8am disaster, 9am Salvation – an hour in Massively Minecraft.

I woke this morning to the alarm. Not the clock, the drama that was unfolding as Netball Star was stuck in a giant lava flow in Minecraft. Her sky house has a feature lava-waterfall, which falls about 100 metres to the ground. Netball Star has a particular interest in volcanoes as many kids of her age, but in Minecraft, lava can be somewhat difficult to manage.

By 8.00am Saturday morning, Netball Star is on Skype, having a melt-down. Every time she logs into Massively Minecraft, lava kills her. The other kids mount a rescue – frantic voices in Skype fill the house as they attempt to teleport her out using command lines. (What’s a command line?). She can’t type fast enough to accept the prompt, so dies over and over. “Jo isn’t on!” I hear, “We’ll have to do this ourselves”.

I could help, I could pull her out the lava, but didn’t. I knew they’d work it out. There’s no need to edu-panic and do a “Bueller, Buleller” in Massively Mindcraft. Kids get into strife all the time. It’s called authentic learning.

Before you know it there are half a dozen kids at the scene of the unfolding drama, an increasingly upset Netball Star. Goldie is signing the Mission Impossible theme, his mum’s Tweeting about the drama, my wife is explaining to Mr6 to use a [!] mark to inducate urgeny (teachers!) as the kids figure out how to deal with the lava without themselves meeting an fiery end.

Mnay of our parents use social media outside the game to connect now – so we don’t disrupt the flow in the game. Another thing we’ve learned works – another edu-drama solved. Our parents accept drama is a learning thing and have sort of formed a circle around it. They don’t freak out when the kids do. Most of them didn’t know each other until a few months ago either.

I watch as kids try to figure out how to save her – and the house .Theories and proposals fly about. One kid can’t wait and does a Leeroy Jenkins. He almost dies before diving into the water which moments earlier,  another kid put there just in case.

Death in Minecraft means loosing your stuff. Most of the time you can respawn and get it back. But lava tends to destroy everything. This is high stakes stuff.

The biggest worry is that next to Netball Star’s house, is the brand new Kirkstall Abbey – a replica of an abbey in Leeds, UK. It is huge and very complicated, probably the most impressive thing they’ve done collaborative and globally. Imagine the drama if the builders wake tomorrow from around the world to find it burnt to the ground. Kids who are logged out – are still cared about by kids logged in. Community isn’t 8am-3pm, another edu-drama solved.

An hour later the lava is under-control. Most of Netball’s house is trashed and the rescue team use water, sand and dirt to manage the lava flow. They are not sure where Netball Star is exactly, so have to make sure they don’t bury her in the process. By now she’s too upset to watch, but listens to Skype, where there the kids constantly re-assure her and give he updates on what they are doing.

Netball Star is saved! the Abbey is un-touched! – and kids set about helping Netball Star rebuild it until the next drama.

This story might not be scholarly in the way scholars like to see the world and our game might not use a research method people would accept as ‘proper’. But then again our aim isn’t to write ‘strategic plans’ or books either.

Massively Minecraft is now a community – big enough to solve problems, strong enough not to need the approval of being ‘educational’. It’s for kids and we hope will be sustainable as more parents get join with their kids. Each day the kids learn more, do more and become more ambitious and connected. In only a few months it’s gone from an afternoon’s tinkering to a having global kids, not in a flat classroom – but a cubic one. It’s no longer just a game, it’s a community of kids who care about their world, ideas and each other.

There are no lessons in Minecraft apart from this.

If teachers insist everything turn to face the god of Web2.0, they and parents will miss some of the most amazing moments of the developmental years.

People are talking about the ‘flipped classroom’ and authentic learning in a Power Point, lecturing the audience in a manner that they say doesn’t work for kids. The audience sits in a row, obediently reading their marketing blurb in the zombie-con enviro bag. Nothing changes, except the rotation of speakers.

I wait to see if the ‘experts’ of the last decade come and play with the experts of the next. I suspect they won’t.

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3 thoughts on “8am disaster, 9am Salvation – an hour in Massively Minecraft.

  1. I am afraid I have to disagree with your approach at times, Dean. Your kids have also been responsible for vandalizing the creative work of others and forcing people to pack up everything and move elsewhere on the server–or off it entirely. Yes, let them be creative, but remember that children need rules and boundaries as well. It’s a lot of fun, but it only takes one kid who is out of control to ruin that fun for lots of others, and behind that out of control kid is almost always a parent who isn’t paying attention or who feels that a “hands off no matter what” approach is best.

    Let’s try to find a middle ground, please.

    • The middle is to find people willing to spend time to teach them, to work with them. There will always be a kid out of line, after all most of these kids are early primary and no one’s explaining the social-rules in virtual space. I am not saying it’s utopia, though many of the kids seem to enjoy single player as much. I agree with parenting. Being willing to spend time in spaces, games or other social is something that needs to be encouraged. Will Richardson once said “if we don’t we’re not allowed to be shocked by what they do”.

      When parents and kids have flagged an issue, we have tried to deal with the behaviour rather than focus on the incident. We can’t make rules that will cover everyone all of the time, and don’t set out to. Sooner or later kids discover ‘social space’, so while we could police it to the ‘nth degree, I’m not sure that actually prepares them too well.

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