Saturday, 15 December 2012

Minecraft - a revolution for students Part 1

I play Minecraft.  There, I've admitted it.  I play it because it's fun, cheap, provides endless leisure, and allows me to utilise my imagination in a different way to writing.  I've been playing it for around a year now, endlessly tinkering with my own personalised world, adding buildings, bridges, churches, castles, underground lairs - whatever I can think of.  After a stressful day's teaching, an hour in this electronic sandpit can wash away all my troubles, allowing me to get on with life with a bounce in my step.

A market square in my map - all built by me out of cubes.
But though there are a huge number of adult players (it was designed by, and for, adults), it is the school age kids that have really run with it.  As you may have noticed, corridors and classrooms are now rife with talk about creepers (baddies that explode, destroying your handiwork), redstone (the Minecraft equivalent of electronic wire) and diamonds (the ultimate find when mining, deep underground).  and the thing is, these guys can play.  A student in my tutor group was telling me how he'd designed a working calculator using the redstone - a hugely impressive feat, and one that shows that he has somehow taught himself the rudiments of electronics, using a video game where you can ride pigs.  Another student was talking about traps he'd built, using this redstone - floors that disappear, hurling you into a lava pit, and doors that require a code to open.  I understand that to many of you this may mean nothing, but believe me, it's the equivalent of a 12 year old confiding that they have constructed similar things in real life - it's that complicated.  They can certainly do things on that game that I can't, and I'm quite capable on games.

So, students are learning about electronic circuits, logic gates, even electronic memory storing.  They are also learning about architecture.  I overheard some older students talking about their construction projects, and discussing the merits of different column shapes, or roof pitches.  I mean, when the hell did that get cool? And here's the final thing: though the game is obviously the preserve of the geeky, all other sorts play it too.  Girls and boys, geek and popular kid.  In my boys Yr 11 class, all but one student plays the game.  These are tough, naughty and tricky lads, but they all love to talk about mods, texture packs and blowing stuff up with in-game TNT.  The single lad that doesn't play tries to mock the game, but can't manage it, due to the weight of popular opinion.  I give him a week until he gets on-board.

I haven't yet mentioned the thriving modification (modding) community, mostly children, and those who draw and paint their own texture packs.  This game is a genuine phenomenon, and I feel we need to make some use of it.  But it will require imagination.

No comments:

Post a Comment