The “Fall Games MOOC: Makers, Hackers and Games” began yesterday and will run for six weeks, through December 9. You can learn more about this game-based learning course by watching its YouTube overview and introduction and by visiting its website. To join, go to the website, create an account (see top right corner of its homepage), and jump right in. The course will look at the Maker Movement, hacking, gaming, machinima, Minecraft, and more. Participation level is up to you: lurking, contributing, creating, and/or leading. If you’ve taken other MOOCs but haven’t participated in a Games MOOC, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. It has a look, feel, flexibility, and creative energy unlike any other I’ve taken.
Last Saturday, Games MOOC co-hosted a Minecraft Open House. This pre-MOOC event, which I watched live-streamed (you can watch it here), opened my eyes to Minecraft’s educational possibilities for most grade levels, including after-school programs and home schooling. The first half of the event was an engaging show-and-tell of Minecraft builds for a college rhetoric and composition course. The other half featured a tour of a Games MOOC “outpost,” led by the builders themselves: two sisters, ages 10 and 12. One of the sisters said, “You can use Minecraft for almost every subject taught in school.” The other, while telling us how Minecraft has improved her math skills, said about math, “You can see it!”
The Open House discussions revolved around two educational themes:
1. Games like Minecraft can serve as a creative gateway for engaging students in learning. This New York Times piece offers examples and even mentions that one Stockholm school requires Minecraft for all 13-year-olds.
2. Thinking in 3D can help students understand objects, concepts, and issues better than 2D. After all, as this Mind/Shift piece on 3D learning in math and science points out, we all live in a 3D universe.
As some of you know, recently I’ve been dabbling in Minecraft, so I was eager to have my character Ylotus experience the two sisters’ build. I received permission and several days later made the visit. It was the first time I’ve been on a multiplayer server and in the Creative (rather than Survival plus Peaceful) mode. In Creative I could fly (it was easy, although a weird kind of flying; my character was actually walking upright on air); plus I had a large inventory of goodies – which I only used once when I accidently broke a door (I’d forgotten to equip a sword and clicked the wrong mouse button); I quickly built a new door, placed it properly, and equipped a sword. There were zombies, spiders, and other kinds of monsters, but they were harmless. I think I’ll switch to Creative.
The screenshots in this post I took during my visit. Wow, was I ever impressed! You may be able to visit these sites too – if you join the Fall Games MOOC. Speaking of which, I need to go to its website and introduce myself.