Massively Minecraft Open Day

This morning I had the opportunity to join part of Jokyadia’s Massively Minecraft open day, which, aside from connecting a motley crew of educators from around the globe, was led in part by a group of kids (7-16, most were 11) who were teaching us how to mine and build. Now, it’s probably preaching to the choir for those of you reading for me to talk about how awesome that sentence is, and that’s not the point of this post. What really struck me about the event, more than the epic collaborative builds and brilliant learning environment, was the massive gap in mindset between the kids and the adults.

Most educators who had never minecrafted before (and props to them for getting on board and exploring) tended to take an ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing, can someone please tell me what to do’ stance. And those educators more experienced with Minecraft tended to respond with ‘click here, put this there, use xyz key to do that’. It’s what we all understand as a learner/teacher relationship, and that’s fine. However – consider the following exchange:

Adult: How do I change my skin?

Kid: Just get on the skindex.

This is a really powerful example of how kids think about learning, particularly in game environments. The kid in question offers what to them is a very simple response, containing all the information someone would need to change their skin. And for a kid, this works. A kid asking this question would figure there’s a place called Skindex, it’s probably on the internet, Google it then follow the instructions on the page, maybe get a brother or friend to help. Simple. For an adult asking this question, it’s a massive mindshift to be able decode the answer. What’s skindex? Where do we find it? How do we use it? What do we do with a new skin once we’ve got it? A bit of prompting from a one of the Massively Minecraft crew elicited the further clarification ‘it’s on the internet’ – from a kid’s point of view, plenty of information to get you there. From an adult’s point of view, not nearly enough.

We need to start tapping into this mindset. Kids expect to explore, experiment and crowdsource. They don’t expect to give step-by-step instructions. They want to get in, get their hands dirty and try new things, without waiting to be told what to do. To them, failure is awesome (“dieing makes it even funner!”), because you learned heaps trying out stuff on the way. And they get frustrated when adults don’t show the same traits (“they’re just standing around not building – I told them let’s build a castle!”).

Perhaps the best aspect of the session today was that it was truly a ‘flipped classroom’ – not through swapping homework with classwork, but through reversing the roles of teacher and learner and turning learning heirarchy on its head. Learning led by kids is challenging and valuable – it’s learning by exploration and questioning, not rote process memorisation. Kids innovate and create first and think later. We need to see more student-led teacher learning – imagine if all adult learners could adopt a more childlike approach to learning and innovation (and yes, I am thinking of lecturer PD here and having a quiet chuckle to myself – my idealism isn’t immune to certain realities).

So – that’s my exploration for the morning. What have you explored lately?


David Jones · August 28, 2011 at 10:45 am

I’m sorry I had other things on today and missed this session.

The difference in “teaching” you observed has got me thinking about my own practice and what I see around me.

Need to think about this more.

    Sarah · August 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Definitely got me thinking about my own practice too. I’m quite guilty of ‘feeding’ answers because it’s the path of least resistance/is what’s expected/insert other well-loved HE issue – less so these days since my research has ventured into GBL, but it’s still tempting to give people what they want when it’s 3pm on Friday and you’re over inane questions. It was really clear to me this morning, though, that kids just don’t have that kind of baggage when they’re teaching. Beginning to suspect teaching degrees can result in a ‘forest for the trees’ effect…

Will Richardson · August 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

Thanks for this. That next to last paragraph really speaks to me…the truly “flipped” classroom is not about changing the resource sharing part, it’s about becoming co-learners with our kids. Asking questions that we don’t know the answer to, that have more than one answer, and becoming a learning partner in the interaction.

When is the next meet up of massivelyminecraft?

Clarice Gilbert · August 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Definitely something to think about and to wonder what might my teaching look like if I used “kids” as my model?

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