety first. A fence helps against invaders.

Moon of cube, my neighbours farm in the night.

A view into dawn, safer within fences.

New avatar outfit

New avatar outfit

Well I had to make a pause in the MOOC-work due to real-world obligations. Meanwhile I changed the design of my avatar closer to my appearance at school. There are several websites explaining how to do it.
So I am now facing a lot of changes. Not only is the world dangerous and survival is the first priority, but also the worlds shape has changed and since I am late to enter this world, the best building lots are already taken. For there are no frontiers in Minecraft, I just occupied  a place of „cube jungle“. Interesting are also parallels between the cube world and the real world. The days seem to short, just as here in Germany during winter time. In the night you can sleep or you can go working (mining underground) surrounded by artificial light. And sometimes the day comes and you didn’t even mention it …

So what is the result of spending some time in survival mode? O.k. I know some tricks to survive like getting into a closed room, skipping the night in bed and attack monsters myself with better weapons like an iron sword. I didn’t create an armour yet. So far, I would say I can survive there. I also appreciate the phase of learning when you are under duress to collect and craft things on your own instead of just taking them out of the inventory. There should be some fun effects for kids, I guess. The situation I am annoyed about is that you may spend a long time trying to get resources – so I was digging some MC-days for iron, found it and got „killed“ on the way home, then spend some more days digging – all this just to get some metal tools. It is obvious that it is much easier to change things and this makes clear, why we live in a (real) world of specialists, so far there is a learning effect of course. But as I am an adult with a lot of obligations in the real world, I critically reflect the amount of time you spend in the virtuality, while the real world is waiting for you.

Here an architectural model by Maxim, who already appeared in the school session.

Here an architectural model by Maxim, who already appeared in the school session.

In the end I think you have to choose very precisely which mode is chosen for whatever kind of project you intend to realise with students. I surely got a deeper view inside the problems lying there and wonder how the experiences of other participants are. Of course I am deeply impressed by the results of MC-professionals like Linda Gielen, who showed with her video what is possible. Yet as a beginner I am far away from that.
In our real situation at school we intend to illustrate some architectural concepts and models by a virtual MC reproduction – similar as in the school video. For this some students of the art classrooms are demanded to  explain these models to younger kids who are willing to be the MC-builders. It is the second attempt to realize this, but I am confident we turn it into a working project – if in survival or creative mode ..

Week No.4: Sunday 31.01. – O.k. I am addicted. My students told me how to implement buttons and stepplates to open doors. Since that I went on working at „my“ house. I got a real good impression how it feels to play and forget the time and anything around. Minecraft can really turn you into a flow. But you should set the clock, or you get lost in it. Because every time you think it is enough there is a new idea, something new to try out.  I built a place to sleep with a view to the stars at night. How beautiful.  From Andreas I learned how to plant trees and put some around that house. The garden ist not yet finished, but with that rosebushes and trees it looks much nicer that before. And isn’t this wild vine covering the wall a fine decoration?


A new place to sleep


A new sight in the garden


A new space inside


Glancing at the stars at night.

I also started training to kill some zombies to be fit for the next weeks challenge playing in survival mode. With that diamond sword not to difficuld. But I found out, this is not the thing in this game that turns me on. Planning, thinking and trying to realize new ideas is the real kick to me. Probably others feel the same and so it is obvious that many kids play in „creative mode“ because they don’t care about zombies and their moaning. Well I join that group. 😉

Teamspeak Screenshot

Teamspeak Screenshot

In preparation of a meeting in the world (map) of my students to invite the MOOC-members for a tour through our virtual school building I learned new things about student to student communications. Emails are out. Sharing data happens no longer by attachments of email-messages but by the upload functions of various tools of communication. One I got introduced into is teamspeak, a really simple and cool tool for audioconferences. Gamers use it very much, I have learned. The problem with teamspeak is that someone needs to have a server online to install the server software. Then you can communicate encrypted. So this MOOC gave me a real opening in the usage of some new software and usability attitude. I also learned new aspekts of server administration. Cautious admins nowadays deny requests from certain countries that are known for scanning and hacking, such as China. This may be important to know while participating an international MOOC.

Joining the map with the result of our former BarCamp about games (german speaking readers can have a view at the reflection in this blog) was not only a task that had to be done in this MOOC, but also  a real exciting event. There are several maps of this construction, I have learned, for different stages of building it. After walking around my students implemented a beacon in front of the school as a meeting point. And of course this beacon changed from time to time. At the moment it is green.

evomc16rhs01 evomc16rhs02 evomc16rhs03 evomc16rhs04

(Some hours after:) Well, what a tour today. For one hour Maxim, Tabish and Florian guided Vance, Jeff and some MOOC-participants through this school building, explaining how it has been assembled from the ground plot to the final cut. With some photos (of both the reality and virtual snapshot) we described how the scaling worked and the students build the yellow rotunda, just to blast it with TNT (students humor). The students also talked about their problems like doubling the ground floor to implement redstone lines or separating the 16 workers in groups to work on several small construction sites. A flight around the building and a long walk through its interior gave a good impression of the detailed work. My personal youtubescreenrhsmc300highlight: several person’s avatars standing  in front of my (virtual) office room at the school. 😉
Thanks to Maxim, Florian and Tabish for this really impressive tour!! Also thanks to Vance and Jeff for their technical support and the recording! This event has given us a further impact on our activities to come in May 25./26. this year.

Tabish and Florian, two of my students that guided through our school.

Tabish and Florian, two of my students that guided through our school.

Reality: In the real school RHS I am teaching (and learning) in a workgroup about Linux. No wonder some students administrating a Minecraft server have been there or are still in it. Minecraft has been bought by Microsoft. Under Linux there is a free clone of  it that is called Minetest. I don’t need to mention that all students in our workgroup have a Minecraft account. So this week we installed  the Minecraft launcher under Linux with Java 7 and tested the connection (we got a problem using Java 8 and needed a reinstallation). Since my students have set up a Minetest server in my absence they are able to play with both versions of this game. The next thing I suggest them to do is compare both flavours of this cube game and make a documentation with sceenshots unless they have a better idea how to work it out. A short screencast instead of  a screenshot would work as well. I think we should discuss this point. Unfortunately playing the game is much more attractive than analysing it. But I try to introduce them to new online tools like etherpad to write simultaneously. This might help.

Turning back to „my“ house I started transferring the new ideas and skills. And how boring this house suddenly appeared to me. Not enough light, no pictures at the wall and so on. Well, there is still a lot of work to do.

I look forward to the next tasks … Hm, I haven’t got a cellar yet …

Week No.3: Sunday 24.01.: Done. I had some building experience and constructed a torso of a house mineavatar01that I like. Thanks to Andreas Schenkel I have even some stairs to reach the flat roof. My students gave me some hints during the lunch break at school. With a double click on space I can fly, the E-button brings me to the stock and inventory. And so on. They enjoyed teaching me. A girl at the table was really surprised at the knowhow of 11 year old Justus: „How comes you know all the meaning of the buttons by heart?“ Well, I wonder …  While constructing on the server today I noticed that some things are helpful: a wheelmouse for example, building blocks using a touchpad is not real fun. Cool is to speak with each other while constructing. We used a mobile phone first. But in a group you are bound to use some communication tool for several people. Well, what could this be? Blackboard, Adobeconnect, Skype, Google+ or something different? It is obvious that an easy access for everyone is a basic requirement to make it work. Struggling with technology to work just takes your time and your questions don’t get answered.

A view from outside

A view from outside

A view from above

A view from above

Stairway to the roof

Stairway to the roof (thank you, Andreas)

With Vance in the training room

With Vance Stevens in the training room

Explaining something in Minecraft can of course also be done with the chat, but a spoken word is sometimes more helpful.

So, what have I learned? It is exciting to be part of the MOOC and see how other teachers around the world are trying to use the „gamification effect“ of Minecraft. To me it was also interesting that some of my own results were interesting and inspiring to others. I have learned today by the presentation of Bron Stuckey from Australia how this game can be used as role-playing game. Something that was not obvious to me. And of course I have trained some skills in playing Minecraft. And I learned to be more passionate and patient. What a paradox.

Week No.2: Sunday 17.01. – O.k. I made it to the server and got in. I managed go make a screenshot and find it afterwards. That was not so easy on my macbook, because there ist no folder .minecraft/screenshots, it is hidden under Library/Application Support/minecraft/screenshots. Anyway, the internet and a lot of forums around minecraft help me to get along with the problems so far. Some of the MOOC-participants have been busy, there ist already a nice castle and a garden behind, but I missed the time, when others were around.

2016-01-17_18.57.26 2016-01-17_19.00.37

​Well this will be the next challenge, build something in this world and show by this, I was there. So next I need an introduction in building something cool. After missing the event „Learning2gether“ with Vance and Jeff, I will also apply to youtube, prefering a german introduction … (thank you ElorieLindir)

Concerning my tasks of this week I have requestet writing permissions to the google-doc of the MOOC and wait to get it. I must say, that I am really impressed by the organisation. I guess this is a full time job for Vance and his helpers. I have respect of the creators of such a MOOC.

Week No.1 – Sunday 10.01.: I am in. No, not in Minecraft, there I have been before. Now I am in a MOOC about it! The thing is to get to learn more about a fantastic game I better know how to organize an event about than to play it myself. This is supposed to change during the next weeks. My blog here will reflect my learning in the virtual Lego-world.

The targets are set to three different groups:

  1. Teachers with a gaming problem
  2. Gamers with a teaching problem
  3. Teachers of gamers with a learning problem

Well I guess I should belong both to group No.1 and 3. First, because I do not have much time to play games and have not much skills in it. Second because this might diminish my understanding how kids learn while playing the game. In this MOOC I don’t expect much, nevertheless I want to be fit enough to be part of our new BarCamp on Minecraft taking place in the Ricarda-Huch-Schule this year – probably in May. Let’s see how far I might get. 😉


Über Thorsten Gross

Lehrer für Philosophie, Ethik, Evang. Religion und Erdkunde, Linux-Admin, Mac-User. Stets im Bemühen OpenSource an der Schule einzubringen und zu verankern.


6 Gedanken zu “Minecraft-MOOC, tumbling down the world of cubes

  1. Hi Thorsten, thanks for this comment: „I am really impressed by the organisation. I guess this is a full time job for Vance and his helpers. I have respect of the creators of such a MOOC.“

    It’s an after-hours passion, done when the daytime job is over for the day. Thanks very much for showing your appreciation, this is our reward 🙂

    Verfasst von Vance Stevens | Januar 19, 2016, 6:37 pm
    • Hi Vance, your work is really impressive. Maybe I am sensitive to this point of view because I am also involved in organising BarCamps for students at school, which is a similar „after-hour passion“. So I have a pretty good feeling of the amount of work that is hidden between the lines to be seen on the web. I really like the way you structured the way into the MOOC with that guideline. As a teacher I cannot help appreciating the prepared steps. To me it means organising a MOOC, you first have to reflect which tools you want to use and then offer the members to come an easy and structured way into it. Right?
      I must say I am learning more than I am able to reflect here in the blog. But I like the MOOCs concept and read about the learning of the other participants. The fact that this event is international makes it even more interesting to me.

      Verfasst von Thorsten Gross | Januar 20, 2016, 10:14 am
      • Thanks again Thorsten. The structure of the MOOC has evolved over many iterations of various EVO sessions, trying with this tool and that, finally settling on Google+ Communities, and for this second time around with EVOMC 15/16 making improvements over last year. So the reflection has come after much trial, some error, and repeated practice. We are careful to be as light as possible on the top-down control so as to allow for spontaneity and play on the part of ourselves and participants. I really appreciate your feedback suggesting that we are achieving at least some of our goals.

        Verfasst von Vance Stevens | Januar 20, 2016, 1:11 pm
  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Thorsten. Your Linux-users group sounds like a great resource. Do your students use Minetest and Minecraft as programming environments?

    Verfasst von Aaron Schwartz | Januar 31, 2016, 11:48 pm
    • Thank you for this comment, Aaron. Some in fact use Minecraft for programming. Last year our (former) Trainee-Teacher Pascal Rudolph was leading a Minecraft workgroup to show how to visualise loops and intersections with „turtles“. He developed a museum to walk through and start the turtles to see how a while-wend-loop is working for example. I tried to connect him today to introduce him in the MOOC-community.
      My students discovered Minetest while making an upgrade of Linux. And before I could say … everybody had installed it and was gaming. Now I think about making some experience in both and compare these experiences. It goes without saying that Minecraft is their favourite, but Minetest has also some interesting features and is free by the way.

      Verfasst von Thorsten Gross | Februar 1, 2016, 12:00 am


  1. Pingback: EVO Minecraft MOOC Week 1 and 2 | ROSE BARD – Teaching Journal - Januar 29, 2016

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